Skip to content



Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): HerbSilverman.Com

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2020/05/26

The international community goes much farther than the US in the permission for the widest possible definition of freedom in the transmission of communication with the “Freedom of Expression” as opposed to the “Freedom of Speech” enshrined at a national level for America. Why are these international rights and laws important for the protection of individual Americans who may, for example, take a knee in protest of brutality against black Americans in front of the Vice President of the United States?

I think you are asking, in part, about the distinction between freedom of expression and freedom of speech. In the broad sense, I view “expression” as a form of “speech,” non-verbal communication. Taking a knee during the playing of the National Anthem is a non-verbal form of protest. Though it may be offensive to many, I support such a perfectly legitimate expression of dissent. I also support the free-speech rights of those whose actions appall me. Many did not want to allow the Ku Klux Klan to march in my hometown of Charleston, South Carolina, some years ago. I felt the Klan does a thousand bad things, and I didn’t want to deny them the right to do the one good thing they do—exercise their free-speech right to march. I also disagreed with a local school board that prevented a student from wearing a Confederate flag shirt to school. 

The question of free speech often arises in the context of how offensive you are permitted to be, and the extent to which you may be harming others. I support the right of the American Nazi Party to march, even though it might lead to violence. For the same reason, I supported civil rights marchers in the South, which did lead to violence. 

However, I am not a free speech absolutist. I agree with the old cliché that you can’t yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater. I don’t support the right of anyone to purposely incite violence. Anti-abortion activists should not be allowed to publish addresses of doctors who perform abortions, with pictures of targets on their heads.

I don’t think any specific words should be censored. I was appalled when several schools banned the great American novel Huckleberry Finn because one of Mark Twain’s characters was “Nigger” Jim. Of course, the novel was anti-slavery. In one important scene, Huckleberry Finn helps free Nigger Jim from slavery, and says, “All right then, I’ll go to hell,” referring to the belief he was taught about the biblical correctness of owning slaves.

Interestingly, it’s considered OK for African Americans to use the word “nigger” when talking to other African Americans, but it is not considered OK for whites to use the N word. Similarly, it’s acceptable for Jews like me to tell anti-Semitic jokes to fellow Jews, but it is considered wrong for Gentiles to do so. Here is one of my favorite anti-Semitic jokes.

Two Jews see a sign in front of a church that says “$100 to convert.” One of the Jews asks,“Why not? It’s an easy way to make a quick buck,” and enters the church. The other Jew waits outside to see what happens. After forty-five minutes the first Jew comes out and the second Jew asks, “Well, did you get the $100?” The first responds, “Is that all you Jews ever think about, money?”

How can Americans when “ranting and raving” about freedom of speech keep in mind the right of other Member States [Define in footnote] to protest state violence against them by the United States without violent interference in this right to communication?

Ranting and raving is protected speech in the United States, including ranting and raving against official U.S. policies. I’ve been known to rant and rave during protests about entering wars in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, and other countries. Many supporters of Donald Trump rant and rave about a so-called “deep state” in America, and something Trump calls “Obamagate,” about which he fails to define or provide evidence. As we can see, ranters and ravers are often misguided and wrong—depending on your point of view.

I also support non-violent civil disobedience (breaking the law) as long as participants are willing to take the consequences of their lawbreaking while trying to change bad laws.

How should the United States engage with other countries? I would like human rights to be a core value, which unfortunately it is not under the present administration. We ignore human rights violations when dealing with so-called friends in countries like Saudi Arabia, Russia, and North Korea, blatant abusers of human rights. We should look for ways to encourage countries we deal with to protect its citizens and treat them fairly. Through the Internet or by other means, we should try to give people in some countries valuable information about basic human rights they deserve. We should also work with our allies on issues like climate change and other science-based information to help make the world a better place.

What do most Americans forget about this First Amendment regarding rights for speech? What do they always remember, and also forget, about the right to the establishment of religion and the separation of church and state?

What many Americans forget about free speech in the First Amendment is that it is there to protect unpopular speech. Popular speech does not need protection. 

As far as freedom of religion, many people don’t understand that you can’t have freedom of religion without also having freedom from religion. You are not free if you are forced to choose a deity to worship. Some people don’t understand that we have a secular Constitution with no mention of any gods. Its first three words are “We the People,” not “Thou the Deity.” Many Christian conservatives incorrectly claim that the United States was formed as a Christion nation. They also say that our country now discriminates against Christians, and favors Muslims and atheists. Losing some of the Christian privilege they once had does not constitute discrimination against Christians. Citizens must be treated the same, regardless of their religious beliefs or disbeliefs.


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: