I think Justice Oliver Wendel Holmes said something like, “No one has the freed to yell ‘Fire!’ in a crowded theater”. For decades this maxim served as a reminder to all Americans of the parameters of freedom of speech. After WWII, things began to change radically. Lennie Bruce became an icon of the beat era for going to jail rather than clean up the language in his night club act. Little by little, four letter words tumbled out of the mouths of any number of actors on the big screen. By the beginning of the 21st Century it was against the law to use racial slurs, derogatory remarks about homosexuals and bullying remarks. But, you could say practically anything on the big screen and, in many cases, the little screen (TV). We will not get into what can be read on the internet in the name of “freedom of speech”.
Images might be considered an out-growth of freedom of speech. Long gone are the Hayes Laws that limited what parts of the body might be shown on the big screen. Only mild protest occurred when someone stuck a crucifix in a vial of urine. Or, when feces were throw on a picture of the Blessed Mother – all in the name of art. We pride ourselves on being a nation that is tolerant of those not like ourselves. Most Americans believe in, “Live and let live.” – except in the case of abortion.
One of the problems facing the nation and the world is that instant communication enhances the globle village concept. Half-way around the world, in lands where women must cover their faces and walk behind men, words and images transmitted from far, far away can be seen and acted upon. A short film made in America insulting to the Prophet Mohammad has been used to fan the flames of hate and distrust to the point of mayhem and murder. Does that or does that not limit America’s freedom of speech?