Free speech in America is not fully what most of us think it is.
In the United States one can’t simply say anything to anyone in any circumstance without expecting repercussions, retribution, and fallout. Yet, we all think it should be that way.
Mouth off at the local punk? He may kick your ass. Talk back to a parent? You may get punished. Tell your boss to fuck off? You could get fired. Call for a violent revolt? You may get arrested.
Free speech is our cherished right under the United States Constitution. The First Amendment. It allows you to say a lot of things without fear of being jailed by the government. Want to tell the US president to get lost or curse at a policeman? You have that luxury.
“However,” notes Maclen Stanley, author of the Law Says What? Stuff You Didn’t Know About The Law (But Really Should!) :”the First Amendment doesn’t give you an unlimited right to say anything you want, whenever you want to say it. This is a common misconception, as the freedom of speech is not absolute.”
Stanley goes onto to point out numerous categories of things Americans can get in trouble for saying, such as:
- False Statements
Libel (written defamation) and slander (spoken defamation) are no-nos. For example, you can’t publish a story about your friend’s girlfriend’s fake case of Monkey Pox.
2. True Threats
Real threats of physical violence are typically not protected. A threat of violence directed at a former or current US president can be a felony.
3. Fighting Words
Saying things that lead others to commit an act of violence is also a crime.
Speech that is intended to provoke the imminent incitement of lawless action and be likely to actually provoke such an action could be a crime.
5. Speech Owned By Others
If you plagiarize or violate copyright laws or trademarked works, you are a criminal.
6. Lewd or Obscene Speech
Speech that is overly lewd or obscure is not protected. Such speech must be shameful or reflect a morbid interest in sex and lack any literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.
Stanley notes: “Speech can be restricted if the government has a compelling interest in doing so.” He also points out: “Private individuals and private businesses can ban whatever type of speech they please.”
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About Brian Feinblum
Brian Feinblum should be followed on Twitter @theprexpert. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog ©2022. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester with his wife, two kids, and Ferris, a black lab rescue dog. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s The Independent. This blog, with over 4,000 posts over the past decade, was named one of the best book marketing blogs by BookBaby http://blog.bookbaby.com/2013/09/the-best-book-marketing-blogs and recognized by Feedspot in 2021 and 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. It was also named by WinningWriters.com as a "best resource.” For the past three decades, including 21 as the head of marketing for the nation’s largest book publicity firm, and two jobs at two independent presses, Brian has worked with many first-time, self-published, authors of all genres, right along with best-selling authors and celebrities such as: Dr. Ruth, Mark Victor Hansen, Joseph Finder, Katherine Spurway, Neil Rackham, Harvey Mackay, Ken Blanchard, Stephen Covey, Warren Adler, Cindy Adams, Susan RoAne, Jeff Foxworthy, Seth Godin, and Henry Winkler. He recently hosted a panel on book publicity for Book Expo America, and has spoken at ASJA, IBPA, Sarah Lawrence College, Nonfiction Writers Association, Cape Cod Writers Association, Willamette (Portland) Writers Association, and Connecticut Authors and Publishers Association. His letters-to-the-editor have been published in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, New York Post, NY Daily News, Newsday, The Journal News (Westchester) and The Washington Post. He has been featured in The Sun Sentinel and Miami Herald. For more information, please consult: linkedin.com/in/brianfeinblum.
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