Freedom of Speech: Crash Course Government and Politics #25
Articles,  Blog

Freedom of Speech: Crash Course Government and Politics #25


Hi, I’m Craig, and this is Crash Course Government
and Politics, and today, we’re talking about free speech. Other Craig: Finally, today we can let loose
and establish the kinds of things we can say to criticize our government, like the crazy
idea that money and speech are the same thing. Other Other Craig: Not so fast, Clone, the
Supreme Court has ruled that spending money, at least in the political context, is speech.
You do have the right to criticize that decision though. Unless your boss or YouTube says that
you can’t. Craig: All right, we’re trying to talk about
free speech, shut up. Let’s get started and see if we can figure out what the limits of
free speech are, assuming that there are some. Other Other Craig: There aren’t. Craig: That’s a lie. But I’m free to say that. [Theme Music] Craig: There are two really important things
to remember about the First Amendment protection of free speech. The primary reason we have
freedom of speech is to allow for public criticism of the stupid government. Stupid government.
That’s the sort of thing that can land you in jail in countries that don’t have strong
free speech protections, or should I say, you would be Putin jail, heh, don’t put me
in jail. Oh, that’s right, I’m in the US, it doesn’t matter. The stories of oversensitive kings and dictators
silencing people who question their rule or even make jokes at their expense are too numerous
to recount, but for the most part, that kinda thing doesn’t happen in the US, which is why
no one gets arrested for carrying around a giant picture of Obama as Hitler, or former
President Bush as a monkey. Well, that’s stuff’s okay, as far as the First Amendment is concerned,
but that doesn’t mean it’s respectful or in good taste. The second thing to remember is
that the First Amendment protects you from the government doing things that try to deny
your speech, but not anyone else. What this means is that you don’t have an absolute right
to say whatever you want, wherever you want, to whomever you want and not suffer any
consequences. Isn’t that right, Stan, you dingus? I’m fired?
I was just kidding; it was a joke. If you work for a private company, your boss
can certainly fire you for saying mean things about them or revealing company secrets, and you
don’t have any First Amendment claim against them. Unless, of course, your boss is the government,
or a branch of the government, in which case, you might be able to claim a First Amendment
right. See, like most things, it’s complicated. Among the speech that is protected, not all
of it has the same level of protection under the First Amendment. Now, let’s exercise our
right to free Thought Bubble. The speech that gets the strongest protection is political
speech. Criticism of, but also praise for particular officials, their parties, or their
policies is usually protected. It’s given what is called preferred position, which means
that any law or regulation or executive act that limits political speech is almost always
struck down by courts. The big case that made pretty much the final decision on political
speech was Brandenburg v. Ohio in 1968. In this case, a Ku Klux Klan leader was making
a speech that, as you can imagine, was offensive to a lot of people and could have been considered
threatening, too. The court ruled that because the speech was political, it was protected
by the First Amendment, no matter how outrageous it was. The court said, “The Constitutional
guarantees of free speech and free press do not permit a state to forbid or proscribe
advocacy of the use of force or law violation except where such advocacy is directed to
inciting or producing imminent action and is likely to produce such action.” According
to the court, the First Amendment protects speech even if it advocates the use of force
or encourages people to violate the law. So you can advocate overthrowing the government
or not paying your taxes as much as you want, unless what you say is likely to produce the
thing you’re advocating. Overthrowing the government, say. And it is likely to happen
imminently, meaning very soon after you make the statement. This case limited an older
standard regarding free speech that was put forward in the case US v. Schenck in 1917.
In that case, Schenck distributed pamphlets urging people to avoid the draft for World
War I. This was a violation of the Espionage Act, which made it a crime to obstruct the
draft or the war effort. The law was more complicated than that, but that’s the basic
gist. In his decision on this case, Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote that, “When that speech
presents a clear and present danger, the state can then abridge that person’s speech.” Memorably,
he explained that the First Amendment does not protect a person who shouts “fire” in
a crowded theater. In later cases, Holmes limited this idea, largely because it gives
the government a lot of leeway to say what kind of speech creates danger, especially
during a war, as was the case with Schenck. Thanks, Thought Bubble. Political speech isn’t the only type of speech
that the courts have addressed. Symbolic speech can also be protected by the First Amendment,
and if that symbolic speech has political content, it usually is protected. Symbolic
speech includes wearing armbands, carrying signs, or even wearing a jacket with an obscene
word directed at the military draft. Symbolic speech also includes burning an American flag,
which pretty much is always a political message. Not all symbolic speech is protected, though.
For example, if you’re a high school student who holds up a banner that reads, “Bong hits
4 Jesus” at a school-sponsored function, don’t expect that the First Amendment will prevent
the school, a government agent, from suspending you. And yes, that really happened. Also,
this is not symbolic speech. That’s violence. Even hate speech is protected. Even if it’s
really hateful, like burning a cross on a person’s lawn, although this might be prosecuted
as vandalism or trespassing. Public universities that try to punish hate speech have seen their
discipline code struck down. Commercial speech might not be protected, but if it’s a political
commercial, it will be, and as we’ve pointed out before, spending money on political campaigns
has been determined to be speech that is protected by the First Amendment, although we shall
see donations to political campaigns are still treated differently, at least for now. Pretty much the only kind of speech that’s
not protected, other than speech that’s likely to incite immediate violence, is what’s called
fightin’ words. In the actual case that dealt with fighting words, Chaplinsky v New Hampshire,
the defendant uttered what seemed more like insults than a call to engage in fisticuffs.
What’d you call me? Still, the court ruled that some words were so insulting that they
were more than likely to result in a fight, so fighting words are not protected speech.
One thing to note, though, the fighting words free speech exception is almost never used. So as you can see, the First Amendment pretty
much protects you from the government throwing you in jail or otherwise punishing you for
what you say in most instances, but it’s important to remember than the First Amendment is not
unlimited. Most important, it only protects you from government action, not the action
of private people, especially your employers. One final example might make this clear. In
Pickering v. Board of Education, a public school teacher wrote a letter to the editor
of his local paper complaining about the way that the school board was spending money on
the schools. He didn’t write it on school time or using school paper or email, especially
since it was 1968 and there was no email. The school board, or his principal, fired
him. He brought the case to the Supreme Court, claiming that he was fired for his speech,
which was political in nature criticizing local government and not for anything related
to his job performance, and he won. But the only reason he was able to get his job back
is that his employer was the government, so it was the government that punished him for
speaking out. For most of us, complaining about our employer’s policies may get us fired,
and unless we are government employees, we can’t claim that it violated our First Amendment
rights. The First Amendment, like all of the Amendments, is meant to protect us from an
overreaching government. There are other types of laws that help us deal with individuals
who do things that we think are wrong, but we’ll talk about those in another episode. Thanks for watching. See ya next time. Mmmph!
Third eagle punch in the video. Is that too much? It doesn’t matter. I’m free to do it.
Crash Course Government and Politics is produced in association with PBS Digital Studios. Support
for Crash Course US Government comes from Voqal. Voqal supports nonprofits that use
technology and media to advance social equity. Learn more about their mission and initiatives
at Voqal.org. Crash Course was made with the help of all of these free speakers. Thanks
for watching.

100 Comments

  • Fish Zom

    What would be the law against someone (or group of people) standing up in the movie theater, and start reading a children's book? I've seen people try to claim this is their freedom of Speech, but what is the law that prevents this?
    Would this be disorderly conduct, disturbing the peace, or what? This should still fall under a business's right to refuse service, but people claim they paid for a ticket to be there, even though other people paid for tickets to see the movie, not hear a reading of a children's book.

    By expansion, what about people who are allowed to ask a question at an event? Say…. a Star Trek Convention, and an audience member is given a mic and is allowed to ask the cast a question, then refuses to part with the mic, because they have like 50 questions, and feel they are bonding with the cast?

    What about the use of air-horns, or loud speakers with music, to drown out a speaker at an opening to a new coffee shop? It's not paid to attend, it's outdoors, and some people just don't like coffee.

    Blocking a roadway with signs, or people?

    None of these would be a call to violence, or harm. What law would they be breaking, or how does this fall/not fall under Freedom of Speech?

  • peter johan van dyke

    Etc.,.ok.,.it's the McCain political group… suppresses freedom of speech….etc.,.ok.,.using corporate high tech.,.computers to suppress..isn't that right McCain….you God damned coward!…

  • John Galt

    if speech is regulated it's not free by definition! people are by law able to regulate what is said on their own private property, but in a public forum it is not their right!

  • 10X My Income

    Who the F determined spending money on 'political campaigns' to be freedom of speech? Its called bribery

  • jason harvote

    So youre saying that government cant do anything for giving away government secrets or like nuke launch codes? Lol thats idiotic freedom of speech is just that if you get fired as you say you have no claim period there is no law that forces people to have to hire you we wouldnt be a free country if that happened and being free is just that free to be anywhere in usa aslong as you dont hurt others things like that. Its clear some people cant understand simple things or concepts even when written in perfect english or maybe its just not conveninient for them to understand it as they cant be corrupt if they do.

  • PIANOPICTURES

    Unfortunately it don't answer my questions. For example, is it legal in the USA to publicly say, for example, that your neighbor Joe a) stole something from John (if you saw it but can't prove, or you see a certain pattern and sure about it, but don't have the actual proof) b) publicly call Joe and his relatives a swear vulgar words without legal repercussions?

  • Joe L

    Once free speech is gone anything that anyone says can be construed in anyway and they could go to jail. That means either person on either side could be accused of some sort of hatred speech. This means even if you're speaking out against somebody that you believe is giving out hate speech. That means everybody's going to jail!

  • Joe L

    If there are consequences to your speech then it is not free speech. Free speech is the freedom to speak without consequences. That's why it's called free speech. Otherwise it would be called speech with consequences.

  • Anonymous Top Secret

    Freedom of speech is an amazing thing. Everyone has the right to voice their opinions and speak their minds, as long as they are not meant to be offensive. If you don't like someone or something, it's okay. You are free to like who/whatever you want to like. However, there is a difference between voicing an opinion and insulting someone. No one has the right to insult another person just because of religion, race, looks, sexual orientation, personal views and preferences which are not meant to offend anyone etc. People should only be judged because of their personality.

  • Confused Kiwi

    Only in America where you law protects companies over humans can your boss fire you for no reason. Other more civilised countries actually afford protection to employees unlike America which has let capitalism run wild for over a century.

  • fcuking Sg Invain

    ANOTHER WESTERN DOUBLE STANDARDS.. WHITE DEVILS' TRICKS… WHEN THEY SAY THEIR MIND IS CALLED FREEDOM OF SPEECH… BUT WHEN OTHER RACES ON EARTH SAY BAD THINGS ABOUT THEM… THEY CALL YOU "HATRED SPEECH" OR "RACIST SPEECH"… HAHAHHAHHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHHAHHAHSHHAHAHHAHAHAHA TRY IT FOR YOURSELF AND THEN YOU AGREE.

  • Sara

    Guys seriously people are way exaggerating about freedom of speech. Even when giving your opinion in a song.. I feel like people are communist.. It's like when a child or someone in middle school gives an opinion. And grown-ups are literally shouting or boxing the kids.. It's very unreasonable it's funny how people don't understand difference.. Not everything has agendas.. What's wrong with expressing yourself with words or painting…

  • Sara

    I know right? It's in the constitution
    People are so stupid to think hate is the opposite te of love lol not caring is.. Besides words sell..
    Guys bond lol because they put on an act or a mask in front of others people are easily deceived

  • kurono1822

    Conservatives, alt-right nuts and some far-right people should watch this video before claiming their freedom of speech is violated when they go saying things like "I think ni**ers are low IQ, but that's just science" and then get de-monetized or banned from certain websites.

  • Иосиф Сталин

    I recently heard about a paradox regarding free speech, which basically states that if you have some form of EXTREME free speech, like allowing parties that in practice would condemn free speech, is a paradox because A) if you allow those people to have a platform for people that would like to condemn free speech and then allow them to grow and then they eventually condemn free speech, that's anti-free speech because it basically you're basically allowing for the destruction of it. B) if you DON'T give a platform to those people that's ALSO anti-free speech because you're not allowing someone to express their views.

  • T B

    OMAR AND TLAIB ARE HECKLERS who are inciting Congress to act to limit free speech.
    “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon “…you do what you can with what you have and clothe it with moral arguments"– Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals THEY ARE CAUSING CONGRESS TO LIMIT FREE SPEECH WHICH HURTS EVERYONE

  • The one and only exotic Butters

    Had you heard that Canada is trying to enforce a law that states that anyone who says anything about Islam can be charged? That is violating humanity’s greatest right. That law should never become a thing.

  • Shreyas Pingle

    Yo so I got a question: Craig says that your boss can fire you if you bad mouth him or reveal company secrets, and you have no first amendment claim, unless your boss is part of the government, in which case you can make that argument. So why cant people like government whistleblowers (the example in my mind here is Snowden) just use this to their advantage instead of having to seek asylum or the like?

  • Fedeleness

    Not quite correct. The Supreme Court has also ruled that you don't loose your constitutional rights by location. Your boss can fire you because you say bad things to him, but it has nothing to do with freedom of speech. Your talking about apples and oranges.

  • Deprimat

    So I'm confused does that mean a white supremacists or someone labeled a nazi is aloud his freedom to say what he wants neither it is racist or not?

  • Dmitrii Sysoev

    0:58 "Or should I say you would be put in jail" Put in… Putin jail, hm "Don't put me in jail"
    Nice reference to Russia!

  • Christopher Kopke

    Facebook is basically every fascist, communist, nazi, and brutal dictatorship rolled into a website

  • John Warren

    Freedom of speech means you're free to say anything you want about any topic anytime freedom of speech means you are free to encourage the overthrow of the government if anyone can control what you say if anyone can edit what you say then you don't have freedom of speech. It doesn't matter if anyone likes what you're saying or not you can't limit what anyone says when the blacks are the Mexicans talk about wanting to kill off all white people no matter how disgusting that is you have to defend that it's a ku Klux Klan want to talk about killing off all blacks and Mexicans it doesn't matter if you like that thought or not you have to fight for their right to say it there's no such thing as hate speech or dangerous speech freedom of speech means anything you want to say any time including any council meeting you're free to say it

  • John Warren

    Unfortunately people think the court has something to say about it we are not a government of courts we're not a government of politicians or parties were government of free citizens the citizens had already decided by the Constitution that everything is freedom of speech

  • Tertiary Adjunct

    None of this applies if you're a British citizen that publishes embarrassing secrets on a website in Europe.

  • utuberocks34342135

    Freedom of speech does not include freedom to offend, but includes freedom to express our worthless opinions.

  • Chandra Cheng

    So the only ones not allowed to obstruct your free speech is the government? So why are people complaining about hate speech being censored on INSTAGRAM

  • Richard Richard

    It doesn't protect you from the government. In the State capitol you're not allowed to talk about your past accomplishments, Current accomplishments or the Fact that you're a republican. That is considered Masculine toxicity. Don't ever say anything good about Trump either.

  • Andrew Krukemeyer

    Someone please explain why schools are allowed to limit free speech I think they should be able to but I don't understand why

  • Diego Latorre

    Free Speech, We will start from zero if you want, but we will get there peacefully, or destroy half of the world after monstrous atrocities due to ignorance and stupidity. You decide. Nobody can have it all.

  • Alicia Tur

    I had trouble with social media ever since I had a divorce from an abuser in 2012. The reason is I did not feel comfortable putting on my name exactly as it is, or my location because I was a victim of stalking.
    So, when I would hide this, they would ban me. But I had every good reason to hide it for my personal safety!

    I think this also needs addressing.

  • Mikiness Analog

    Article 21 (JP Constitution) does not give those offended rights from being offended. Remember, if all speech were approved, it would not need protection.

  • Kat Douglas

    The problem is that Statistics and facts are considered hate speech by far left liberals today. The truth when spoken causes violence. All proven by the violent Berkeley riots to keep Ben Shapiro from speaking his statistics and facts… I just have to ask, wouldn't you rather know who the kkk is, than not know? If you silence all the haters, do you believe you get rid of all the hate? You don't, you just hide it. Then, how do you know who to trust. We will never really know our fellow human beings because we won't be able to talk honestly with each other.

  • Aatman Gupta

    this video is so terrible i wanna pluck my own eyes out and squeeze them and make soup to throw on his stuuuupid face.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *