The Mediated Public Sphere

Religion. Even the word alone sparks the thought of debate. There have been many people in the media who have expressed their opinions on religion, and as it is a touchy topic, it can easily lead to debate in a mediated public sphere. Here is Jim Jefferies, a popular stand-up comedian, giving his opinion on religion (mind the profanity):

In this video, Jim Jefferies expresses his atheistic opinions on religion, and you would say a debate could be started from one of his opening lines, “I stand up for your right to be religious but please know that you’re wrong.” Jefferies goes on throughout the video to explain why he is an atheist and why he doesn’t believe in God. When he senses hostility in the crowd, he says “there are some religious people in the crowd and they don’t like hearing facts.” You could say that in a small way, a Jim Jefferies stand-up comedy show is an example of a public sphere, as he debates controversial topics with his audience. The comment feed below the video alone acts as a mediated public sphere, where people are touching and debating on the ideas of terrorism, freedom of belief, morality and education, all on behalf of the idea of religion. A video such as this could easily get passionate people worked up to spark a debate in a mediated public sphere. Take for example, this website:

This is just a small example of one of the many debates that could arise in a mediated public sphere due to a popular form of media, such as a Jim Jefferies comedy show. This particular debate is started with the question ‘Should religious studies be a mandatory class in school?’ This is a controversial topic as a lot of people believe that although people have the right to be religious, it shouldn’t be forced upon people who aren’t. It also raises the question of ‘what religion(s) will be taught and which ones won’t?’ It is a never ending debate, all due to the fact that there are so many points of view that can be taken. For example, this feature article from The Guardian with extracts from Jane Caro’s book ‘For God’s Sake’ discusses Religion’s role in the cause of war from different religious views:

This feature contains writings from an Atheist, a Jew, a Muslim and a Christian on their opinions of Religion’s role in the cause of war and conflict. The contrasting opinions include that people create conflict on behalf of their God and that religion does cause war, people with no religious motive e.g.: Stalin’s Soviet Union have committed mass genocides, and that atheists blaming religion for creating conflict is just as bad as the conflict and war that has actually occurred. This shows how opinions are contrasted even on one sub-topic of the concept of Religion, and further suggests how a popular media form such as a Jim Jefferies comedy show could contribute to debate in a mediated public sphere.


Jim Jefferies On Religion Horrible Blasphemy Panda – World’s Funniest Comedy Standup?, 2010, Video, Viewed 16 April,

– ‘Should Religious studies be a mandatory class in schools?’, Forum, 2013, Viewed 17 April,

– Woodlock R, Loewenstein A, Caro J, Smart S, ‘Doesn’t Religion Cause Most Of The Conflict In The World?’, Feature article, Viewed 18 April,


2 thoughts on “The Mediated Public Sphere

  1. This post is really good. Using Jim Jeffries’ comedy shows as an example for using the public sphere to debate public issues like religion was a really refreshing perspective on this topic of the media sphere. The Jim Jeffries video that you embedded in this blog, made me keep repeating the video because I was laughing so hard. As a fan of Jim Jeffries I could not go past this post without reading it. It gave the post a light hearted take on what can be discussed in the public sphere. All the examples you used were great contemporary references. I had no idea about and I use it for light reading now. The Guardian article is a really interesting use of the public sphere, the four differing perspectives in religions was an interesting read. If the URL’s were hyperlinked in the text that would have made the layout of the blog post a bit more sophisticated. Overall, I really enjoyed the blog post.


  2. Cameron,
    This is an enjoyable read, the way you have outlined and explained your example of a small, relatively abbreviated public sphere is an incredibly useful method in understanding how the public sphere works. Religion is another great example because in a sense, no other topic creates as much debate!
    A question I would like to pose to you is do you think these religious discussions, especially in response to a comedian’s act (whose sole purpose is to get a reaction from his audience) are helpful or a healthy function of the mediated public sphere? I ask this because in my view, comments on a comedian’s Youtube channel is hardly an idealised form of public debate arise by the media. I would be interested to get your thoughts on this!
    Your other examples are interesting, especially the debate of whether religious studies is mandatory in schools. It is an interesting subject of debate and perhaps the forum in which it is discussed is simply in keeping with societies technological advancements!
    Thanks! 🙂


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