The Rebel and Toronto Sun whipped up hysteria about this hotel housing refugees. Then someone tried to burn it down.
If you are not a regular reader of right-wing media in Canada, you likely have not heard much about the Radisson Toronto East Hotel.
For the majority of people, there’s nothing noteworthy about this place. But for consumers of Canada’s right wing media, this hotel is a place to be feared.
Mainly because it is currently being used to shelter refugees from abroad.
That fact has been used by right-wing media to paint a terrifying — and false — picture of the hotel and, in doing so, demonize refugees.
And just a few days ago, someone entered this hotel with a can of gasoline and used it in an attempt to burn the place to the ground, presumably with the aim of killing everyone inside.
How did it come to this? Well, like many fear-mongering campaigns, it started with the Toronto Sun.
On September 30th, Sun columnist Sue-Ann Levy published an article featuring fake reviews from TripAdvisor. These reviews includes a range of lies about what was going on in the hotel, including claims that the “lobby was like a 9/11 terrorist training camp”. Levy apparently did not go to the hotel herself to confirm these claims, she reported them as if they were true. When a reporter checked these claims, the hotel confirmed that they were 100% false and TripAdvisor suspended commenting on the hotel’s page.
On October 1st, The Rebel picked up the story, relying on Levy’s column (which in turn relied on fake TripAdvisor reviews). They have published numerous stories about hotels sheltering refugees in the same vein.
The broader right-wing media machine then picked up the story, with the U.S.-based InfoWars spreading the fake news. One tweet from an InfoWars “correspondent” was shared over 1100 times (as of writing).
On October 2nd, Toronto mayoral candidate (and white supremacist) Faith Goldy held a press conference at the hotel and spread the fake news reports on her social media.
On the same day, Sue-Ann Levy wrote yet another column on the matter, this time including another fake review about the hotel which claimed people were slaughtering goats in the bathroom. This was denied by the hotel as yet another lie. Ironically, Levy includes a disclaimer in her column that she “could not make this stuff up”.
That night, a masked woman entered the hotel with a gas can, lit it on fire, and left the building. The suspect has not yet been found, so we cannot discern her motives, but it seems clear enough that her aim was to burn down the building. We cannot say for certain why or how she was inspired to do this, but one can speculate.
The bottom line is this: the right wing media machine, including the Toronto Sun, The Rebel, and InfoWars, spread vicious and false rumours about refugees and the hotel in which they are being sheltered. Then someone tried to burn the place down. You can connect the dots.