Lizabeth Cohen In “The Mall as a Threat to Democratic Values” argues that the idea of Democracy in malls is one big delusion. Foundational changes such as the Freedom of Speech and the Freedom of Assembly are taken away by these commercial centers. All through the last fifty years, the public has fought this gruesome battle against these giants of commerce and have lost many times. The malls have been intrusive with the American Constitution, and have slipped away with it to this day (Arendt, 135).realized that this problem of restrictions over the public’s rights is nothing new. The first malls were opened in the 1950’s. Even then, owners of these private malls began to strategies on what can and cannot be allowed. They strategized on what could hurt or help business. It was obvious to them that freedom of speech and freedom of assembly were not good for their distribution of goods and services. So, being private property, these entrepreneurs could do what they pleased. These decisions did not stand in a good way with the communities surrounding the malls.
Political activist, protesters and many more groups were not allowed to reach their people in these places. To them it was unfair what the mall was doing. Public gathering places such as the market place or the park were known for bringing the community together. But to them the mall was separating them. The anger of the public turned into a voice that needed help.
Soon enough mall owners found their selves in court, but not just any court. These cases became federal. The battles of the public vs. the malls came to a new chapter when the federal courts decided that since the malls were private properties, the state courts would decide on the rulings of these matters. The majority of the time the public would lose to the will of the malls.
Freedom of speech matters more than ever, because in a democracy, if people cannot speak, if their voices are silenced, they will never learn from the community wisdom of different voices.
Groups of people might think that we cannot have offensive voices, that they do not want to be offended by free speech. If that was left to happen, what would have been the situation with women’s suffrage? These women spoke out and they most definitely offended many. But by them being brave and speaking out their minds many women were liberated from the dark eras (Hill, 234).
The best way for any community to move forward, to grow and to develop, is by hearing different ideas from the different people who exist within the community. Words matter, they have different meanings to different people, they can offend one and at the same time please another; they can frighten and enlighten; they can be very challenging while at the same time inspire to greatness. It will often always be the same words that inspire and hurt different people.
There is no way that has been found which can be used to silence the bad and have the good. We surely have to hear both sides argue about the issues lest we stay stunted from the sharing of ideas. Community is not some of abstraction, community is basic the communication that occurs between its members as they interact with each other. If you stifle communication often leads to stifling of the community.
The growth of shopping centers we have witnessed in the past decades is something that is all too common. What started as an innocent desire to provide ease of access to goods and services to communities has led to what is now commonly called the corporatization of public space.
This inclination in the direction of privatization has transformed the mediums for public life. Cities have become a series of economically and racially segregated private enclaves. Perhaps, much more imperative than the denial of social ideals, is the failure of the protection of basic democratic rights. The privatization of traditional public spaces such as streets in gated communities, or the town center (malls) severely limit free speech and assembly.
The mall, mainly owned by private companies, has become the replacement town center for majority of the people. In 1972, the Supreme Court read out a ruling giving mall owners the freedom to limit access to their private property if one’s activity was considered harmful to consumption. This therefore means that if a public protest were to occur, the mall, which is the ideal place, would be out of bounds. Since the semi-deserted streets are the only option for protest, impacts of protest have been greatly limited making people more docile and easy to control.
By creating private communities, freedom of movement, a principle the American society was founded on, is greatly limited and thus the American people should rise up and defend the slow relinquishment of their rights.
Arendt, Hannah. The Human Condition. Chicago IL, University of Chicago Press: 2008.
Hill, Melvyn. Recovery of the Public World. New York, NY: St. Martins Press, 2010.