Friday, October 09, 2009

The Problem with "Free Speech"

Michel Foucault's Fearless Speech is concerned with how parrhesia (free speech) became "problematized" in Greek democracy. But it doesn't take much imagination to start drawing analogies. Consider just this snippet:

"The problem, very roughly put, was the following. Democracy is founded by a politeia, a constitution, where the demos, the people, exercise power, and where everyone is equal in front of the law. Such a constitution, however, is condemned to give equal place to all forms of parrhesia, even the worst. Because parrhesia is given even to the worst citizens, the overwhelming influence of bad, immoral, or ignorant speakers may lead the citizenry into tyranny, or may otherwise endanger the city. Hence parrhesia may be dangerous for democracy itself (p. 77).

Could one imagine a better description of contemporary talk radio and its effects?