Be careful what you wish for!

I came across a quote by Isocrates about freedom of speech and it made me contemplate recent events occurring around the world[1].

[1] Democracy destroys itself because it abuses its right to freedom and equality. Because it teaches its citizens to consider audacity as a right, lawlessness as a freedom, abrasive speech as equality, and anarchy as progress.


In some parts of the world the idea of freedom of speech is vigorously protected by rights activists and moderates alike as one of the fundamental aspects of liberal democracy. In the Western world this has been naturalised. For example, this was the basis of the ‘Je Suis Charlie’ solidarity response to the Charlie Hebdo atrocity in Paris which spread across the world via the internet[2]. For some there should be no limits to the freedom of speech as it allows for people in positions of power to be held accountable, corruption to be limited and infringements on individual rights be highlighted and challenged. However, political correctness also pervades the everyday lives of people in the West which is arguably contrary to freedom of speech[3].





Additionally the internet and social media are celebrated as tools that potentially help to forward liberal democratic virtues[4] and reduce inequality and injustice (McPhail, 2010: 140). If traditional forms of media have been brought under the control of the elites as per Herman and Chomsky, then the internet is seen to provide a voice to the people. The internet is seen by many as a way of blowing open the restricted access to traditional media. Subsequently, it has enabled the rise of the citizen-journalist, bloggers, hacktivists[5], whistle-blowers (Edward Snowden) and Wikileaks. Barack Obama was also hailed for adeptly utilising social media in his 2008 campaign[6].






If there has been cyber-utopianism overload in some quarters, that notion has been largely dispelled by recent events. Firstly, Al Qaeda[7] and then ISIS or Daesh[8] have skilfully utilised the internet and social media to globally disseminate their anti-western rhetoric. If that was not bad enough for cyber-utopians and freedom of speech advocates, it is now faced with Donald Trump as President of the USA.





By now it is common knowledge that Trump utilised aspects of social media such as Facebook and Twitter[9] to further his campaign beyond a supposed media blackout. In addition to those dark shadows permeating the web there is also the right-wing news website Breitbart[10] and a nascent but growing alt-right movement[11] with its poster boy Milo Yiannopoulos. Further afield does not appear brighter for democracy either when Evgeny Morozov’s explains how authoritarian leaders/governments are utilising the internet to restrict the freedom and internet access of their populace[12]. Additionally, we are in the midst of an escalating cyber-warfare and claims that Russian backed groups influenced the election of Donald Trump as US President.







So are the internet and globalisation combining to transport us to a utopian global village or to McLuhan’s tribal concept of a global village?[13] The internet is ostensibly fast becoming a battle ground[14]. When one purveys recent events it is difficult to envisage anything but the latter. Even Obama and Merkel have recently iterated their belief that the internet has played a critical role in making a “clash of cultures” more direct and instilling uncertainty in people about their identities anegypt-protestd economic security’[15]. On the one side there is an amorphous, left-leaning entity forwarding liberal values of immigration and multiculturalism, integration and toleration, and freedom and individuality. And there is an alternate response to some or all of those values from religiously directed groups and groups considered nationalistically or racially motivated. All of which are utilising the internet and social media to voice their views.






Because for all the espousal of political correctness and toleration, what really happens to those with moderately or radically opposite views to mass immigration, cultural hybridity and globalisation is that their views are seemingly driven underground and subsequently voiced through the internet and social media where anonymity can be used[16]. Consequently, they seem to have surfaced in the form of ISIS, alt-right, the Brexit result and the election of Donald Trump. Thus, Western politicians and media are starting to understand that Brexit and Trump are identifiable responses to the perceived ignorance of the welfare and views of sections of Western8015114-3x2-940x627 populations in preference to utopian ideals. Although this may seem far-fetched now, but are once-stable Western states heading towards a chaotic future of regular mass riots or even worse lawlessness and civil war similar to that recently experienced by other countries[17]? Those early Syrian demonstrators probably did not foresee the current situation.


Both Marshall McLuhan and the 13th century historian Ibn Khaldun[18] advocated the virtue of social cohesion for the betterment of a society and a country. It could be, that as global integration and significant demographic change is pushed forward it consequently creates dangerous fractures domestically or locally[19].


[17] Syria, Ukraine, Iraq, Sudan, Somalia, Myanmar, Nigeria, Libya and the former Yugoslavia.


[19] Various events in France, the mass shooting by Anders Behring Breivik in Sweden, the riots in London in 2012 and the vitriolic responses to the Brexit result and those that voted for Brexit, and recent events and the demonstrations currently occurring across the US.



Marshall McLuhan            UNDERSTANDING THE MEDIA, 1994

Thomas L. McPhail, (2010), Global Communication: Theories, Stakeholders, and Trends.

Evgeny Morozov, (2012), The Net Delusion: How Not to Liberate The World

Violet  K. Dixon, (2009), Understanding the Implications of a Global Village

Could social media be tearing us apart?


2 thoughts on “Be careful what you wish for!

  1. hankano May 15, 2017 / 5:56 pm

    Well written and thought provoking blog! Especially the point of how the utopian global village expectations have been reduced towards several little tribal ghettos which might lead to less local social cohesion.
    But in my opinion you go a bit far in blaming political correctness for limiting freedom of speech since it is rather a matter of decency, whereas hate speech is matter of law as well as for indirectly causing terrorist and alt-right movements and eventually civil war; but thats opinion.
    Maybe you could add a sentence in the introduction on what this blog is about, for the reader to know what he will expect. But overall I really enjoyed reading the blog!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. politic06 May 15, 2017 / 7:54 pm

    very well written and thought provoking, the concept of freedom of speech and whether it should have limits will forever be debated, although its important to point out that limitless freedom of speech can encroach the freedoms of others. social media has truly been a powerful tool for many specially those that are under dictatorships, however it has its own limitations and critics, this new social media journalism in which president trump can retweet or post a fake article in which millions of people will use as a genuine news source has its dangers as it delegitimizes real journalism

    Liked by 1 person

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