The Public Sphere: An 18th Century Rock Concert

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The ‘Public Sphere’ was a term originally created by German philosopher Jürgen Habermas in his book ‘The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere’ in 1962, describing it as a place to get the news and debates and that it shared similarities with an 18th century coffee house. This coffee house has, however, thanks to social media, in recent years turned into more of a worldwide rock concert in which people are competing to see who can yell the loudest.

This was seen in the very public debate between Yassmin Abdel-Magied and Jacqui Lambie on the Australian Broadcast Corporation’s program Q&A in February. Lambie was defending her statement about following Donald Trump’s approach of deporting Muslim’s who support Sharia law. Abdel-Magied then interjected that Lambie did not truly know what Sharia law is and the negative conceptions surrounding Islam do not represent what Islam stands for. Needless to say, things got pretty heated, and not just on the panel.

Both conservative and multiculturalists alike when to their respective corners and prepared for the oncoming war of words. After many anti-Islam supporters demanded an apology for her pro-Sharia law views, many multiculturalists defended Abdel-Magied claiming that she should not apologise for her statements as she was standing up for herself and her fellow Muslims. In a letter to The Guardian Joumanah El Matrah claimed

“No young person, in seeking to defend their right to their identity, should have to face the venom and barely veiled prejudice as Adbel-Magied has had.”

The conservatives struck back saying the ABC should publicly condemn and fire Yassmin Abdel-Magied over Pro Sharia Law comments, even creating a petition that has gained over 30,000 signatures. Similar debates have arisen in recent times. In February, ‘Project’ host Waleed Aly made a joke saying that working in administration is a job for bogans. This caused a lot of backlash on social media, headlined by Triple M Grill Team co-host, Mark Geyer replying “It’s as funny as cancer. It’s bulls***. You shouldn’t be making fun of people less educated than you. ”

As much as I make like the idea of the public sphere being an 18th century coffee house, social media has made the news and debate global, thus making it incredibly troublesome for a coherent debate to be forged. The louder you scream, the more people listen!!!

Bibliography

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