Free speech, freedom of speech, has a lineage from Ancient Greece in terms of παρρησί-α transliterated as parrhesia, meaning outspokenness, frankness, freedom of speech which was claimed as a privilege by Athenian citizens, although its use also included in a bad sense ‘license of tongue’ and ‘freedom of action,’ ‘without fear’ and a kind of openness (Liddell, 1940). Michael Foucault (1999) in a course of lectures given in 1983 at the University of California at Berkeley is responsible for analysing ‘the first occurrences of the word “parrhesia” in Greek literature, as the word appears in … six tragedies of Euripides.’ Foucault wanted to problematize for us moderns the political and ethical implications of ‘free speech’. As Rick Benitez (2003: 334) suggests: ‘It was Foucault’s opinion that Euripides problematised parrhesia, and that this problematisation … made it possible for Western liberals in the late twentieth century to understand better both what he called “the crisis of democratic institutions” and “the care of the self.”’
Today, the Alt-Right claims freedom of speech in liberal societies as a means of trading in ‘hate speech’ and encouraging others to adopt false and malicious ideas that fit with their worldview and threatened identity politics to such an extent that their critics claim they have captured the language of freedom of expression to turn it back on liberal society to achieve their own political and racist goals. Not all speech is constitutionally protected. Obscene material such as child pornography, plagiarism of copyrighted material, defamation (including libel and slander) and true threats, for instance, are not protected under the US First Amendment. Lying (perjury) in court, hate speech, lying that causes people to panic, seditious speech that encourages terrorism, blasphemy, wearing religious clothing, and Holocaust denial, are examples of what is not normally permitted although criteria of freedom of political speech have liberalized considerably in most democratic nations in the last 50 years. The Internet has increased the possibilities for new global freedoms of expressions at the expense of the growth of the ‘dark net’.
What are the conditions of free speech in an open society? What are the limits of freedom of expression in a democracy? To what extent should free speech be encouraged and allowed in schools and universities? Should education include the analysis of hate speech? These topics will be explored in the upcoming special issue.
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