Five people are arrested for racist comments in Europe. Do we know if speech is, on a practical level, freer here because of the First Amendment or there because of an intolerance for 'ugly' speech?
The easiest thing to do is say I am thankful for the First Amendment when I see headlines like these:
It’s the one thing we’ve long been taught to do when discussing free speech issues here, defending even ugly speech to ensure that speaking freely remains a right for us all. It makes sense. My question is whether that’s really true. Does anyone know?
On a practical level - meaning people actually speaking freely in England versus the U.S., is there really a big difference? If you know of research papers or other credible analysis that gets at this question, please put them in the comments section. And I don’t mean in theory. I mean I want to know if writers, commentators, comedians, broadcasters, teachers, entertainers, everyday people, etc., are speaking as freely in England as we do here. Are conversations in the public square more robust here because of the First Amendment, or there because they have less tolerance for racist speech?
Again, the easy and nearly automatic thing to do is say things must be freer here because of the constitution. That might be the case. I hope so, and I hope they become even freer. But when it comes time to speaking up on important (and silly) subjects, are Americans more likely to do that than folks in good old England?
It’s an important question we don’t ask enough here because we’ve convinced ourselves that protecting ugly speech is the only way to protect all speech. And we say so for a compelling reason, because once you legislate against ugly speech, then those in power are likely to abuse it by demeaning any speech they don’t like “ugly”. But has that happened in England? I’d really love to know. If you come across something that can help answer this question, please share.