Gem State Roundup

New book on democracy, media, free expression published by ISU professor

By: - August 1, 2022 4:00 am
Idaho State University campus

Students walk across campus at Idaho State University. (Courtesy of Idaho State University)

Idaho State University associate professor Zac Gershberg has co-authored a book on democracy, partisan politics and misinformation titled “The Paradox of Democracy: Free Speech, Open Media, and Perilous Persuasion.”

Gershberg’s collaboration with Vox writer Sean Illing examines the impact of modern communication technology on public dialogue and considers the relationship between free expression and democracy. They also take a look at how these same ideas allow for exploitation and propaganda that can erode democracy.

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Idaho State University associate professor Zac Gershberg co-authored “The Paradox of Democracy: Free Speech, Open Media, and Perilous Persuasion.” (Courtesy of Idaho State University)

“My hope is that this book will help at least a few people see more clearly that the disorder we’re experiencing today is different because Twitter and social media is new,” Illing said in an interview with Washington Post columnist Margaret Sullivan. 

Gershberg was asked to appear at the summer symposium for the Institute of General Semantics, as well as to join interviews on an episode of the PBS show “The Open Mind” and NPR’s “Detroit Today.” Gershberg and Illing appeared together on a recent episode of the Lawfare Podcast and had an episode covering their ideas on the “Ezra Klein Show.” 

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Idaho State University associate professor Zac Gershberg co-authored this book titled “The Paradox of Democracy: Free Speech, Open Media, and Perilous Persuasion.” (Courtesy of Idaho State University)

“We had intended to write a narrow work focusing on the pathologies of our own troubled moment, but our research kept revealing consistent themes we felt obligated to pursue,” Gershberg said in an ISU press release. “I’d like to think the book offers citizens as well as scholars a novel frame to appreciate the connections between democracy and media.”

The book covers a wide range of media history, from pamphlets in ancient Athens and Rome to the modern use of social media. Gershberg said the issues covered in the book look different today than they have in the past, but they aren’t new. 

Gershberg has taught in ISU’s Communication, Media and Persuasion Department since 2014 and oversees the multiplatform journalism major for the university.

“Paradox of Democracy” can be purchased on Amazon or on the Chicago Press’ website.

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Anteia McCollum
Anteia McCollum

Anteia McCollum is an intern with the Idaho Capital Sun. She will graduate from a the University of Idaho with a journalism degree in December. She has served as a columnist, reporter, photographer, graphic designer and editor during her time at The Argonaut, the UI student newspaper. She also freelances with Project FARE, a nonprofit focused on telling Idaho's food stories. In 2017, she joined the Idaho Army National Guard as a combat engineer and will complete her contract in December 2023. She's an avid outdoor enthusiast with an interest in environmental reporting as a lifelong career. Her hobbies collide with her line of work, including reading, photography, design and some outside activities like backpacking and wandering around the local farmers market.

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