"Parrhesia in social media yields a self moored by zero-sum games of power and delineated by measurable evidence of influence. This seemingly stable set of procedures for making a self—for playing the game of truth—are the consolation for the dismal, anxious, hyperreflexive sort of self the procedures actually yield. It may be that the only thing more intolerable than an “inauthentic” self is being at a loss for coherent procedures for “growing the self.” Of course, that anxiety can be historicized as being a reflection of neoliberalism, and of the need to be entrepreneurial about one’s personal brand to survive."
I was re-reading the above piece, Rob Horning’s ‘Games of Truth’, because I’ve reached the point in The Courage of Truth where Foucault has discussed most of the themes of Cynicism drawn on there, and realised that this part at the end is the crux that I hadn’t quite noticed or appreciated before. It’s what I essentially restated here, and maybe also here. I think I’m more interested in what parrhesia means in a general political and philosophical sense (for democracy or individual ascetism) than fitting it exclusively to social media usage, although the latter is obviously an increasingly large element of the former milieu, and the above shows how it shapes that context around a central tension of self-expression (and its attendant anxiety).
There’s lots of pernicious nonsense in the Tory (or conservatives more generally) view of human rights, but the last point above is I think especially noteworthy. The idea that rights are somehow conditional on behaviour makes a mockery of their existence, or purpose. The citizen has rights to in order to protect them from the abuse or misuse of power by the state, which by its very nature already has the power to compel its citizens to fulfil many ‘responsibilities’ (e.g. tax, education, generally obeying the law).
On the other hand, I still have a lot of scepticism about the use of human rights and their relationship with democratic politics. I strongly disagree with the Tory position on the substance of human rights law, and as above the whole style of their approach to ‘escaping’ the ECHR, but I think it’s important to recognise that at base that is still a political argument rather than to assume that the law is an apolitical good which we can and have openly assented to* - because it’s not. It is a deliberate restraint on the actions of democratically elected governments, from engaging in ‘populist’ or self-interested strategies, and appealing instead to a nebulous shared ethical standard. As such it also becomes very much a cultural issue, hence the opposition of tabloid scare-mongering on issues of ‘common decency’ to the equally self-satisfied intellectual ‘liberal’ elite who see both their interests and ideology reflected in the law.
(* except insofar as in countries like Ireland constitutional provisions, forming the basic law of justiciable rights, are passed by referendum. Which also applies to this situation regarding Northern Ireland, as noted here:
"A withdrawal from the convention could also place Britain in breach of its international obligations in the 1998 Good Friday agreement, which helped to bring peace to Northern Ireland. The agreement, which was approved by referendums on both sides of the Irish border and lodged at the UN, said the two communities in Northern Ireland would be protected by safeguards that include “the European convention on human rights and any bill of rights for Northern Ireland supplementing it, which neither the assembly nor public bodies can infringe”.
With constitutional change in the UK maybe it will be a case of English votes for English human rights laws?)