Four score and five years ago, the Great Depression descended upon the western world, leading to great misery and creative resilience amongst working people. Eighty years later, a small group of disgruntled Carleton grad students sat pondering, “what is to be done?”

While they were depressed, they were not thinking of the Depression as such. Rather, the gloomy mood concerned their fellow TAs failing to give a strong strike mandate to their union, CUPE 4600. This led to the dismantling of some hard-won workers’ rights in a political climate that had become increasingly conservative and austere since the 1980s.

Five years ago, these grad students decided to start an irreverent little rag tasked with the responsibility to provide evidence-based journalism about issues that matter to ordinary people. The Leveller has always maintained a healthy disgust for the idea that media of any kind is “objective” in the true sense of the word, and we have always believed that the real danger to democratic participation is media that leaves its biases unchallenged. We, like you, have an opinion, and we think it is only honourable to be upfront about that when we write.

On the occasion of our fifth anniversary, we have a few observations to make. We think that on campus, in our city, in our province, and in this country, austerity and conservatism has hacked its way into all aspects of political life under the guise of trying to be “non-political” or upholding a hackneyed or technocratic conception of “facts.”

The last two years of undergraduate campus politics have seen executives representing the far right of student sensibilities thrusting their opinions and biases into what should be democratic student space. Tying up student groups like the G-Spot and Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG) (as well as all of its working groups) with legal buffoonery because of disagreement with their political work has been enormously tiresome for our allies. It’s time to unlearn the ABCs of campus politics once and for all!

Now in a bargaining year at Carleton again, we hear the predictable propaganda being fed to TAs and their students. We have an administration that refuses to agree to anything less than real wage decreases and the reduction of working rights that have been fought for over the last decade or longer.

Federally, our illustrious prime minister has been so uncritically biased in his foreign policy that even the National Post has been calling him out for his adventures in Israel and Palestine, while his goons rough up Palestinian journalists. On the home front, Harper’s minions have been fighting tooth and nail to bust up unions even before any form of labour disruption takes place.

And what has mainstream media been telling us about all this? They tell us when Justin Bieber eggs houses in wealthy L.A. suburbs, for one thing.

We don’t care about Bieber. We care about environmental degradation, Indigenous sovereignty, workers’ rights, and students’ rights to organize around progressive causes on campus and in their city without being undermined by their student union, something that was never a problem historically. Indeed, after five years of reporting on campus and community, we are concerned that on this level, things couldn’t look bleaker.

But that’s just one side of the coin.

Times of great struggle can also bring about the very best in people. Over the years, we’ve seen progressive social movements thrive in the face of tremendous adversity. No One is Illegal has returned to Ottawa, fighting for migrant justice issues. OPIRG soundly defeated offensive attempts by campus belligerents to defund the research group, and used the ordeal as an effective tool to educate students and bring in many more people who care about constructing a better world for everyone. Under Pressure, an anti-poverty collective in the city, constructed a brilliant map for the Leveller showing sites of resistance to help us critically navigate the city, and May Day and Idle No More rallies (among others) have inspired tens of thousands of folks to pay attention and take action.

The point of this all is to show you what you probably already know: the forces that work to divide our movements and to conserve the status quo distribution of power and privilege in our society hide their arguments under the illusion of objectivity, which is more dangerous than being clear about biases.

For our fifth anniversary, we promise to never lie to you. We don’t want to continually hammer you over the head with bad news – we strive to show you the beauty in your city as well. Art battles, poetry readings, and inspiring actions that resist conservative elitism are happening alongside the downward spiral of mainstream society.

Our job is to report to you, and your job is to continue to organize, orchestrate, and orate so that we can tell other people about you. This is your campus and your city. And we’re your fun house mirror, your annoying bff, and hopefully your favourite little rag. Here’s to another half decade and beyond of Levelling Ottawa!

This article first appeared in the Leveller Vol. 6, No. 4 (Jan/Feb 2014)