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Free speech and the market state: Race, media and democracy in new liberal times

Khiabany, Gholam and Williamson, Milly. 2015. Free speech and the market state: Race, media and democracy in new liberal times. European Journal of Communication, 30(5), pp. 571-586. ISSN 0267-3231 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Press freedom and free speech have again become central questions in discussions of democracy and power. A whole range of events have called into question the role of the press in the democratic process in today’s combined context of economic crisis and the free reign of market forces. From the publication of the racist cartoons in Denmark, to the Wikileaks witch hunt, to the Leveson inquiry in Britain, the rhetoric of press freedom is revealed as a universalizing concept that masks political and class interest – free expression is not treated universally, but is tied to questions of social, political and economic power. This article argues, however, that it is not the case that liberal democracy has latterly been corrupted or impaired. Instead, the significant limits of liberalism, highlighted by the above instances, stem from the historical conditions which gave rise to it; mass revolution and reaction in the 19th century resulted in constitutional democracies which established the principle of freedom, but not the fact. This article will suggest that from the outset, constitutional democracies were shaped by the class interests of an economic elite. There has been a historic entanglement of emancipation and de-emancipation in liberal thought, and the role of the press in this enterprise has been to use a racially charged definition of freedom and the notion of a threat to ‘our freedoms’ to scapegoat the Muslim population and to justify curbing ‘their’ freedoms.

Item Type:


Identification Number (DOI):


Anti-Muslim racism, democratic swindle, emancipation, freedom, free speech, liberalism, market state, race

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Media, Communications and Cultural Studies
Media, Communications and Cultural Studies > Goldsmiths Leverhulme Media Research Centre


24 August 2015Published Online
1 October 2015Published

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

29 Nov 2015 21:08

Last Modified:

10 Jun 2020 15:18

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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