Yell as loudly as you can and perhaps it’ll make a difference — this model of resistance has proven popular with the political left, as is evident looking at activist movements over the past 20 years. And from civil rights to environmental legislation, this model of resistance has proven effective. The political right in Canada does not have this same reputation — rather, the political right has been perceived to be more concerned with their own money than with grassroots activism.
The Rebel Media, a fiercely conservative online platform based out of Toronto, breaks this mould. It is loud, reader-funded, and blunt about its beliefs — a perfect model of leftist grassroots activism. It covers issues of what’s considered to be political correctness on university campuses, provides a platform for pro-life perspectives, and comments on perceived failures of the current Liberal government. It is marked by a desire to reject the status quo of what it sees as an overwhelmingly left-wing media landscape.
The Rebel’s provocative and often offensive content has led some to question its purpose, and ultimately whether it deserves to exist in the first place — podcasts by Canadaland and Safe Space have expressed these sentiments. Key arguments against The Rebel being published are that it is more activism than journalism, and that the opinions it publishes are bigoted.
While I am not here to dispute either of those points, we ought to consider the following: if The Rebel were a leftist organization, would there be a problem? The Rebel shares similarities to many other media organizations that hold oppositional political sentiments, and it serves an important purpose in Canadian media and society.
The Rebel has never touted itself as a news organization pursuing fair, ‘objective’ reporting. In fact, the description on their website states, “We don’t just report the news, we participate in it.” This is not a foreign model to Canadian media; outlets such as The Dominion and This Magazine describe themselves as representatives of the people who support them and as agitators with radical roots, respectively.
Moreover, both This and The Dominion were created to fight a perceived status quo. They created outlets that explored the issues they cared about, issues that were ineffectively covered by traditional media outlets.
Similar to activism of the left, The Rebel has brought together the voices of those on the fringe. In the ’70s, feminism brought together groups of people who were oppressed by a traditional patriarchal society. However, bringing together those individuals revealed a plethora of intersectionalities that inevitably created inner conflict. Feminism was not a big tent movement, although it provided solidarity among many people. While aspects such as reproductive rights and equal pay became topics of solidarity among all factions, movements such as womanism emerged due to feminism’s inability to represent all women.
Similarly, after the closure of the Sun News Network, The Rebel began as an outlet for individuals who believed there were not enough conservative voices in media. The organization promised that it would incorporate the ideas of its audience into its daily content and avoid the pitfalls of traditional media. This rhetoric is similar to movements on the left: a cry for inclusion, whatever the cost, and a desire to be seen, regardless of the response.
Political philosopher John Stuart Mill once argued that in a free society, all should have a right to speak. Permitting all members of society to voice their opinions freely prevents the harm that would result from what Mill referred to as the “tyranny of the majority” — a situation in which, due to a lack of dissidence and lack of protection for the few who dissent, the majority of citizens can actively oppress those who do not subscribe to their beliefs. ‘Bad’ opinions will have the chance to be refuted so long as the right to speak is secured for everyone.
A cry like this attracts all types of characters. The feminist movement was largely funded by middle-class white women, ostracizing minorities and lower classes. While the intentions of a movement may be virtuous, those who fund these movements may sway its goals. Whether this is the case for The Rebel can be disputed, but what is clear is that its movement has exposed a pocket of Canada that is not habitually represented.
Regardless of its current state, one thing is certain about The Rebel: the organization has stayed true to its desire to be the voice for the community of readers and writers to which it caters. In the spirit of John Stuart Mill, I would encourage those who disagree with the content presented by The Rebel — or any other media outlet — to take the time to respond to it. Actively voicing your dissent places you within the conversation and allows you to participate in the marketplace of ideas that Mill advocated for. To say The Rebel should not exist, however, is to say that not all people should have a voice — and that is antithetical to the values of a liberal democracy.
Gabrielle Warren is an incoming third-year student at Trinity College studying Political Science.