Town Hall Meetings and the Death of Deliberation

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Jonathan Beecher Field

Jonathan Beecher Field tracks the permutations of the town hall meeting from its original context as a form of democratic community governance in New England to a format for presidential debates and a staple of corporate management. In its contemporary iteration, the town hall meeting replaces actual democratic deliberation with a spectacle that functions as a glorified press conference. Zoom webinars are the latest mutation of the town hall meeting, promising increased access during pandemic times, but shutting off avenues for dissent. Urgently, Field notes that though the evolution of town hall meetings from embodied and sometimes chaotic sites for public debate and discourse to vehicles for autocratic communication might be apparent, evidence suggests many U.S. citizens simply don’t care.

Background photo by Michael Browning on Unsplash

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    University of Minnesota Press
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    Town Hall Meetings and the Death of Deliberation by Jonathan Beecher Field is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
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