The rhetoric of <free speech> : regulating dissent since 9/11
MetadataShow full item record
Since the conspicuously broad and vague definition of terrorism in the USA PATRIOT Act, signed into legislation on October 26, 2001 to increase governmental power in domestic security procedures, legal doctrine and normative practices of free speech have become sites of struggle over the meaning of both terrorism and freedom of expression. In 2005, twelve cartoonists drew the Prophet Muhammad for the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten. The subsequent reprints and republications led to boycotts, protests, and riots in over 27 countries culminating in at least 139 deaths. Now known as the Danish cartoons controversy, news and entertainment sources alike narrate a story about protecting a fundamental characteristic of American identity—free speech—in the face of a terrorist threat. In American universities, David Horowitz’s proposed legislation, the Academic Bill of Rights, targets Left academics, who, according to Horowitz, “influence, in a negative way, America’s war on terror.” In August 2008, protesters at the Republican National Convention were formally charged with conspiracy to riot in furtherance of terrorism. In this dissertation, I explore how the rhetoric of free speech is a naturalizing and legitimating ideology employed to organize people around particular interests and mobilize them toward particular political ends. My research is guided by the question: How has the ideological terrain of the First Amendment—specifically, the right to free speech—changed since September 11, 2001, and why? I argue that rhetoricians should approach the traditional free speech narrative as part of an instrumental political act, as opposed to a universal principle. Cast as a discursive tool in a hegemonic struggle, the traditional free speech narrative offers the potential to open up spaces of protest and infuse ordinary citizens with political agency. Using the method of ideology critique, I develop and test these arguments through three case studies of free speech since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001: the Danish cartoons controversy, David Horowitz’s Academic Freedom Campaign, and protests during the 2008 Republican National Convention.