Freedom from whom? what?

An underlying assumption about press freedom, and freedom of expression in general, is that there are factions, and that one is trying to (or could potentially) impose on the other.

Freedom discourse, then, seems fetishly concerned with partisan divides. How could it not be when freedom would not exist if there were no oppression to give it context. Just as light could not be recognized without the existence of darkness, freedom has no meaning unless there is oppression to demarcate its boundaries. Is it wise to accept that a cage tells me where liberty begins and ends? This is true only if one is content to stay inside the cage.  Why is it that individuals and societies are willing to rely on relationships with opposing forces to generate meaning? How strange, indeed, that our concept of freedom is dependant on opposition. Since the language we use to talk about freedom alludes to anything but our need for factions to make meaning of our construct of liberty, we must not be cognizant of this dissonance.

In looking deeper at this issue, we do find freedom defined by a cage. The cage is partisanship. Rather than being one, we are many parts; thus, rather than having true freedom (the kind that is not followed by “from such-and-such”) we talk about this part’s freedom from that part. It is dead wrong to talk about some unified freedom of the press, when in fact it is ‘freedom of the American press from libel suits’, ‘freedom of the Christian press from censorship’, ‘freedom of children’s public television from commercial interests’, and so many many more.

We may never have truly known what unfettered freedom looked like. Even when the First Amendment was ratified with the Bill of Rights little more than a decade after America gained independence, many were concerned that constricting such important principles as freedom of religion, the press and assemblage to a law of a few words to be interpreted by the court was a threat to its integrity, its completeness, its wholeness. Where is there evidence of ever knowing a conceptually sound, whole freedom. We only know fragmented freedoms, as it is often pointed out that the protected freedoms of some can impinge on the freedoms of others.


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