Adam Serwer doesn’t break new ground when he argues that “The consistency here lies in the belief that corporations and people have freedom of speech as long as they exercise that right on behalf of right-wing causes.” But he does provide the receipts.
I think that’s only part of the story.
For the last few weeks I’ve been ruminating on a series of fragmentary ideas and questions. These include:
- The marketplace of ideas is at best a mediocre metaphor. The public sphere does not work like a market; free expression does not lead the “best” (whatever the hell that means) ideas to prevail. There are plenty of reasons to treat freedom of expression as a fundamental right. The claim that it causes better ideas to prevail over weaker ones isn’t among them.
- Has the right-wing fixation on the second amendment — which is ultimately a right to purchase and own a consumer product — redefined (or solidified) an attitude toward freedom (“possessive individualism“) that C. B. Macpherson erroneously attributed to John Locke?
- The fight between supporters of liberal democracy and reactionary populism is also (perhaps just as much) about the place of republicanism in the American project. Ironically, it’s the “republic, not a democracy” crowd that’s more likely to reject republican conceptions of political community.
I still don’t quite understand precisely how these, and other parts of my mental word cloud, come together.