Holding The Line

Canada's last, best hope for irreverent commentary, spirited debate, and liberal values.

If you pine for more lively, provocative commentary on politics and culture in Canada, believe us when we say — so do we.

In recent years, we have watched with dismay as media outlets, governments, corporations, artists, universities, filmmakers, and everything in between capitulate to social media mobs, staff revolts, corporate boycotts, and subscriber cancellations. All because they dared to offend someone. 

As a result, many of our cultural institutions are now wholly captive, and contributors and gatekeepers are deeply fearful of the shame and career repercussions that accompany any online backlash. They are scared, stifled and — worst of all — boring.

The term “cancel culture” is en vogue at the moment, though it’s hard to find an agreed-upon definition, or even consensus that it exists at all. The critics of cancel culture often focus their ire on the online "mobs" that precede a firing, or social-media-led excommunication. This focus is misguided. Individuals are within their rights to protest the things they find offensive. Often, their outrage is fairly targeted at long-standing injustices. Sometimes people are cancelled with good cause.

But sometimes they're not.

When we complain about "cancel culture" what we really should be discussing is not the righteous anger of the mob, but rather the failure of our institutions to resist unreasonable attacks. Schools, media and businesses have abandoned the moral authority to defend their values. They sacrifice their people to bolster their own reputations, and to conform to rapidly evolving ideological trends.

An institution that is more concerned with how it looks than what it believes will neither reform in any meaningful sense, nor find within itself the ballast to withstand the terrible onslaught of a trending hashtag.  When our institutions capitulate, regardless of whether or not the critiques against them are fair or in good faith, that is not "cancel culture."

It's weakness.

There is no single explanation as to how this happened. Our cultural institutions are not monoliths. Ideology plays a part. Sometimes leaders themselves have grown fearful of their staff, or afraid of the shame that accompanies an online storm.

Sometimes, it’s simply a matter of finances. Leadership may not matter if you exist one advertiser boycott or cancelled government grant from oblivion. No man is free who cannot pay his own way.

But in the end, it comes down to this: anyone who won’t distinguish between a well-founded critique, and the use of illiberal tactics to silence disagreement, can no longer be trusted to lead our institutions. And an institution, even a well-led one, that doesn’t have a financial future will be too busy managing its own decline to do the important work the public expects of it.

So we need new institutions. Smaller, less encumbered by legacy debts and broken business models, and nimble enough to be independent and viable through direct links to the audience. Through our links to you.

We are glad you are here. We don’t want to feel scared, or stifled, or bored. We don't want to confine ourselves to endless fights about freedom of speech or cancel culture — though given the state of affairs, a few of those will be inevitable.

We’re a collection of newspaper and magazine writers looking for a new home. We're not culture warriors. We're not partisan. We want to offer commentary and essays on a range of topics, from Canadian and American politics, foreign affairs, culture, entertainment, sports — wherever the whim strikes. We want to call out illiberalism, hypocrisy, and bullshit wherever we find it, without worrying about a backlash on Twitter or in a corporate boardroom. We want to swear in print, goddammit. 

If you sign up, you'll meet several of our writers shortly. We hope you will allow us the honour of inspiring, enlightening and occasionally offending you. That's our offer.

Here's our ask: support us.

For our first few weeks, we will be offering content for free. When you sign up, please purchase a subscription, which will allow you to continue to read and comment on our work behind the paywall that will eventually go up.

If you’re keen on us, consider becoming a Founding Member by pitching in a little more when you sign up. The more resources we have, the more we can expand. If we want to fight for these values, we need to demonstrate that there is an audience for them. If there is no such audience, well, we can accept failure, but not defeat. 

You can join us. Help us hold The Line.

Are you interested in writing for The Line? Tell us what you care about. Drop us a line at lineeditor@protonmail.com