At the heart of democracy lies a contradiction that cannot be resolved, one that has affected free societies since their advent. Now media and communications professor Zac Gershberg and journalist Sean Illing illuminate the paradox that freedom of speech and media has always been a necessary condition of democracy while that very freedom is also its greatest threat. The Paradox of Democracy is a thought-provoking history of communications that challenges our most cherished ideas about freedom of speech and democracy.
The Paradox of Democracy: Free Speech, Open Media, and Perilous Persuasion captures the deep connection between communication and political culture, from the ancient art of rhetoric and the revolutionary role of newspapers to liberal broadcast media and the toxic misinformation of the digital public sphere. With clear-eyed analysis, Gershberg and Illing show that our contemporary debates over media, populism, and cancel culture are not so different from democratic cultural experiences of the past. As we grapple with a fast-changing, hyper-digital world, they prove democracy is always perched precipitously on a razor’s edge