The 1st amendment’s guarantee of freedom of speech is a pretty simple affair to anyone who has not thought about it too deeply. “I can say what I want to and too bad if you don’t like it; you can’t stop me, ‘cause it’s a free country.” That pretty much sums it up. To a 1st amendment scholar or to any lawyer or to a legal mind, it is not quite that simple. “I can say anything I want to except for the following: 1) I can’t slander or libel anyone and get away with it (both of these require the statement of an untruth, malice, and damage to a person or his reputation or his financial security). 2) I can’t yell fire in a crowded theater, thereby provoking an unnecessary panic with possible consequent damage to persons or property. And 3) I can’t be obscene, whatever that means ('but I know it when I see it').” That’s what freedom of speech means to a person familiar with how the law works.
But things have gotten interesting lately. The already infamous Supreme Court decision Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission has introduced another wrinkle in the fabric of just exactly what speech is protected by the Constitution. Now corporations are persons whose free speech rights are protected by the Constitution and, as it may cost money to place a political ad on a network TV station, now money is protected as speech without limit too. And a lot of people are upset with this decision, without knowing really how to get around the issues of just exactly what speech is really FREE and protected.
So, this essay is my 2c worth.