Rhetoric and Writing in the Public Sphere: An Introduction/The Evolution of the Public Sphere

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Jurgen Habermas[edit | edit source]

Jurgen Habermas at a discussion in Munich, 2007

Jurgen Habermas is a philosopher, social scientist, and communication theorist whose ideas have shaped the way contemporary society thinks about citizenship and government. Habermas was born in Dusseldorf, Germany in 1929. He lived through the Second World War and witnesses firsthand the nazi-ization of his homeland, and when he was 15 he joined the Hitler Youth. His country was taken over by a manipulative government, that influenced many, including Habermas’s father who was a Nazi sympathizer. After the war, as many of his contemporaries did, Habermas devoted his thoughts to preventing the mass manipulation the happened in WWII [1]. He postulated what led people to accept the atrocities committed by the Nazi regime. From his German background, Habermas created his political theories.

Habermasian theory of the public sphere was born directly out of enlightenment ideas that were present in the 17th century and in the American and French revolution [2]. The ideals of the enlightenment perpetuated by the great 17th century philosophers like Rousseau excited Habermas. The ideal that reason was the ultimate goal of citizens extended past its 17th century roots, and forever colored the political, social, and communicative ideals of Habermas. Drawing upon his love for enlightenment ideals, he articulated the idea of the contemporary public sphere, and is responsible for our modern understanding of the public sphere. Habermas argues that the public sphere is what allowed the thinkers and people of the enlightenment period to question and change the role of government. Because of the strong public sphere, enlightenment ideas were constructed, promoted, and implemented.

When considering the work of Habermas, it is important to keep in mind not only the politics of the past that shaped his work, but also the contemporary circumstances under which he published his book The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere. He published the book in the 20th century as state and monopoly capitalism began to emerge. These forms of government began to overshadow the liberal capitalist government of the 19th century. The Frankfurt School, where Habermas was employed, supported the idea of state and monopoly capitalism [3]. Thus Habermas’s views were developed in line with this notion. Habermas believed that a pure public sphere could only exist in a Marxist society [4]. Habermas was living in a society that was withered, broken and still coping with the consequences of WWII. One of the products of the war was the sentiment that authoritative governments were better apt to govern nations [5]. While Habermas argues that the public sphere is best suited for a Marxist society incapable of flourishing in a liberal capitalist democracy, the public sphere can and does embolden democracy. It is the link that allows capitalism and democracy to function properly in tandem.

What is the Public Sphere?[edit | edit source]

The public sphere is not a tangible location, but a space that exists in discourse. For Habermas the public sphere in its best and most pure form existed in the 1700’s with the advent of the enlightenment. Habermas labeled this public sphere the “bourgeois public sphere”. This space of discourse existed at the crossroads of private, family life and the government. Habermas believed the public sphere of the 1700’s to be the ideal of political participation. In his words it is a, “network for communicating information and points of view . . . the streams of communication are, in the process, filtered and synthesized in such a way that they coalesce into bundles of topically specified public opinions”[6]. The public sphere is where citizen discuss what they want their government to be, and therefore where public opinion is created.

Habermas believed Marxism provides the best conditions for citizens to participate in the public sphere. He believed that capitalism could not support a public sphere. He identifies problems with Marxism and its capacity to enable its citizens to communicate in the realm between the social and the political, but finds it to be a better alternative to capitalism. In his opinion, capitalism is too controlled by big business and big government. In a capitalist society big business and government take over the public sphere, rendering the people voiceless in their democracy. Marxism is dominated by the idea the each citizen is equal, and there is no big business to steal the voice of the people.

Habermas argues that in a liberal capitalistic society these huge entities control public opinion. His concerns are legitimate, in the United States there are many large and powerful entities that attempt to control public opinion and manipulate the masses. However, Habermas underestimated that power of citizens to reason. Because citizens have to capacity, and exercise that capacity, to reason the public sphere fits perfectly in a capitalist democracy. The public sphere is what mediates between capitalism and democracy. It polices between the two entities and thus produces democracy and capitalism that benefits citizens. Each would suffer without the public sphere, especially the democracy. Without the public sphere in a capitalist society democracy would die. They are three inseparable entities the public sphere, capitalism, and democracy.

The public sphere is a place of debate, a forum where the public can grapple with ideals concerning the role of government, the actions of government, people's responsibility in the government, and to evaluate the performance of governmental leaders. It is where debate creates public opinion. Where after deep thought and discussion, reasonable ideals rise to the top and will be implemented by the government, as dictated by the governed. It is supposed to function as a check on the government.

The Public Sphere In the United States: A Liberal Capitalist Democracy[edit | edit source]

As it applies to the United States, the public sphere can be considered the fourth branch of government. It is the branch that is meant to regulate and insure that the government is acting in accordance to the reasonable thoughts of the people. In the public sphere only rational reasoned discourse has a place. When the discourse become manipulated by fear, money, or authorities, the public sphere is tainted, and cannot function [7]. People, individuals acting and thinking out of their own free will, can create and maintain a democracy. A democracy cannot exist without a public sphere.

Habermas argues that citizens of a liberal capitalist democracy are merely spectators not players in the game of politics. Habermas sees this a degradation of the public sphere, and uses this to evidence the inadequacies of a liberal capitalistic democracy. Reason is what Habermas underestimates: people will remain reasonable. With the birth of new technologies, like the Internet, the ability of the public sphere has grown to be larger than Habermas could have predicted. These new technology will increase the freedom that people have to express their opinion.

Wikipedia is an example of a technology that helps to maintain the public sphere. It does not accept solicits from advertisers and does not take government funding. It is information written by the people for the people and edited by the people. Also the easy access to blogging has empowered the average person to become a journalist. Technology emboldens the public sphere. With increased access to the Internet participation in the public sphere is easier for larger groups of people.

Democracy provides the freedom and platform that is essential to the public sphere. Democracies are defined by their commitment to equality. Thus those that did not have a voice in the “perfect” public sphere of the enlightenment have a voice in democratic societies. In the enlightenment women, the working class, and the poor did not have a voice. However, today in the liberal capitalist democracy that is the United States, technologies enable everyone to participate in the public discussion.

The Evolution of the Public Sphere in Europe[edit | edit source]

With the rise of mercantilism and the emergence of a new bourgeois merchant class, there was a redefined relationship between those who ruled and those who were being ruled. These changes contributed to the transition from a feudal system into a state. As a result, the public sphere began to emerge in society; it acted as the connecting link between the intimate sphere of the family and the authority of the state.

In the beginning, the feudal system was a system that placed great emphasis on royal power. The king not only represented the public, but he was the public. Under his sovereign control, there were no negotiations or any form of public discussions. The ruling aristocracy also blurred with the idea of divine authority, and therefore public religion influenced private life.

However, this began to change when a new economic system was introduced: mercantilism. This new economic system gave rise to small and specialized trade which promoted a group of people called merchants. Forming trades and new businesses, the merchants became less dependent on the feudal lord and the aristocrats. Eventually, the new economic system supported a new class called the bourgeois, or merchant/middle class. The bourgeois created a new space for economic discussions, which was the basis of the public sphere. At these discussions, the bourgeois could publicly voice and protect their rights and interests.

The Stages of the Public Sphere[edit | edit source]

In the process of developing the public sphere, there are three stages: the mercantile stage, the administrative stage, and the public stage. The mercantile stage deals with more internal and specific information. It is a narrow and exclusive public sphere that is limited to only a few elites. Its technical nature emphasizes analysis before action. As for the administrative stage, it is still conducted in the private realm, and its goal is to seek protections for its members from the public authority. Compared to the mercantile stage, it is more inclusive and less narrow. It has a practical purpose and encourages social interactions. However, the public stage is the most inclusive and broad public sphere. It provides both general and specific information to all people. This stage recognizes societal problems and uses the public sphere as a source of connection, information, opinion, and decision for all people. This is the most ideal public sphere because it is open to discourse among all people.

Private vs. Public spheres[edit | edit source]

As Craig Calhoun has emphasized, the public sphere is greatly dependent upon the quality of discourse and the quantity of participation. Unlike the private sphere, the public sphere consists of a wide range of participants within a society that can engage in critical and rational discourse. It is a platform for societal integration; it sets oppositions and issues between the state and society. Also, the public sphere does not have the tendency to be uniform and promote only one particular interest or idea like the private sphere. Instead, the public sphere is open to all opinions and interest groups. It is not static and is, therefore, often accepting of changes. Hence, the differences and the inequalities within a society become the basis for discussion and action. This open communication among people is the initial stage of a public sphere.

The press, in print and other mediums like electronic sources, developed in three stages:

  1. The first stage consists primarily of a small group of people. Mostly, the merchants and big traders had a voice. The elite are really the only ones who participate in the public domain.
  2. The second stage becomes more political. The press is trying to educate/unite the public on policy, etc. The press is more of a puppet of the public leaders and is used to inform the public of laws and policies that the public is to support and follow.
  3. The third stage is where the open and genuine public sphere emerges. The press must serve the society that is in a state of discourse and debate. This is the stage where the public is finally allowed to communicate its worries and opinions to the state authority, using the press as the means to give voice to their ideas.

The Evolution of Print Media[edit | edit source]

1730s-1790s (Early)[edit | edit source]

  • no visual components
  • news got around by word of mouth, not in print form
  • there was a limited circulation of printed material
  • it was more of an alert and message system
  • white male/wealthy landowners were the target and the target group
  • the print was incredibly small to fit in as much information as possible
  • hand-type setting, meaning very labor intensive to produce
  • shared by subscribers with neighbors, etc.

1790s-1890s (19th-Century Newspapers)[edit | edit source]

  • improved circulation
  • emergence of local news
  • still trying to fit a lot of information onto one page
  • introduction of foreign affairs
  • ranged in price from 1 cent to 2 cents
  • not divided into headline sections
  • uniformity and format begins to emerge
  • illustration in woodcuts
  • the beginning of stock quotes
  • advertising develops

1890s-1950s (Early 20th Century)[edit | edit source]

  • still not completely uniform—the text is still somewhat scrunched
  • WWII made huge headlines with many pictures
  • no clear division of sections, although categorization of topics emerges
  • no uniform text sizes (spaced between characters and lines varied)
  • starts to print the weather forecast
  • stock quotes and advertising become the norm

1950s to the present[edit | edit source]

  • visual aids widely used
  • text/stories broken up into many sections
  • more focus on human interest stories (and births/obituaries)
  • the stories are opinions/not all based on the facts
  • ads and coupons
  • eye-catching headlines
  • frequent political focus
  • space-filling photos
  • text fragmented with "on page…"
  • appealing to different readers (varied focus: the economy, lifestyle, political section)

Today (Diverse Forms of Media in the Public Sphere)[edit | edit source]

  • Gossip magazines (Us Weekly, Star, People)
  • Fashion magazines (Glamour, Marie Claire)
  • Fitness magazines (Self, Men’s Fitness)
  • Specialized—e.g., automotive, etc.
  • Academic journals
  • Informative/Political undertone magazines (TIME, Newsweek)
  • Shopping catalogs
  • Blogs
  • News shows
  • Talk Shows
  • 24-Hour News Programs
  • Online News Programs
  • Film
  • Speculative nonfiction (e.g., James Frey)
  • Access to anything at your fingertips (the internet)

The political functions of the emerging public sphere first started in Europe as a reaction to the ruling aristocracy, which attempted to squelch public opinion. Europe definitely had a hierarchy as the idea of press and public sphere begins to develop. In literature, art, and culture, politics were generally avoided. The intellectual, the educated, and the literate formed the foundation of the public sphere.

The US had no ruling aristocracy—a system obviously rejected by the Declaration of Independence and the Revolution. There was no belief in divine authority and religion was and is considered a private matter. There emerged a foundation for the public sphere with farmer, doctor, scholar, and laborer being the basis. There was little attention to class.

However, in both Europe and the US, you could only participate if you were a free laborer. This would exclude women, slaves, and indentured servants.

The United States developed its public sphere quite differently than Europe did, at least according to philosopher and author of The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere Jürgen Habermas. No ruling aristocracy existed in the United States. We decided to make a democracy. In order to establish that democracy, many voices were needed to speak and run the nation. So we had the Founding Fathers who debated with each other over the best path. In England as previously mentioned, only the ruling class spoke.

World religions have many times founded the governments of countries. The United States first non-native inhabitants were Protestant. Protestants do not have a religious hierarchy. Most of the other Christian religions do have hierarchies—the Pope, Bishop, Cardinal. The Protestants founded the United States and therefore did not have a hierarchy system.

The United States also had a different motto than Europe. We were founded by the people for the people. The US was not created to protect anyone or make money; it was founded to be a haven for people, where they could be free. For people to enjoy this freedom, the citizens had to talk. What did they want out of their freedom? What types of laws should everyone follow? The Founding Fathers wanted to make sure that no one felt belittled or silenced.

This goal of universal happiness needed the average citizen’s opinions in order to work. The average citizen spoke up and said what they felt. They talked amongst each other and developed a government that would allow for the free expression of opinion.

People also needed to talk more because they needed to establish systems in the US. Here, unlike England, no roads yet existed. No towns or methods of transportation were in place. The environment was completely wild. So people had to discuss how to promote transportation and trade and how to develop the land. People needed to communicate effectively to be able to survive.

In the US you didn’t have to be educated to participate in discussion. Illiterate people could be a part of the public sphere. The only people who could not participate in the public sphere were women, blacks, and indentured servants. That did not really change until the mid 1900’s.

From the beginning of the US until the mid 1900’s, the focus of public discussion was on the survival system, transportation, politics, trade, war. During the fifties and sixties, discussion focused on letting everyone into the public sphere. The civil rights movement and women’s liberation occurred. Also Vietnam happened. But after these tumultuous decades, things settled down a bit. People began to become more focused on entertainment. These days, people discuss their favorite TV shows and celebrities with each other.

Another view of the development of the US public sphere comes from Burton Bledstein. He wrote a book called The Culture of Professionalism. In this book, Bledstein discusses America's "professional" culture. The US culture developed “rigid barriers” that did not exist in Europe.

In America, your future was not planned out. People that were peasants in Europe could be business tycoons in the US. That meant that young men could determine what they wanted to do in life. It gave them choices. The US began to develop universities to train people to be successful. The universities taught students the discipline to achieve their goals. However, Bernstein notes that this also led to a decrease in the degree of creativity people had. Universities led to people trusting an authority and lowering their own notions of themselves. Students are taught that they are not correct. The teacher is correct. Because of this, America developed at a quick pace. People began to work for a majority of the day so that they could accomplish more. Life in America moved at a very fast pace. But people were also reaping the benefits. Some were striking it rich. And that became the American Dream. Every worker in America strives to achieve the American Dream. Wealth became the ultimate goal of the Victorians. The middle class soon came to dominate American culture.

The pace that America set for itself led to psychological issues. People began to be nervous and frustrated. They would get tired and violent. By trying so diligently to be free, people realized their own limitations. They began to find that they could not accomplish everything. This was especially true for women. They were confined to being housewives and caring for the children.

Victorians also developed the difference between public and private places. They developed what should be considered private and what could occur in public spaces. Before this time, private was a negative word. Now it is mainstream. Locks and alarms became normal, as did personal space.

Victorians not only divided up private and personal space, they categorized almost everything and everyone. Every space came to have a purpose—a breakfast nook, a dining room, a dressing room. People also began to associate certain meals with certain times of the day. People in America began to only eat cereal, eggs, and other “breakfast” foods at breakfast time. Before, there was no distinction between foods. You could eat mashed potatoes any time of the day. Breakfast also began to be associated with being clean and getting a fresh start to the day.

In Victorian society, everyone had to follow these new rules of culture to be considered “in.” As a result of the desire to fit in, magazines and other cultural instruction manuals began to be published. These taught the reader how to fit in just as today’s magazines do.

Another cultural aspect that began to appear was the use of space to determine power. The more space you took up, the more power you had. Houses began to sprawl bigger and bigger. Railroad cars were built so that people had more personal space, if they could afford to pay for it. At this time, the rich, poor, and middle class became separated.

Gore's Take on the Public Sphere[edit | edit source]

Al Gore winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007

Former Vice President Al Gore believes that American society has undergone a “dramatic and fundamental change in the way we communicate.”[8] He is referring to the way that Americans have adopted television culture, with the average American watching 2.8 hours of broadcast television every day, according to the most recent report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. [9] According to Gore, the shift among the general population from reading printed texts to watching television has been a main factor in the decline of the public sphere, which he refers to with his own term, the “marketplace of ideas.”[10]

Gore claimed that the three most important characteristics of the “marketplace of ideas” are that:

It is open for everyone to participate, with the only barrier to entry being literacy.

Individual contributions are judged based on whatever merit the marketplace recognizes.

Finally, it is assumed that the participants see it as their duty to search for general agreement, the ultimate goal of democratic conversation. [11]

In The Assault on Reason, Gore explains that because television is a one-way medium, the average citizen in a TV society loses the ability to contribute meaningfully to the political conversation.[12] Essentially, we sit in front of the television and absorb its messages, with very little opportunity to respond or make our voices heard in any meaningful or consistent way. This is in contrast to American society of the past, when media centered on the printing press, newspapers, pamphlets and the like. When the printed word and local and national newspapers were the way that citizens became informed, letters to the editor, and the ability to self publish made the printed word a powerful and two-way channel of communication. Even television sources that used to be effective channels for information in the past have been debased. In Gore’s book Dan Rather deplores the current condition of network news, describing it as “dumbed down and tarted up.” When citizens are unable to participate, or don’t care to, and their voices are not being heard, there is no way for a alarm to be sounded when corruption is uncovered, when illogic rears its ugly head in the offices and high places of our government.

Television fails to meet any of the qualifications that Gore set forth as essential ingredients for a “marketplace of ideas.” While television does feature some small amount of user-generated content, the vast majority of programming is controlled by the wealthy few, and the costs associated with starting a network or broadcast service are so astronomically high that only a wealthy few have the funds to participate.

News articles are often no longer judged by the utility of the information that they present to the American public. Who wants to talk about the merits or demerits of a Congressional budget when you can find out what is going on with the Kardashian sisters, or a horrible scandal involving [fill in blank] having sex with [fill in blank].

The expansion of television channels with the advent of cable and satellite television means that individual networks are being forced to differentiate themselves in an effort to grab onto some fragment of growing population of television watchers. This has resulted in an ideological split in broadcast journalism. In the past, news journalists at least made the attempt to bring you both sides of a story. Today, you have to consciously choose to watch media coverage from the liberal left and the conservative right to get an unclear understanding of both sides of increasingly complex issues. We no longer seem bent on capturing that mythical beast, the “general agreement.”

Another point which Gore only lightly touches upon is the impact that having exponentially fewer avenues of information may have had in forming a more cohesive and responsive public sphere, in the days of yore before television. When everyone on the east coast got their news from the New York Times, it became a common cultural experience, and water cooler conversations could start with the assumption that everyone involved had read the same paper. This commonality of experience would allow more people to engage in meaningful debate about the issues of the day, as presented in the news, leading to an incredibly vigorous public discourse. In a keynote speech Gore gave at the We Media Convention in 2005, he explains the value of a healthy “marketplace of ideas” to the democratic ideal:

“It is the destruction of that marketplace of ideas that accounts for the "strangeness" that now continually haunts our efforts to reason together about the choices we must make as a nation. Whether it is called a Public Forum, or a "Public Sphere" or a marketplace of ideas, the reality of open and free public discussion and debate was considered central to the operation of our democracy in America's earliest decades.”[13]

The Virtual Public Sphere[edit | edit source]

Gore feels quite optimistic about the power of the internet to reinvigorate the public sphere.[14] While participating online and using all the features of Web 2.0 might add another barrier to entry in the future—that of techno-literacy as well as the linguistic ability to create a sophisticated argument—many aspects of our society already demand these abilities, so why shouldn’t our government join the bandwagon?

There have been many technological developments in the five years since Gore published his book. At the time that he published, Facebook was fairly new and MySpace was still a hot item.[15] Since publishing this book, new forms of social media have evolved, such as the tweet by Twitter, and Youtube. Since 2005 Youtube has become a huge website now owned by Google that primarily hosts user-created content, and has been the second largest search engine on earth since 2008.[16] Luckily for democracy, there are people out there producing a plethora of material for us as citizens to consume. According to Youtube’s page of press statistics, over seventy two hours of content are being uploaded every minute.[17] Twitter users in 2012 are now sending 175 million tweets a day.[18] That is good news for those shy people who don’t like to publish their own opinions online, who don’t like to give out anything so personal as their close-held political views. Someone else is already out there, making the material. The real question is, what percentage of those tweets, those video uploads, the billions of text messages, blog posts, and Facebook status updates, contribute to the “marketplace of ideas?” For every bit we can raise that most valuable of percentages, our society and government can regain vitality, and the power of the people which has lately been sadly diminished. The trick is to find it, comment about it, anonymously if you must. Start a conversation; respond to a question, correct someone who got his or her facts wrong. Whether you are Internet savvy or not, it is not difficult to make your voice heard and your contributions felt.

Critics of the potential for the internet to create a thriving public sphere point to the "lack of solid commitment" as the number one drawback to real investment by online participants.[19]

Ultimately, it is up to us as citizens of the United States to realize how valuable participation is to the democratic process. Voting once every four years is enough to barely keep our democratic government alive. To thrive, it needs us as citizens to care about our country. Care enough to find out what the issues are. Care enough to vote in local elections. Care enough to contribute to the great democratic conversation that makes the United States what it is. If you won’t write a letter to your congressman, at least let your opinion be known on the comment section of the article, video, or podcast where you came across this person with whom you either violently disagree, devotedly follow, or don’t know from Adam. Don’t just be a consumer of user-generated content, be a producer. Who knows, you may end up with a million views or a thousand followers, and your voice will no longer be a piccolo in the midst of an orchestra. You can become a mighty organ of change in society, if only you let yourself out there.

Uncle Sam wants YOU to blog, post, upload, and keep Democracy alive!
  1. Foss, S. K., Foss, K. A., & Trapp, R. (2002). Contemporary perspectives on rhetoric / Sonja K. Foss, Karen A. Foss, Robert Trapp. Prospect Heights, Ill. : Waveland Press, c2002.
  2. Kellner, D. (2000). Habermas, the public sphere, and democracy: a critical intervention. Perspectives On Habermas, 259-87.
  3. Kellner, D. (2000). Habermas, the public sphere, and democracy: a critical intervention. Perspectives On Habermas, 259-87.
  4. Wang, J. (2010). The notion of Habermas’ ‘public sphere’ and its relevance to interrogations of women’s empowerment and leadership in Muslim contexts. Geografia : Malaysian Journal Of Society And Space, (1), 13.
  5. Kellner, D. (2000). Habermas, the public sphere, and democracy: a critical intervention. Perspectives On Habermas, 259-87.
  6. WorldBank.(nd). The public sphere. Communication for Governance & Accountablity Program. Retrieved from: http://sitereources.worldbank.org/EXTGOVACC/Resources/PubSphereweb.pdf
  7. Gore, A. (2007). The assault on reason / Al Gore. New York : Penguin Press, 2007.
  8. Gore, Albert. The Assault on Reason. New York: Penguin, 2007. 15
  9. http://www.bls.gov/news.release/atus.nr0.htm
  10. Gore, p. 12-13.
  11. 13
  12. 16
  13. http://www.alternet.org/story/26494/al_gore%27s_code_red
  14. Gore, Chapter Nine
  15. 273.
  16. http://www.youtube.com/t/press_statistics
  17. http://www.youtube.com/t/press_statistics
  18. http://www.mediabistro.com/alltwitter/twitter-statistics-2012_b18914
  19. Papacharissi, Zizi. "The Virtual Public Sphere: The Internet as a Public Sphere." New Media and Society 4.9 (2002): 22.

Citizen Activism[edit | edit source]

The Tea Party Movement[edit | edit source]

History[edit | edit source]

Tea Party Protest: Hartford, Connecticut 15 April 2009

Thanks to social media websites like Facebook and Twitter, since the late 1990s we have witnessed the emergence and development of a grassroots movement known as the Tea Party. [1] Advocating a conservative interpretation of the Constitution, reduced taxes, minimized government spending, and protection of individual liberties, the Tea Party aims to keep political leaders in check, demanding that the government be run “by the true owners of the United States: We the People.”[2]

Known for their anti-tax demonstrations, the Tea Party’s name is derived from the Boston Tea Party and is also an acronym for "Taxed Enough Already." This populist movement first developed because of numerous Tax Day protests throughout the 90s; however, it wasn’t until 2009 that the Tea Party Movement began to implement widespread public protests. The first large scale protest occurred on January 24, 2009 in New York. Chairman of the Young Americans for Liberty, Trevor Leach, organized the Tea Party to protest the obesity tax proposed by New York Governor David Paterson. Protesters were also speaking out against various Federal laws, including health care reform. [1]

Similarly, on February 16, 2009, Keli Carender—a blogger and Conservative activist—organized a “Porkulus Protest” in Seattle to protest President Obama’s stimulus bill. To gain support, Carender contacted a wide variety of people, including Fox News contributor Michelle Malkin who publicly supported the Porkulus Protest. Carender held a similar protest on February 27, 2009 which more the doubled the number of attendees compared to the first protest. [1]

Gradually, the Tea Party Movement began to engage with the public sphere on a national scale. Broadcasting live from the Chicago Mercantile Exchange on February 19, 2009, CNBC news editor Rick Santelli publicly criticized the governmental plan to offer aid to homeowners allowing them to refinance their mortgages in order to avoid foreclosure. Santelli openly endorsed the need for a new tea party that would give Americans an outlet to voice their discontent with the government’s irresponsible fiscal ventures—his outburst was eventually uploaded onto the internet and went viral practically overnight. Websites like ChicagoTeaParty.com and reTeaParty.com were created to help organize numerous protests for July 4, 2009. Ultimately, Rick Santelli’s televised rant became the spark that ignited the Tea Party movement, bringing the grassroots organization to the forefront of the public sphere.[1]

One of the largest Tea Party protests to date was the September 12, 2009 March on Washington. Organized by FreedomWorks—a group created by former Republican House Majority Speaker Dick Armey—those in attendance numbered in the tens of thousands. Gathered on the lawn of the Capitol building, the protesters spent the day waving flags and signs while chanting a strong opposition of health care reform and even stronger support for smaller government and lowered taxes.[3] Because of demonstrations like this, the Tea Party Movement has forced the nation to take notice.

Support[edit | edit source]

Based on the April, 2010 CBS/Times National Survey of Tea Party Supporters, the 18 percent of Americans who identify as Tea Partiers are white, married, male Republicans over the age of 45.[4] On average, Tea Party supporters are also wealthier and more educated than the general public.[4] Based on the poll, the typical supporter of the Tea Party Movement truly seems like the average American citizen. Most of the respondents send their children to public school, believe that the taxes from the previous year were “fair” and can see the worth in both Social Security and Medicare. [4]

Some famous supporters of the Tea Party Movement are Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain, and Michelle Bachmann. Two of the biggest political figures in the Tea Party Movement are Ron Paul—considered to be the “intellectual godfather” of the movement—and Sarah Palin, who is considered the cultural icon for the Tea Party. [5]

Criticism[edit | edit source]

Since their emergence, the Tea Party Movement has been accused of “astroturfing”—a term that refers to a self-proclaimed grassroots movement that is actually funded by either large corporations or a few prominent benefactors. Mostly, the accusers are claiming that one of the Tea Parties with the strongest backbone—Americans for Prosperity—has been manipulated by the deep pockets of a select few, making the so-called grass seem a little more like Astroturf.

Most of the critics concede that the Tea Party Movement is not strictly Astroturf, but more of a blend between the real grassroots and the synthetic. Many of the supporters truly are average Americans who are fed up with the government’s big spending and disregard for the wants of the nation’s citizens. However, the influence of the billionaires Charles and David Koch, founders of the Americans for Prosperity group, have many questioning the validity of the title "grassroots" and calling foul. The situation worsened after Venable—a political operative for many of the Koch-funded political groups—revealed that the role of Americans for Prosperity is to educate Tea Partiers on policy details and provide the most effective plan-of-action.[6] By giving Americans for Prosperity the funding to educate, support, and organize the Tea Party protestors, the Kochs are able to influence the group’s agenda while hiding behind the grassroots title to avoid any public backlash. And this is not the first time the Koch brothers have pulled off such a scheme. In 1984, the Kochs helped to create Citizens for a Sound Economy, an organization that also claimed to be a grassroots movement but proved to be largely funded by the Kochs who provided $7.9 billion dollars between 1986 and 1993.[6] Participants of this movement admitted that the Koch brothers were extremely controlling of all facets of the Citizens for a Sound Economy.[6] Considering their track record, those on the left feel that the Kochs are providing much more than money to the Americans for Prosperity organization, suggesting that the billionaires control all parts of the agenda—from the planning to the actual protests, some think the Kochs control it all.[7]

In actuality, the brothers have been funding the Americans for Prosperity group since its creation and they make sure that the money they donate is always working for them. David Koch was once quoted saying, “If we’re going to give a lot of money, we’ll make darn sure they spend it in a way that goes along with our intent. And if they make a wrong turn and start doing things we don’t agree with, we withdraw funding.” [7]

And this has been the case in almost every venture the brothers have endorsed, making many on the left wonder just how much influence the “average American” actually has in the Tea Party Movement. Considering the Koch’s track record, many are beginning to feel that the brothers are providing much more than just money to the Americans for Prosperity organization, suggesting that the billionaires control all parts of the agenda—from the planning to the protests, some think the Kochs control it all. And this can be detrimental to the true grassroots elements of the Tea Party Movement. The big corporations are looking to advance their own agendas, their own tax cuts, and protecting themselves from the big government regulations. Once these corporations get what they want, the real Tea Partiers might get trampled and left behind by the big businesses.

The problem with fake grassroots organizations is that they claim to be about the average citizen, but in actuality these Astroturf groups are mostly about the rich people behind the scenes. If the Tea Party Movement truly wants access to the public sphere, it must enter the conversation looking to participate in an exchange with other citizens and then work toward a compromise on various political matters with the hope of influencing the political agenda for the good of everyone—not just those who provide the funding for the various Tea Party groups. There is no room for market relations in the public sphere—it must be about the individuals banding together to influence society as a whole.

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

The Tea Party Movement has made quite an impact on the political arena—especially in the 2010 midterm elections. In the November elections, the House gained 60 Republican seats, 28 of which were endorsed by the Tea Party Movement. [8] The success and the national attention that has been given to the Tea Party Movement is rather remarkable and will hopefully incite other Americans to participate in the public sphere. The supporters of the Tea Party Movement understand that change will not happen overnight, but are willing to join arms against a government who they believe are taking advantage of Americans. The Founding Fathers would be proud.

While the Tea Party Movement can be used as a model for future political activists groups, there are many flaws that alienate the Tea Party Movement, preventing full participation in the public sphere. One of the biggest concerns that most Americans and politicians have with the Tea Party Movement is the group’s overly ideological stance. At times, many perceive the demands of the Tea Party Movement as too unrealistic—and if the Tea Partiers are too strict or too unyielding in their beliefs, they will accomplish nothing. The public sphere must be an area for compromise—it cannot only be about some individuals, the focus must be on betterment for all citizens (not just the white middle class, or the wealthy).

And again, there are the Astroturf attacks. If the Tea Party Movement wants to be successful, the claim of being a grassroots organization must prove true. Otherwise, there is no place for the movement within the public sphere. If big corporations are providing the funding and setting the agendas for the Tea Party Movements, then they will fail in the eyes of the general public. As Al Gore points out, “Greed and wealth now allocate power in our society, and that power is used in turn to further increase and concentrate wealth and power in the hands of a few” (99). If the Tea Parties are being controlled by the power of the purse, then they can be manipulated to push an agenda that may not be a direct reflection of what the average American wants. And while this may not be what supporters of the Tea Party Movement want, if the groups are being controlled by a few prominent figures, then that is exactly what is being done, possibly unbeknownst to those on the front-line.

Because of these concerns and some internal feuds, the Tea Party Movement has begun to fizzle out. A recent ABC news poll found that 6 out of 10 respondents are uninterested in more information about the Tea Party movement and just 9% are very interested in the movement. Overall, 41% (a drop from 47%) of Americans support the movement while 45% oppose it; 14% have no interest. [9]

Ultimately, the Tea Party Movement should be applauded, even if their views aren’t universal for every American. Regardless of their ideology, the Tea Partiers are attempting change—and that takes guts. Based on the CBS/Times poll, 90% of Tea Party supporters think that the country is heading in the wrong direction—and they are taking action to change that. This is exactly what our Founding Fathers wanted: politically active, informed, and empowered citizens holding the politicians who run our government accountable for their actions (or lack thereof). The Tea Party Movement reminds us of the importance of political activism and protecting the liberties that the Founding Fathers gave us. We the People should control the government, not the other way around.

  1. a b c d http://www.teaparty-platform.com/Tea_Party_Movement_P9MG.html
  2. http://www.teaparty.org/about.php
  3. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/13/us/politics/13protestweb.html
  4. a b c http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/15/us/politics/15poll.html?_r=1&src=me&ref=general)
  5. http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2010/11/the-tea-party-8217-s-brain/8280/1/
  6. a b c http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2010/08/30/100830fa_fact_mayer?currentPage=all
  7. a b http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2010/oct/25/tea-party-koch-brothers
  8. http://truth-out.org/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=4417:the-tea-party-movement-more-hype-than-reality
  9. http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2012/04/tea-party-movement-looks-stalled-half-like-it-less-as-they-hear-more/

The Feminist Movement[edit | edit source]

The iconic feminist movement symbol

Feminism is described as the movement or series of movements, mostly within the United States and designed to promote equality for women economically, politically, socially, and religiously. Feminism began in the mid-19th century as a call for suffrage, then evolved into a complex and broad social and political movement. Women around the nation rallied together to push for the passage of women’s rights legislation originally, then the movement evolved into an intricate and massive network of change, and continues to inspire and motivate women to push for equality. While feminism led to much legal and political equality for women, it also sparked a separate, anti-feminist movement that is continuing to hinder economic and social equality today.

History[edit | edit source]

The feminist movement has come in waves since the 19th century, each push focusing on a particular issue for women’s rights, beginning with general equality ideas and suffrage, then expanding to various related social, political, and economic topics.

Late 1800s - early 1900s[edit | edit source]
  • Seneca Falls Women's Rights Convention
  • Suffrage Movement
  • Landmark: Passage of 19th Amendment (1920)
1960s - 1980s[edit | edit source]
  • Women's Liberation Movement
  • Women's Health Movement
  • Landmarks: Equal Employment Opportunity Act (1972), Equal Opportunity in Science and Engineering Act (1980)
1990s[edit | edit source]
  • Hill-Thomas Hearings
  • Landmark: Freedom Ride (1992)

Impact on the Public Sphere[edit | edit source]

Virginia Woolf

The theoretical springboard from which the feminist movement launched was Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own[1], an extended essay she wrote stemming from the thesis that “a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction."[2] Woolf wrote the essay upon being invited to lecture on the topic of “Women and Fiction” in 1928 at Newnham College and Girton College, two women’s colleges associated with Cambridge University. Woolf’s essay is designed to follow her own train of thought from the point of view of a fictional woman. “My own suggestion is a little fantastic, I admit;” she says in her essay, “I prefer, therefore, to put it in the form of fiction."[3] Her suggestion can be taken both literally and figuratively: it “…refers not only to the physical space necessary for creating art but also to the hitherto ungranted space within the canon for women artists."[4]

Virginia Woolf was really the pioneer of feminism in the public sphere, as she brought attention to a much larger issue within her argument that women should be given just as much acclaim as men in literature. The feminist movement really expanded Woolf’s idea to blanket all women’s rights issues and propelled itself into the heart of the public sphere.

The Seneca Falls Women’s Rights Convention was held in Seneca Falls, New York in July 1848. All but one of the women present were Quakers, members of the Religious Society of Friends, a split from the Church of England and a relatively liberal group for the time with regards to women’s rights. The convention birthed the Declaration of Sentiments, a list of eighteen wrongs committed against women by men, and eleven resolutions detailing women’s natural right to equality.

A suffrage parade in Washington, 1919

The most notable resolution in the Declaration of Sentiments is the ninth, which stated that it was “the duty of women to secure for themselves the right to vote."[5] The impact this resolution had on the feminist movement was so strong, it led to the suffrage movement, which was closely tied in with feminism and successful in the passage of the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution. With this amendment came a whole new wave of political campaigns and ads devoted to securing women’s votes, as the influx of potential voters was massive – that’s roughly half of the population of the United States just added to the pool of age 18+ citizens once consisting of only men. With this shift of focus came an almost patronizing attitude among politicians towards women, where many women believed that politicians appeal to only chauvinistic stereotypes. However, with recent legislation has come a shift of focus by Congress to equality in the workplace with the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009.[6]

A large portion of the 1960s-80s feminist movement was a phrase coined by Carol Hanisch, “The Personal is Political.” The idea was to interpret “political” in more than one sense of the word, in that political could mean social encounters and relationships in situations of power, not just electoral politics. With this “wave” of feminism came a new awareness of the imbalance of power in the workplace, and inequalities between men and women in social contexts. As a result, “bra burning” protests were popularized among women feeling suffocated by their social inferiority to men, uniting those women by the public sphere, and setting a new tone for social encounters among men and women. However, this spawned a new age of discrimination against women by those who were opposed to social change, and the female gender’s newfound power in many social contexts.[7]

Another event that occurred during the second “wave” of the feminist movement was the reproductive rights movement, which led to the precedent-setting case Roe v. Wade (1973) that deemed anti-abortion laws unconstitutional, guaranteeing women 1st trimester abortions federally. All other details of reproductive laws are left up to the state, allowing for constant debate and controversy surrounding the issue. The continuation of the debate on abortion perpetuates social and potential legal inequalities, those who are pro-life disagreeing with the right, in one sense, for a woman to make her own medical decisions. It’s a thinly veiled brand of sexism that shoves further the wedge into the social divide between men and women.

The Freedom Ride of 1992 was a voter registration drive to rally minority lower-class voters, as part of the third “wave” of feminism, which highlighted racial discrepancies among women, a problem which previous feminist movement hadn’t really covered. In addition to the Freedom Ride, the Hill-Thomas Hearings, while not legally significant, provided a springboard for public outcry against sexual harassment and other lingering social inequalities. As a result, women voters were much more motivated during the 1992 Congressional elections, raising the voter turnout rate for the gender and setting a new precedent for women in national and federal elections.[8]

An ultimate change in the public sphere was the life expectancy increase in women since the inception of the feminist movement, as well as lowered birth rates and more women in the workplace. The enormous wave of women into the public sphere as a result of the feminist movement certainly made a large impact on the demographic of the public sphere.

A powerful tool for the feminist movement is the Women’s Media Center. The WMC, a non-profit organization, was formed in 2005 by feminists Gloria Steinem, Jane Fonda, and Robin Morgan, and is designed to find and counter sexism in the media. You can read more about the WMC and its impact on the public sphere in Chapter 3 of this Wikibook. [9]

Support[edit | edit source]

Groups that support the feminist movement include pro-feminists, the National Organization for Women (NOW) and the Feminist Majority Foundation (FMF), activist organizations that confront violence and social stigmas against women in rape and pornography, and align with the feminist movement pretty closely.

NOW is an institution founded to support socially and financially the advancement of women, and therefore is directly involved in the feminist movement.

FMF is a non-profit organization designed to advocate non-violence, reproductive choice, and general equality for women. It is therefore directly associated with feminism but serves more to push the passage of women’s rights legislation rather than support the movement financially.

Pro-feminists are different from feminist organizations as they provide support for feminism while remaining detached from the official movement.

Criticism[edit | edit source]

One criticism of the “first wave” of the feminist movement is that it catered to middle-class, educated Caucasian women, which sparked other multicultural or ethnicity-specific feminist movements.

There is opposition within feminism toward the de-politicization of many feminist objectives. The problem fundamentalist feminists have with this phenomenon is that it serves to focus more on simply promoting female politicians regardless of party, as opposed to siding with one party and focusing on passing legislation to secure women’s rights throughout the public sphere.[10]

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

The feminist movement has inadvertently sparked an anti-feminist rhetoric that continues today, because although we have accomplished suffrage and much economic and medical equality, social inequalities run rampart, making life for both genders sometimes a hassle. This is a result of the anti-feminist movement creating anti-female bitterness in some men and anti-male resent in some women. And as evidenced by phenomena like terrorism and cults, extremists perpetuate such otherwise unpopular beliefs, so sexism continues today.

We must come to a state of social equality before equality in the workplace can be secured, but total social equality cannot occur until both feminist and anti-feminist extremists come to a neutral, middle ground.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Woolf, Virginia. A Room of One's Own. Web ed. Adelaide, South Australia: eBooks@Adelaide, 2012. The University of Adelaide Library. <http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/w/woolf/virginia/w91r/index.html>.
  2. Woolf, Virginia. A Room of One's Own. Web ed. Adelaide, South Australia: eBooks@Adelaide, 2012. The University of Adelaide Library. <http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/w/woolf/virginia/w91r/index.html>.
  3. Woolf, Virginia. A Room of One's Own. Web ed. Adelaide, South Australia: eBooks@Adelaide, 2012. The University of Adelaide Library. <http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/w/woolf/virginia/w91r/index.html>.
  4. D'arcy, Chantal C. "'A Room of One's Own’? Cultural Studies' relationship to institutionalization and disciplinarity in Spain. “Cultural Studies 23.5-6 (2009): 855-72. EBSCOhost. <http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09502380903208015>.
  5. "The Seneca Falls Convention." The National Portrait Gallery. Smithsonian, 2012. Web. <http://www.npg.si.edu/col/seneca/senfalls1.htm>.
  6. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, 1/29/09<http://www.lillyledbetter.com/>.
  7. Hanisch, Carol. The Personal is Political. 2009. Web. <http://www.carolhanisch.org/CHwritings/PIP.html>.
  8. Beasley, Vanessa. "Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas Hearings." The Museum of Broadcast Communications. Web. <http://www.museum.tv/archives/etv/H/htmlH/hill-thomash/hill-thomas.htm>.
  9. http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Rhetoric_and_Writing_in_the_Public_Sphere:_An_Introduction/The_Media_and_the_Public_Sphere
  10. Truitt, Jos. "Naomi Wolf argues for de-politicized feminism." Feministing. N.p., 2 Aug. 2011. Web. <http://feministing.com/2011/08/02/naomi-wolf-argues-for-de-politicized-feminism/>.

Censorship & The Public Sphere[edit | edit source]

Overview[edit | edit source]

Our country’s public sphere is based on the premise of freedom. Having the freedom to say whatever you want to say, whenever you want to say it is a powerful tool. Censorship exists to limit the freedoms of speech and forms of communication that may be considered harmful by a government or body of people[1]. Censorship is a tool of suppression that has no place in the public sphere. It’s very simple for some governments and controlling bodies to censor released information, but much more difficult for others. There are several different types of censorship including: political, educational, religious, creative, internet and self-censorship. Recently, the American government has become interested in limiting the amount of online trafficking of copyrighted intellectual property and counterfeit goods[2]. This has caused alarm for many citizens, who are claiming these proposed acts violate their First Amendment rights. Internet censorship is one of the most prevalent forms of censorship today, and is becoming more and more controversial by the minute.

Modern Censorship[edit | edit source]

In today’s society, the largest examples of censorship involve the internet. The main problem governments have with internet use is the incredible amount of illegal file-sharing and other matters considered to be ‘online piracy.’ In the past year, the American government has postponed votes on two bills: the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act (PIPA). The objective of both was to crack down on all the illegal file-sharing and make it safer for legitimate websites to run smoothly. However, protest was inevitable, and the public petitioned that both acts would be violations of the First Amendment.

SOPA[edit | edit source]

The brainchild of U.S. Representative Lamar Smith, the Stop Online Piracy Act, is geared toward increasing the online security of intellectual property. Dedicated to removing illegal file-sharing, SOPA was calling for ad networks, search engines, and internet service providers to sever ties with infringing websites[3]. Typically, there was widespread protest in America over the seemingly First Amendment violating bill. One of the most questionable pieces of this bill is the link to other prominent sites using digital file sharing. Companies such as Google, Twitter and Facebook claim that disallowing the ability to link files and sites would be detrimental to the idea of an open, free internet experience[4].

PIPA[edit | edit source]

The PROTECT IP Act differs slightly from SOPA, but not in an extraordinary way. One of the more troubling issues popular sites like Google and Wikipedia have with these bills is the ability copyright owners would have to take control over web domains. PIPA would allow the government to shut down websites instantly after discovery of even minor instances of copyright infringement[5]. Large sites such as Wikipedia dedicate hours a day to combating the constant infringement seen on the site. Despite this, the site would still have a great deal of trouble maintain the legality of the site within such parameters. Youtube is another great example of a company standing to lose a lot from the bill. Under PIPA, should any user post copyrighted material on the site, the entire Youtube site would be seized. This poses a great deal of concern for all well-known sites taking advantage of file sharing. It also explains the enormous amount of protest surrounding both SOPA and PIPA.

Protest[edit | edit source]

Wikipedia home page on January 18, 2012

Both SOPA and PIPA were proposed in 2011, but the public really didn’t start rallying against the bills until early 2012. With voting on the bills scheduled to take place early on in 2012, companies against both acts commiserated to participate in the censoring of a large group of websites. Involved websites included Wikipedia, Google, Wired.com and many others. In order to educate more of the public about SOPA and PIPA most of the sites posted information regarding the argument against both acts[6]. Wikipedia shut down for 24 hours, posted a black page with a message urging users to learn more about the bills. Google didn’t do anything quite so drastic but offered another means for the public to get involved. On their main page Google posted a link to an online petition that anyone could sign and voice their participation[7]. After the strong showing of protest amongst the people, the government chose to postpone the vote for both bills. Inevitably, after more information is gathered on the subject and some issues are resolved the vote will come again. However, the public proved that they are strongly against the passing of both acts and that fact will remain prevalent in the mind of voters.

Traditional Censorship[edit | edit source]

Censorship was occurring long before the internet existed, and obviously not in the type of forum it occurs in today. In 17th century England you weren’t heard unless you had the ear of the king, or were a noble or some other type of respected citizen. This absence of a public sphere is something we as a people could never understand today. The internet allows for everyone to make their presence known one way or another. Another way of communicating in 17th century England was through the theater. One of the few forms of entertainment constantly in demand, playwrights had a certain amount of control over their admirers. The problem was that the King could censor any material he felt didn’t agree with his administration[8]. In 1626, Phillip Massinger the newly appointed head playwright of the King’s Men introduced a new play titled, The Roman Actor. The play was created as a way of protesting the widespread censorship in theater during the time. The key message in The Roman Actor was that censorship is destructive rather than helpful[9]. Thankfully, the public need not go to such extents to be heard nowadays.

Self-Censorship[edit | edit source]

Found frequently in conversations every day, self-censorship is one of the more common forms of censorship. It involves the purposeful censoring of information for a specific reason, and is used with the discretion of the supplier of information. Self-censorship shouldn’t be viewed as a good or a bad device, but just as a means of restricting information[10]. Normally being used for the greater good, such as an officer withholding information from an important investigation, self-censorship can definitely be used for shadier intentions. For instance, trying to conceal a crime or other indiscretions is certainly a more nefarious application of self-censorship. However, the biggest cause for concern is the lack of autonomy the practice promotes, not just for the users themselves, but also for those experiencing the censoring[11]. Self-censorship must be undertaken with care, and utilized properly to avoid problems with those being censored.

Pro-Censorship[edit | edit source]

There are certainly merits of censorship with regards to the youth in our society. Children shouldn’t be able to surf the internet and find pornography websites or other explicit content. The main argument in favor of censorship is often child protection. Brought up as the reason for restrictions, there is little physical evidence that children need these limitations in place[12]. Using the children as an excuse for censorship is wrong, and many researchers have found that it inhibits child learning. They argue that withholding information from kids is detrimental to their growth, and insulting to their intelligence and competence[13]. By placing children in the forefront of censorship debates, those in favor of censorship play on the emotions of those with young kids. The best method for protecting children is not government sanctioned censorship, but the censorship parents apply to their children’s media usage.

Effect on the Public Sphere[edit | edit source]

Censorship has a profound effect on the public sphere, and not in a good sense. The public sphere is a forum dedicated to allowing the public a place to discuss societal problems and find constructive ways to fix them[14]. Most commonly, the internet is the public sphere that everyone communicates through. People fear nothing more than limitations or infringements of their First Amendment rights, and many forms of censorship can be seen as violations of the First Amendment. In the instance of SOPA and PIPA, which are certainly infringing on those rights, the public sphere itself is being limited, not just the public’s access to it. Censorship is bad for the public sphere, for trying to restrict the public seemingly without probable cause doesn’t make much sense. By censoring information, the government directly contributes to weakening our public sphere. The public sphere must remain a place where people have the freedom to discuss what they want, whenever they want. With increasing censorship in the media and legislative acts (SOPA, PIPA) trying to crack down, our freedom in the public sphere is quickly deteriorating.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. "Censorship." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. Web. 1 May 2012. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Censorship>.
  2. "Stop Online Piracy Act." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. Web. 1 May 2012. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stop_Online_Piracy_Act>.
  3. "Stop Online Piracy Act." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. Web. 1 May 2012. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stop_Online_Piracy_Act>.
  4. Potter, Ned. "'Internet Censorship'? Would Websites Go Dark Battling Hollywood?" ABC News. ABC News Network, 09 Jan. 2012. Web. 29 Apr. 2012. <http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/internet-censorship-sopa-pipa-bills-congress-websites-dark/story?id=15309498>.
  5. Smith, Mark. "SOPA Blackout: The Day the Web Went Dark." Detroit Free Press. Gannet, 18 Jan. 2012. Web. 30 Apr. 2012. <http://www.freep.com/article/20120118/COL41/120118005/SOPA-PIPA-protest-Wikipedia-Google>.
  6. Potter, Ned. "SOPA Blackout: Wikipedia, Google, Wired Protest 'Internet Censorship'" ABC News. ABC News Network, 18 Jan. 2012. Web. 30 Apr. 2012. <http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/technology/2012/01/sopa-blackout-wikipedia-google-wired-join-protest-against-internet-censorship/>.
  7. Smith, Mark. "SOPA Blackout: The Day the Web Went Dark." Detroit Free Press. Gannet, 18 Jan. 2012. Web. 30 Apr. 2012. <http://www.freep.com/article/20120118/COL41/120118005/SOPA-PIPA-protest-Wikipedia-Google>.
  8. Reinheimer, David A. "The Roman Actor, Censorship, And Dramatic Autonomy." Studies In English Literature (Rice) 38.2 (1998): 317. Humanities International Complete. Web. 2 May 2012.
  9. Reinheimer, David A. "The Roman Actor, Censorship, And Dramatic Autonomy." Studies In English Literature (Rice) 38.2 (1998): 317. Humanities International Complete. Web. 2 May 2012.
  10. Horton, John. "Self-Censorship." Res Publica (13564765) 17.1 (2011): 91-106. Humanities International Complete. Web. 2 May 2012.
  11. Horton, John. "Self-Censorship." Res Publica (13564765) 17.1 (2011): 91-106. Humanities International Complete. Web. 2 May 2012.
  12. Grossberg, M. 2002, Does censorship really protect children?. Federal Communications Law Journal, Los Angeles; May; Vol. 54, Iss. 3; pp. 591-597.
  13. Grossberg, M. 2002, Does censorship really protect children?. Federal Communications Law Journal, Los Angeles; May; Vol. 54, Iss. 3; pp. 591-597.
  14. "Public Sphere." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. Web. 1 May 2012. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_sphere>.