Freedom of speech (of individuals), or of the press, vide First Amendment of 1791 (to the US Constitution) has been the most acclaimed and asserted right of the people in USA.
Capitol Hill riots of January 6, 2021, have brought a question to the forefront: Is there a limit to the freedom of speech?
Indeed, it has been so very well stated in the First Amendment itself.
What is First Amendment?
The First Amendment reads “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 First Amendment holds the ‘right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances (including concerning freedom of speech)’.
Clearly, the freedom of speech ends, where violence begins. The keyword is “Peaceably”.
There is a difference between freedom of speech and anarchy.
And anarchy should be dealt with deterring force, then and there. Citizens incur the cost of governance for their safety of life and property.
Post Violence Response
It is a sad norm that authorities only respond post violence. Arrests are made. Recovery of loss of public property are initiated. But scared of bad publicity by media, violence is not checked on the spot and many innocents suffer for no fault of theirs.
If the freedom of expression is the right of the people, the right to life and liberty of innocent victims are more fundamental than freedom of expression of the agitated.
2021 is not 1791
Press by 2021 has totally changed. In 1791, press was small, fragmented and voice of the local people on local issues. Today the Press is multinational conglomerates. Just look up K-10 filing with SEC of publicly traded media companies and read ‘subsidiaries of the registrant’. You would be amazed.
You will find some media companies having 1900+ subsidiaries. You can thus gauze the size and scale of their cartelized operations and influence. In a system dominated by subsidiaries, more is not free and objective.
Irrespective of traditional or social media, the main source of their revenue is advertisements by businesses and the government. In 2021, it will be naïve to expect that media is free and objective, the voice of the people. Media represents advertisers, not local people. Free access is provided to users to monetize their personal information. Rest all is façade.
The constitution is not Time Neutral
Nothing is time neutral. No book is time neutral. We are all influenced by the environment, over time and space. The US Constitution has been amended 27 times since its inception. Logically, if Constitution is not time neutral, the amendments also are not.
A time has come to unambiguously restate the limits of freedom of speech. Life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness by ALL citizens is above and beyond any freedom of speech by the agitated violent or their supporters.