FMC Cross-Departmental Seminar Series 9 March 2016

Communicating Research 

FMC Cross-Departmental Seminar Series 2015-16 

The Faculty of Media and Communication at BU

Venue: CG17, Christchurch House, Talbot Campus, Bournemouth University, Fern Barrow, Poole, Dorset, BH12 5BB 

Wednesday 9 March 2016, 3pm, CG17

A Corporate Marketing Communication – Politics and Media Guest Lecture

John Steel, University of Sheffield 

Free Speech and the British Left

This presentation examines how British radical Left and progressive political movements have engaged with the contested concept of freedom of speech in the course of their radical politics. The principle of freedom of speech and the associated principles of freedom of the press and freedom of expression have of played a significant role in political struggles from the 17th century to the present day, yet little work has been done on the relationship between the principle of free speech and radical and progressive movements of the Left, particularly in the 20th century. Ostensibly a concept emanating from liberal political theory that emphasises individual autonomy, the principle of free speech sits uncomfortably within the radical Left tradition in theory and in practice. Within the classical Marxist tradition, free speech is indicative of a form of atomistic false consciousness that pervades capitalist society. It is a figment of our imagination as we succumb to the shackles of capitalist domination whilst under the illusion that we are free. In practice, free speech is also abused by fascists and extremists who mock the democratic rights that progressives have fought for, whilst simultaneously attempting to exploit these freedoms in order to peddle hatred and ultimately deny us these very same freedoms. The ‘No Platform’ stance of the Anti Nazi League during the 1980s and 1990s epitomises the difficult relationship that the progressive Left have had with the principle. As a right to be fought for in the struggle for equality, yet seemingly a right that can impede equality and ‘freedom’, the British Left’s relationship with free speech is a complex one. This presentation outlines the author’s current research as he examines the ways in which the idea and principle of free speech has figured in the broad progressive and radical Left in Britain both conceptually and in terms of specific political movements and currents of thought and political praxis.

John Steel has published a number of books and articles on politics, journalism and media. He is the author of Journalism and Free Speech (2012) and is co-editor, with Martin Conboy, of The Routledge Companion to British Media History (2015), and with Marcel Broersma, Redefining Journalism in the Era of the Mass Press 1880-1920 (2016). He is currently writing a monograph on free speech and the British Left.

About the series

This new seminar series showcases current research across different disciplines and approaches within the Faculty of Media and Communication at BU. The research seminars include invited speakers in the fields of journalism, politics, narrative studies, media, communication and marketing studies.  The aim is to celebrate the diversity of research across departments in the faculty and also generate dialogue and discussion between those areas of research. 

Contributions include speakers on behalf of 

The Centre for Politics and Media Research

The Centre for the Study of Journalism, Culture and Community

Promotional Cultures & Communication Centre

Public Relations Research Centre

Narrative Research Group 

Journalism Research Group

Advances in Media Management Research Group