Free Speech and Ideology: Society, Politics, Law
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionJavnost - The Public. 2020, 27 (4), 325–336. 10.1080/13183222.2021.1843848
Free speech remains a crucial question at the heart of every democracy. In Western countries, citizens ranging from progressive fringes to “constitutional conservatives” defend it as frequently as staunchly. In this paper, I discuss the tensions and contradictions of some formulations of free speech. Among other, I draw on two authors converging in their critique from two very different perspectives: Alasdair MacIntyre and Stanley Fish. After having assessed the extreme conception of free speech and having shown its implausibility, freedom of speech is characterised as ideological in at least one definition of the word, that employed by legal realists. I claim that free speech is indeed an incomplete, context-sensitive right granted to someone on some occasions, often depending on extra-legal, historical, sociological, political and practical factors. This leaves the door open to interpretations of the right to free speech as ideological in other and more substantial ways, such as in the venues of Critical Legal Studies. I conclude by drawing implications applicable to our societies in their current conditions, with a special focus on the role of new media.