There was no golden age of a universal, open public space for discussion and debate, but what we have now is a special kind of technocratic, oligarchic hellscape.
Dr. Moscrop is right of course on several fronts here. Even the idea of a 'public square' seems a notion untethered to any reality any of us have lived. I might be more inclined to be even more strident in saying the idea of the 'Public Square' has been twisted and treated like any other commodity within our system. Captains of industry are heralded as geniuses by any and all success, allowed to profit, often with little or no regulation, nothing is returned to the public, and complaints are regularly sidelined until some party can use it as a cudgel for election to an office. That's the way the system works and how it was designed to work. It was less an outsourcing by the 'we' and more a co-opting by profiteers who, long ago, captured the state. Like any issue we face in modern democracies, unless the 'we' come out in overwhelming numbers and with a unified front, the public square will be a systemic wasteland controlled by the few.
Tangentially, the pantomime sessions in Congress early in the Trump administration were as infuriating as they were enlightening. The US government had no intention of regulation or even responsible guidance - it was merely a pose for the camera by Republican bullies and attention whores. Content, ironically, to be used as disinformation.
I notice Moscrop sticks to a fairly strong distinction between 'corporation' and 'state' here (eg "many of us trust fully neither the state nor corporations but may trust the state a bit more"). Are these really two different entities at this point? It isn't just that corporations are able to 'bully' the state: Ford is literally ruling Ontario like the chairperson of 'developers inc' and Trudeau has relinquished all regulatory powers and is leaving the biggest decisions of our time — on climate change mitigation — up to the market. I think a distinction that strong is an enabling abstraction, possibly a carryover from a golden 'New Deal' age or longing for a utopian social age to come.
“Shot across the bow” is the widely used figure of speech. Against it would be somewhat more than a warning, yeah?
“ … there was no golden era of the public square…”
Well, not quite.
The Icelandic Althing operated as a universal assembly that met in a summer field from its founding in 930 up to 1798.
See more at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Þingvellir