< Freedom of speech > is a foundational ideograph in the American and more broadly, Western, tradition. Yet this term is not static in its meanings or commitments to social action. The current debate around cancel culture is the site of renegotiation of < freedom of speech > in relation to other terms such as < open debate >, < justice >, < marginalized >, < tolerance >, < democracy >, and < power >. This study is an ideographic analysis of two artifacts that represent two sides of the < freedom of speech > discussion: “A Letter on Justice and Open Debate” and “A More Specific Letter on Justice and Open Debate.” Following McGee’s theory and method, this research examines the diachronic definition of < freedom of speech > through the U. S. Supreme Court and the liberty model and the synchronic tensions surrounding < freedom of speech > represented in these two editorials. The analysis identifies < justice > as an inadequate and detrimental synecdoche in the renegotiation and suggests that there is no appropriate synecdoche because < freedom of speech > is prerequisite to all public debate. This renegotiation is happening now because of disparities between the ideal of < freedom of speech > and its material reality in society. Further, because < freedom of speech > has not been sufficiently defined and its alternatives explained and rebutted, it is being devalued in current society. Finally, the prevalence of the internet as a public square raises questions about protected speech as have all new media in the past. The study shows that one vision must eventually dominate because they are fundamentally irreconcilable within a single political union. The analysis concludes with an outline of the two moral visions presented in each letter and the consequences of adopting each.



College and Department

Fine Arts and Communications; Communications



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ideographic analysis, synecdoche, irreconcilability, Harper's letter, cancel culture



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Fine Arts Commons