Freedom of Speech Has Evolved

How do you feel about freedom of speech? Should people be allowed to say whatever they want? What if what is said causes harm? How can that be regulated? Sometimes people say things they believe are true but are wrong. How can that be regulated? Should different people be held to different standards?

Sharing our thoughts with others and getting others thoughts is what helps everyone improve and develop their ideas. The sharing of thoughts and critical feedback is vital to generating better ideas. The ability to provide critical feedback is allowed by the first amendment in the Bill of Rights.

Interestingly, we can now say much more than we used to be able to say. Comedians were previously arrested for saying things they now say. We now take that as our right, however that is a fairly recent change. I often wondered why comedians used to get in trouble. I learned from the excellent “RadioLab” Podcast that much of what we now understand as our first amendment rights were formed from the work of the great Supreme Court justice Oliver Wendell Holmes. According to this accounting, Holmes went through a dramatic transformation. I encourage you to listen and share your thoughts about this podcast: What Up Holmes? on Radiolab

Description of What Up Holmes? Podcast: Love it or hate it, the freedom to say obnoxious and subversive things is the quintessence of what makes America America. But our say-almost-anything approach to free speech is actually relatively recent, and you can trace it back to one guy: a Supreme Court justice named Oliver Wendell Holmes. Even weirder, you can trace it back to one seemingly ordinary 8-month period in Holmes’s life when he seems to have done a logical U-turn on what should be say-able.  Why he changed his mind during those 8 months is one of the greatest mysteries in the history of the Supreme Court.  (Spoiler: the answer involves anarchists, a house of truth, and a cry for help from a dear friend.)  Join us as we investigate why he changed his mind, how that made the country change its mind, and whether it’s now time to change our minds again.

Henry Olsen’s May 5, 2021 Washington Post Column, Opinion: Mark Zuckerberg must decide the fate of Trump’s Facebook account. He should turn to the First Amendment suggested a good standard for First Amendment free speech rights. He suggested the standard to be adopted come from the US Supreme Courts decision in Brandenburg vs. Ohio. In this decision the court held that speech loses its constitutional protection only when “such advocacy is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless actions and is likely to inciter produce such action”. This feedback provided by the Supreme Court is helpful in determine what should be protected speech.

On May 25, 2021, The NYTimes Daily Podcast presented this related episode about freedom of speech as it relates to students and schools, “A Cheerleader, a Snapchat Post and the Supreme Court“.

A Cheerleader, a Snapchat Post and the Supreme CourtInside the unusual sequence of events behind one of the most important student free speech cases for 50 years.Open now

Use of speech and conversations are valuable because providing helpful critical feedback and engaging with others in scholarly debate is a way to Practice Paneugenesis. Giving feedback enables us to generate comprehensive improvements by creating pervasive, reciprocal, selfish (you share your thoughts), selfless (others learn from you), synergistic (a better idea is generated) interactions so everyone and everything benefits.

Please share how you use your first amendment rights to generate comprehensive improvements.

Be Well’r,

Craig Becker

Be selfish, selfless, & synergistic so everyone and everything benefits!


Please share your thoughts and questions below.

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