Which Shall It Be, Freedom of Speech or Not?


Michael S. Rozeff
August 10, 2013

wantyouCan a man speak freely in America without any fear of punishment or can he not? He cannot. Has the U.S. government concocted free speech “crimes” in order to suppress free speech? It has. Is the U.S. government investigating free speech activities with the notion that they may be terroristic? It is.

Being pro-liberty, I am pro-free speech. I think that liberty and being able to speak freely are part of what being a human being means. In addition, I think that free speech enhances human life. Favoring the human being, human life and its development, I favor free speech. This does not mean that I like or approve of everything that anyone says. I don’t, most assuredly. It doesn’t mean that groups of people may not voluntarily suppress free speech among themselves. Favoring free speech implies that I do not believe in forcibly curtailing speech.

If we wish, we can discuss free speech without reference to the U.S. constitution. The idea of free speech doesn’t depend on a constitution, but because the government is suppressing free speech and claiming that it is doing so legally, I am going to discuss some specific court cases that reference the Constitution.

Being pro-liberty, I am not in favor of a system that centralizes law-making in one man or a few men as the U.S. system under the Constitution does. What if they make bad laws? What if the system provides no effective means to alter those laws? What if the system actively suppresses and undermines the available means to alter those laws? What if great distress has to be endured for many years before laws are altered?

But in this article, I postpone speaking with my Spoonerite anti-Constitution hat on until the end. I mainly wish to explore how it is that the Supreme Court is undermining free speech under the cover of its claim to be the final arbiter of what U.S. law says. However, implicitly I am raising the question of what good a Constitution is under which rights written down in black and white can be effectively destroyed by the Supreme Court.

After the U.S. constitution went into effect in 1789, it was amended in 1791. The First Amendment concerned certain freedoms, including free speech.

Has the U.S. government subverted the First Amendment? It has and it is.

What does this amendment state? It reads in full:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

The amendment is clearly, unambiguously and strongly expressed. Justice Hugo Black has written of its “emphatic command”. It leaves no room for doubt. Congress does not have the power to make a law that abridges freedom of speech. This means in any way. It means under any circumstances. In addition, the amendment says that Congress has no power under the Constitution to make a law abridging freedom of the press. There is to be free speech for any person whom the Constitution claims to subject to its law and this includes members of the press. This article doesn’t deal with the recent attacks on freedom of the press.

Supreme Court decisions sometimes contain pro-free speech language. At other times, the decisions are anti-free speech. There is a history of First Amendment decisions. Reviewing them all is beyond the scope of this article. I propose to look at a few cases in order to show that in recent years the Supreme Court is undermining free speech.

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