ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

A+| A| A-

Political Ecology of Toxic Speech


Is it not paradoxical to conceive of and confront the growing use of toxic speech in any decent democracy? This question unfortunately finds its echo in a political ecology in which toxic speech finds its expression in the morphology or the conundrum of words that range from being cleanly offensive to becoming deceptively democratic in their expression. Ideally speaking, decent language provides meaningful bonds between people. Thus, the language of equality, justice, fraternity, and dignity forms the semantic basis of these bonds.

The bonds can also be sustained through reason and rational deliberation on the importance of concepts like equality, justice, and freedom. In this regard, it is heartening to note that during the recent controversy surrounding the wearing of the hijab or the sale of halal meat, some reasonably informed and concerned citizens articulated the language of justice and freedom, as indicated by some social media reports. These citizens did emphasise the need for giving people the right to make a choice in eating and selling food. The right to produce and consume food gives people the freedom to choose the food they consume, irrespective of their caste and religious background. Thus, it is being suggested that it would be fair to respect the right to sell and consume food. This democratic principle found its resonance in the assertion of citizens who found arbitrarily imposing restrictions on peoples choice by extralegal means by a social vigilante group as unfair. It is unfair on two counts: first it denies freedom, and second, it results in the loss of livelihoods to those who earn their wages from such work. The persons go further and invoke the justice principle that these people be given compensation for the wages they have lost due to such extralegal restrictions. The language of justice and freedom should provide the bonds that tie people in a consensual framework that is constituted by frank deliberation. However, this language has been replaced by the language that is hostile to these linguistic bonds of decent democracy.

Dear Reader,

To continue reading, become a subscriber.

Explore our attractive subscription offers.

Click here


To gain instant access to this article (download).

INR 59

(Readers in India)

$ 6

(Readers outside India)

Published On : 20th Jan, 2024

Support Us

Your Support will ensure EPW’s financial viability and sustainability.

The EPW produces independent and public-spirited scholarship and analyses of contemporary affairs every week. EPW is one of the few publications that keep alive the spirit of intellectual inquiry in the Indian media.

Often described as a publication with a “social conscience,” EPW has never shied away from taking strong editorial positions. Our publication is free from political pressure, or commercial interests. Our editorial independence is our pride.

We rely on your support to continue the endeavour of highlighting the challenges faced by the disadvantaged, writings from the margins, and scholarship on the most pertinent issues that concern contemporary Indian society.

Every contribution is valuable for our future.