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rabble.ca is an alternative Canadian online magazine. The website's stated intent is to publish "original news stories, in-depth features, interviews, commentaries and more … from some of the few progressive voices in mainstream media".[1] Launched on April 18, 2001, rabble.ca is a not-for-profit organization working under the slogan of "News for the Rest of Us". First started as a news magazine in partnership with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and the Centre for Social Justice, rabble has expanded to include podcasts, video and an discussion board called babble.


Judy Rebick and others started rabble.ca in 2001.[2] The launch coincided with the beginning of the Summit of the Americas and the People's Summit of the Americas in Quebec City. rabble.ca covered the event extensively, and established itself as a pro-activist medium. In 2011, celebrating the 10 year anniversary of the beginning of rabble, Noreen Mae Ritsema, a former rabble.ca intern and current regular contributor to rabble's book lounge, recalled rabble's involvement in the protests, namely its advocacy for the release of the longest held demonstrator Jaggi Singh.[3] Singh, a well-known anti-globalization and social justice activist, was jailed for a number of charges, the most serious of which was a weapons charge for a catapult that launched teddy bears. Singh's imprisonment led rabble.ca to writing an open letter to the Minister of Justice in Quebec, which stated that "the imprisonment of Jaggi Singh is a serious breach of civil liberties that threatens freedom of political expression."[4] The letter also included a petition signed by people such as activist David Suzuki, former mayor of Toronto John Sewell and former Canadian ambassador to the United Nations Stephen Lewis. Later rabble contributors look back at the events as defining the role of rabble.ca as a medium for advocacy of human rights, freedom of expression, and peaceful protest. As Ritsema explains, "this set the standard of the sort of journalism we could do which contrasted us so much against the mainstream media."[4]

When it launched, the site raised $200,000, which included $120,000 from the Atkinson Foundation.[5]

On October 28, 2008, media democracy day [1] rabble re-launched with a new design and new features. The not-for-profit organization is governed by a board of directors chaired by Duncan Cameron.

Contents of the website[edit]

rabble.ca is composed of four different sections – Rabble, Babble, Podcasts, RabbleTv, and the latest addition, Occupy. Rabble includes the magazine features, columnists, In Cahoots, blogs, books, photos, What's Up, Polls, Activist Toolkit, and Issues. Recent and current rabble issues include Afghanistan, anti-racism, art & culture, coalition, economy, elections, feminism, G8/20, Gaza, indigenous, labour, LGBTI, media matters, Occupy, Olympics, politics in Canada, and Technology.[6] The Activist Toolkit is the latest endeavor by rabble.ca, which features an encyclopedia that features different activist campaigns as well as guides on organizing campaigns. As the website explains, "The Toolkit is a wiki-style section of the rabble site devoted to content collaboration. It contains a growing number of encyclopedic resources that you can write.".[7] In Cahoots, another original feature of rabble.ca, showcases issues brought up by rabble's partnerships with the different organizations that support the magazine. Since the majority of which are organizations oriented towards social justice, such as various labor unions, the section includes stories on social movements and labor stories. Through this endeavor, rabble.ca supports its own supporters, seeing that the space functions as indirect advertisement of the organizations' issues on the website.

The Babble section of the website is based entirely on user input, as it functions as a forum for the readers to create a community. According to the site, "babble is rabble.ca's discussion board but it's much more than that: it's an online community for folks who just won't shut up. It's a place to tell each other — and the world — what's up with our work and campaigns."[8] The users are encouraged to discuss the features and columns read on the website, as well as write their own original articles, which are later also discussed by the community. As the sections demonstrate, the magazine is very much community orientated, and encourages user input. In its "Writers' Guidelines", rabble.ca specifies that it is always looking for original material, however emphasizes that "rabble.ca stories do not patronize or indulge in stereotypes, overgeneralizations or other techniques that diminish people due to their ethnicity, race, gender, sexual orientation, disability or level of education."[9] Moreover, the site encourages its writers to submit a list of links to related material online (including opposing views), which they believe will broaden the discussion.


All of rabble's content is offered free of charge.[10] A year into its inception, rabble appealed to its readers a proposed donation of $20 a month to help support the growth of the website. In 2005, rabble was incorporated as its own non-for-profit organization. Currently rabble relies on donors, and the so-called Sustaining Partners (who are also often featured in the section In Cahoots). In 2010, the Annual Report on rabble.ca stated the following Sustaining Partners: B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union, Canadian Auto Workers, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Canadian Union of Postal Workers, Canadian Union of Public Employees, Communication Energy and Paperworkers, Council of Canadians, Douglas-Coldwell Foundation, Hospital Employees' Union, National Union of Public and General Employees, Ontario Public Service Employees Union, Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation, Public Service Alliance of Canada, and United Steelworkers.[11]

Along with these, rabble.ca also depends on individual donations, which are generally collected through one time donations or the membership to the website. The membership ranges in price from $5 to $50 a month, and provides the members with subscription to rabble.ca partner independent print magazines (such as New Internationalist and Middle Eastern Report). According to the Report, the website finished 2010 with over 900 members and 200 one-time donors.

In terms of advertising, rabble.ca states that "rabble.ca's advertising space is used not just as a revenue-generating stream but as a service to [their] Sustaining Partners, [their] fundraising partners (magazines that donate subscriptions to [their] membership drive) and to those organizations whose events [they] sponsored."[11] In fact, their advertising policy reads as such: "rabble.ca is committed to principles of social justice and equality and we reserve the right to deny advertising space as we see fit according to these principles. We also reserve the right to pull an ad and refund the advertisers money, should we choose to."[12] Moreover, the advertising made up a very small percentage of the total income generated in 2010. As such, rabble.ca approaches advertising as a means of representing the different campaigns of its partners. This is unlike the mainstream newspaper websites, which rely on advertising mostly as a source of revenue.

The total income of the magazine in 2010 came from advertising, donations, members, services, In Cahoots, and the very large majority from partners. The expenses were divided between Editorial (which took up more than half of the expenses), Tech and Admin/Fundraising. This information was made available to the readers of the site in the Annual Report.


rabble.ca was first founded by Judy Rebick, who took on the role of the publisher, and Judy Macdonald as the editor-in-chief. In Our Times in March 2001, MacDonald wrote about the venture thus: "An exciting new online magazine, called rabble.ca, is now in development as a non-profit venture. The magazine will feature cutting-edge news coverage from our writers, and other progressive online information sources. We'll be presenting debates, visual art features and in-depth policy analysis. Our site will also highlight work generated by alternative radio stations, galleries, magazines, artists, think tanks and political cartoonists."[13] Other original contributors included commentators Naomi Klein and Francine Pelletier, anti-globalization strategists Anna Dashtgard and Patty Barrera, and aboriginal activists Priscilla Settee and Sandra DeLaronde.

Judy Rebick retired in 2006 to be replaced with the current publisher is Kim Elliott. Elliott comes from an extensive background in social awareness and activism, as she is a long-time member of Amnesty International, was involved in the formation of their Co-Group for Cooperation with Indigenous Peoples, and was a founding member of the Canadian-Palestinian Educational Exchange.[14]

Murray Dobbin, a Senior Advisor to the Rideau Institute on International Affairs, is the guest senior contributing editor for rabble.ca. Dobbin has been a columnist for the Financial Post, guest editorial contributor to The Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star, and a board member and researcher with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.[15]

The Advisory Committee of rabble.ca is composed of Dave Mitchell, Fred Wilson, John Urquhart, Linda McQuaig, Lynn Coady, and Sharon Fraser.


rabble.ca defines itself on numerous times throughout its site as an "alternative" medium, which consequently sets it apart from other Canadian mainstream media. Its leftist ideals exceed the relatively progressive views of The Star, and opposes the right-of-centre positions of The Globe and Mail, The Sun and The National Post. In addition to this, rabble.ca is decidedly different from the mainstream media by its participation in events such as the 2010 Making Media Public Conference, which focused on autonomous media, community and alternative media, and media activism.[11] Moreover, rabble.ca's progressive ideologies are in complete support of peaceful protests, which are sometimes favourably and sometimes unfavourably represented in mainstream media.

An example of this can be seen in the 2011 Occupy Movement, which was so fully supported by the rabble.ca community that the website included a separate section (on par with Babble and RabbleTV) dedicated entirely to pieces written about the Movement. In an article "The Return to Non-Violence" rabble.ca contributor Rick Salutin compares the Movement to the civil rights movement led by Martin Luther King due to its use of the non-violent protest.[16] The support for the Movement is also highly evident in the readership of the magazine. In response to the evictions of the "occupiers" in November 2011, rabble.ca created a survey to determine the sentiments of its readership. To the question "The Occupy Wall Street camp in New York has been under attack all week, other Occupy camps in Halifax, London, ON, and elsewhere have also faced violent eviction – and Occupy Vancouver and Occupy Toronto are in court to fight a similar fate. What do you think should happen next?" the majority of voters answered "They are a social movement that is now a part of the wider culture – whatever happens, nothing will change that." November 28, 2011[17] On the other hand, mainstream representation of the movement has not been unified on the matter, with majority of the mainstream media approaching the Occupy initiative more negatively than rabble.ca. The leading progressive newspaper The Star (and the only mainstream supporter of the Movement) has presented a relatively neutral approach, with editorials such as David Davidson's piece titled "Mindset explains 'Occupy'; Lack of growth is Europe's real problem" published in the Toronto Start on October 16, 2011, in which Davidson tries to understand the reasons behind the Movement and at the same time justify it. Other articles, such as Niamh Scallan's "Hundreds of Occupy protesters, union members march in Toronto" from November 24, 2011, focus on interviewing the union members as opposed to the police.

Other mainstream media, however, has been more hostile towards the Movement. An example of this is the satire ("Fear not, Occupiers. The sacred fire will burn on" by Mark Schatzker) published in The Globe and Mail on November 24, 2011, which satirizes the Movement and recommends that the protestors to move their camps to a popular summer camping park.[18] Other, more right-wing newspapers such as The Sun and the National Post, have criticized the Movement as something with no cause and a nuisance to the city dwellers. In an article by Peter Kuitenbrouwer titled "Neighbours want their park back",[19] the Post criticizes the protestors for taking over public space and making citizens feel "unwelcome."

Journalistic medium[edit]

While rabble.ca is a news magazine, it differs from the conventional mainstream newspapers in the fact that it is exclusively online. Since media has started to undergo major changes due to the introduction of the Internet and social media, newspapers have been actively engaged in trying to successfully utilize the tool while maintaining their print characteristics. Media analysts such as Clay Shirky have written about the eventual death of print newspapers due to Internet, stating that "It makes increasingly less sense even to talk about a publishing industry, because the core problem publishing solves — the incredible difficulty, complexity, and expense of making something available to the public — has stopped being a problem."[20] This is mirrored by the fact that newspapers are losing advertising revenue (which has led The Globe and Mail to revamp its look as well as content[21] to attract magazine advertisers). As such, newspapers such as The Star and The Globe and Mail try to move forward into the digital age and still provide revenue for their respective owners, while rabble.ca has already achieved success in financing an online newspaper. However, unlike The Star and The Globe and Mail, rabble.ca does not pay its writers.

The key difference between rabble.ca and the websites for the print newspapers which are still proving to be financial drains to their parent newspapers is the fact that rabble.ca is founded as a non-for-profit organization which centers on a defined group of readers. This has made rabble.ca a newspaper of much smaller dimensions that is supported by its community, and is not pressured to generate revenue. Moreover, rabble.ca is focused on creating a community out of its readers, and one of the methods it utilizes is the encouragement of its readers to provide written content. This is an example of citizen journalism, which has become more predominant with the emergence of social media such as Facebook and Twitter. As such, rabble.ca follows James Carey's image of newspapers as a medium for the representation of public's opinion (which in rabble.ca's case is its community of readers).

Overall, despite the fact that at its inception rabble.ca was criticized by some as "a hobby for Judy Rebick and a wildlife preserve for her chums on the Canadian left" and a "vanity Web project",[22] the project has grown to be one of the first successful Canadian online news media. Researchers have found that Rabble.ca connects with activists in four ways: "political dialogue, social mobilization, information for progressive action and progressive social change."[2] The same researchers found that rabble is effective at engaging young activists.[2]

Election blog[edit]

On Sunday, September 7, 2008 rabble.ca launched a multi-author election blog [2]. The blog included progressive Canadian thinkers and organizations such as Maude Barlow and the Council of Canadians, The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Campaign for Democratic Media, the Rideau Institute, the Parkland Institute, and contributors including Jim Stanford, Murray Dobbin, James Laxer, and musician Matthew Good.


  1. ^ "About page on rabble.ca". 
  2. ^ a b c Rempel, Shauna (Aug 9, 2007). "Fostering political activism; The Internet is now the new launchpad for social mobilization". The Toronto Star. 
  3. ^ Ritsema, Noreen Mae. "rabble turns 10! Our story: Frontline coverage of the G20 protests". rabble.ca. 
  4. ^ a b "Free Jaggi Singh". rabble.ca. 
  5. ^ Kuitenbrouwer, Peter (19 April 2001). "Rabble-rouser: Publisher Judy Rebick's new online magazine offers a forum for leftist thinkers and those descending on Quebec this week". The National Post. 
  6. ^ "Issues page on rabble.ca". 
  7. ^ "Activist Toolkit page on rabble.ca". 
  8. ^ "Babble on rabble.ca". 
  9. ^ "Writer Guidelines on rabble.ca". 
  10. ^ "About us". Rabble.ca. Retrieved 2 April 2012. 
  11. ^ a b c "Annual Report 2010" (PDF). 
  12. ^ "Advertising Policy on rabble.ca". 
  13. ^ Macdonald, Judy (Feb–Mar 2001). "Rabble Rousers online". Our Times (20.1). 
  14. ^ "Biography of Kim Elliott". 
  15. ^ "Biography of Murray Dobbin". 
  16. ^ Salutin, Rick. "The return of non-violence". 
  17. ^ "rabble.ca | November 28, 2011". Retrieved November 28, 2011. 
  18. ^ Schatzker, Mark. "Fear no, Occupiers. The sacred fire will burn". 
  19. ^ Kuitenbrouwer, Peter. "Neighbours want their park back". 
  20. ^ Shirky, Clay. "Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable". 
  21. ^ Kingston, Anne (July 6, 2009). "As the Globe turns". Maclean's. 
  22. ^ Cosh, Colby (April 15, 2002). "Don't get left behind". Report Newsmagazine. 

External links[edit]