The Transformation of Public Dissent: From Counter-Public Spheres and Alternative Media to Disinformation Ecologies?
Counter-public spheres are commonly regarded as discursive arenas that allow members of subordinated or marginalized social groups to incent counter discourses, circulate alternate narratives and to promote oppositional interpretations of social realities against a hegemony constituted by dominant publics. As such, counter-publics allow social actors to actively and autonomously bring visibility to their experiences, interests, and identities, to mobilize for their causes and not least to publicly voice dissent. In this regard, counter-publics help to reflect the societal status quo and can become indicative of existing social inequalities as well as the logics of inclusion and exclusion prevalent in dominant public spheres and to criticize their shortcomings. Counter-public spheres are of paramount importance both in liberal-democratic as well as in authoritarian societies. As a radicalization of normative theories of the bourgeois public sphere, the concept of counter-publics challenges liberal democracies by demanding the full realization of their constitutive ideals. While actors of counter-publics in democratic societies can refer to the ability to publicly voice a dissenting opinion and participate in public debate without fear of persecution as a fundamental norm, in non-democratic societies, these are often the only seeds in which the fragile blossoms of criticism and political defiance can take root.Continue reading