The Positive Freedom of the Public Sphere - The need for courageous truth-tellers
The relationship between democracy and the media since the appearance of Habermas' major texts in the 1960s has been articulated through theories of the public sphere. The structure of the public sphere is significantly influenced by the communicative media, and the emergence of the internet thus calls for new reflections on the possible relationship between media, public sphere and democracy. This paper argues that we should change the questions that are raised when we try to assess the public sphere. It is argued that the traditional (Enlightenment) focus upon negative liberties and the truth-value of utterances is not adequate. Negative freedom and truth are certainly important in the public sphere, because they are necessary conditions for taking a qualified stance towards the challenges that we face. It is, however, important also to reflect on what negative liberties are used for—which kinds of truths are articulated in public discussions. To answer this question it is argued that it is important to distinguish between affirmative truths and liberating truths (based on courage), the latter being what is required in democratic dialogues.