In spite of journalism’s transnational nature, there is no common history of the subject and thus no common history of journalism in authoritarian societies, a field which can only be studied by bringing together historical facts about journalism in societies that experienced authoritarian regimes at some point in their history. Journalism in authoritarian societies is closely linked with forms of manipulation and censorship. While censorship is older than journalism, it was the rise of journalism as a profession that prompted authoritarian states to develop fully fledged censorship mechanisms and systems. The first forms of censorship of the printed word were introduced by the Catholic Church shortly after the printing press was invented in the 16th century. But it was from the 17th century on that censorship models aimed at controlling the emergent periodical press were created by absolutist monarchies. Secular institutions gradually took over censorship from the church, developing a more complex control system that would methodically check on the printed information distributed widely to the general public. While censorship systems were scrapped in most of Europe for a short period during the 19th century, the following century saw the rise of more sophisticated and repressive forms of censorship. They were developed by fascist dictatorships in several European countries and by the Soviet system in Russia. These models, particularly the Soviet propaganda system, influenced a spate of authoritarian regimes in communist nations all over the globe during the Cold War. The collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s sounded the death knell of a series of authoritarian regimes, heralding an era of press freedom and independent journalism. But many regimes, particularly in the former Soviet Union, soon revived old authoritarian practices to keep their people under control. In spite of the limitations on journalistic coverage in authoritarian societies, journalists reacted in various ways to all sorts of authoritarian practices, ranging from harsh censorship systems to less intrusive, yet effective, controlling mechanisms. They did so either by seizing opportunities that appeared during more relaxed political times or by developing circumvention tools that allowed them to reach out to their audiences. The rise of the Internet brought about new opportunities for journalism to reach and engage audiences, as governments struggle to push back by designing new forms of control and censorship.
Paul Gilroy is a central figure in British cultural studies. From There Ain’t No Black in the Union Jack to Darker than Blue, his work has consistently interrogated what the political means for cultural studies, particularly with an eye toward making the world anew at some point in the near future. Indeed, Gilroy’s work suggests that the construct of the “political,” for cultural studies, has at least two interrelated meanings, both future-focused: (1) the political involves one form of investigation as a mode of entering into the conjunctural analysis; and (2) the political is also a nod toward black futurities as a mode of forever transforming said conjuncture. First, as noted by Stuart Hall, the cultural studies scholar has the responsibility to “necessarily abstract” from the conjuncture to begin an analysis. What this means is, whereas disciplinary scholarship focuses on the cultural, social, economic, or the political as set boundaries, the cultural studies scholar can begin with the political, in the first instance, and this may (or may not) lead to an investigation of the social, economic, or cultural elements of the conjuncture. This is an inherent element of the interdisciplinary approach of cultural studies. For Gilroy, nationalism and fascism are political constructs that he begins with, in the first instance. These political constructs, then, disproportionately lead to questions of racism and colonialism, which are disproportionately left out of the larger British cultural studies project. Gilroy’s career outlines a position that arguably has changed very little in contemporary British cultural studies: that white men are largely the gatekeepers of what constitutes cultural studies, many of whom completely ignore race in their theorizations of nationalism and fascism, even when it serves as an absent presence. Further, this liberal position of cultural studies requires intervention. Thus, second, and as noted by Lawrence Grossberg, the political for cultural studies also assumes that one’s work should do something in the world; it should seek to forever transform the conjuncture. In short, cultural studies is not just a theoretical exercise, but it is about telling a “better story” that can lead to transformation in the world. Indeed, Gilroy’s treatise on “racelessness,” often considered a nod toward colorblindness, is actually his attempt to speak the world anew. Put differently, Gilroy’s project has always been concerned with “routes” toward a new construct of humanism to disrupt Western engagements with the human. Despite its potential for white liberalism, then, Gilroy views cultural studies as uniquely positioned to speak the world anew, to challenge the solidity of the Western human and its connections to the Western nation. This, for Gilroy, requires rethinking the future, not through Karl Marx’s communist future, but Frantz Fanon’s decolonial future. In short, black futurities are everyone’s future.