Free speech, 'Cancel Culture' and the 'War on Woke'

Book chapter


Steel, J. 2023. Free speech, 'Cancel Culture' and the 'War on Woke'. in: Steel, J. and Petley, J. (ed.) The Routledge Companion to Freedom of Expression and Censorship Abingdon, Oxfordshire Routledge - Taylor and Francis.
AuthorsSteel, J.
EditorsSteel, J. and Petley, J.
Abstract

Concerns that freedom of speech is being eroded by cancel culture seem pervasive. News media, cultural commentators and political figures appear to be at pains to emphasise how the UK’s national culture, traditions and history are being threatened by ‘cancel culture’ and that ‘wokeism’ is not only chilling free speech but also seeking to re-write history and alter historical fact. This chapter will highlight and contextualise these debates within broader political shifts in society and suggest that the culture war around free speech can be seen as a wider ideological project that has its roots in the New Right politics of the 1980s. The chapter goes on to suggest that the erosion of political legitimacy combined with what Norris and Inglehart term ‘cultural backlash’ (2019) is feeding a form of anti-democratic, authoritarian populism that is stoking the fires of a culture war using the rhetoric of ‘free speech’ for political gain. The chapter signals how the right have utilised these reactionary moments to further their political ambitions, and what can be done to challenge such advances from progressives.

KeywordsCensorship; Cultural Backlash; Culture War
Year2023
Book titleThe Routledge Companion to Freedom of Expression and Censorship
PublisherRoutledge - Taylor and Francis
Place of publicationAbingdon, Oxfordshire
ISBN9780367205348
Web address (URL)https://www.routledge.com/The-Routledge-Companion-to-Freedom-of-Expression-and-Censorship/Steel-Petley/p/book/9780367205348
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Publication dates
Online11 Dec 2023
Publication process dates
Deposited13 Jul 2023
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