Cockburn turned sharply right when entering London’s Heathrow Airport on Thursday afternoon, and who should he run into but Canadian media mogul Ezra Levant, proprietor of hard-right, right-clicking web outlet Rebel Media. Before Cockburn made a beeline for Duty Free, he secured the only interview Levant gave on his flying visit — literally, in fact, as Levant landed Thursday morning and was hurrying towards a late afternoon flight back across the Atlantic.

Levant was racking up a 7,000-mile round trip to visit Tommy Robinson, the rabble-rousing English anti-Islam campaigner and unsuccessful candidate for the European Parliament. Robinson, widely despised in the British media and on the left, is currently serving a nine-month sentence at Her Majesty’s Pleasure in London’s notorious Belmarsh prison for contempt of court, or, in Levant’s words, ‘doing journalism’.

Robinson’s offense was to film and name suspects in a grooming gang trial. This was illegal, and might have caused a mistrial, but, as his supporters point out, the British press has a long history of doing worse. Perhaps more convincingly, they also argue that had Robinson been a hard-left ‘activist’ rather than a ‘far-right’ bigot or racist, the left-wing press and the BBC that now assail him would be defending him as a fearless ‘citizen journalist’, talking ‘truth to power’.

Arrested on the courthouse steps, Robinson was imprisoned, released on appeal, and then imprisoned again. Levant, who is Robinson’s former employer at Rebel Media, says he’s not visiting Robinson ‘because he needs the company — he has connections in the UK’. He’s visiting because he believes Robinson’s life is in danger: ‘the prison authorities need to know that international journalistic eyes are on this case’.

Robinson served his first part of his sentence in the Dickensian confines of Her Majesty’s Prison Onley where, Levant says, Robinson was ‘literally in a box for 23-and-a-half hours a day, sensory derivation-style’. The reason being, Levant claims, that the British authorities are unable to control their own prisons, and can’t guarantee that Robinson would emerge alive.

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