Here’s the thing. There are lots of legal restrictions on our freedom of speech and our freedom of expression.
At my job, I am prohibited from telling my employees who they should vote for. I'm pretty sure that in my job, it is a contractual thing, not a legal thing. But in any case, it is a restriction. I don’t feel that this infringes on my rights. I can tell the lady sitting next to me on the bus who I think she should vote for. I can tell my neighbors, my cousins, and the moms on the playground. But when I am interacting with people in my capacity as their employer, there is a power imbalance, and I need to sacrifice some of my freedoms in order to protect theirs. I don’t see a problem with that.
Let’s take a completely different example. I can stand on the side of the road and burn a flag. An American flag, an Israeli flag, any flag I like. I might piss some people off, but this is a form of expression that is protected under US law. If, however, while burning the flag, I draw a crowd, and explain that I plan to assassinate former president Bush this afternoon by sprinkling arsenic on his pizza when he stops for lunch at Joe’s Famous Pizzeria, I will probably be taken in to police custody.
I can also stand on the corner and explain that the virgin mother will be arriving at that very spot this evening at 5 PM to preside over a ceremony in which her son Jesus will marry his long-time love, the prophet Mohammad (pbuh). So far, so good.
However, if I then explain that at the completion of the ceremony, we will all be taken up to heaven with the happy couple, but only if we successfully kill the evil bodega owner, Mr. Garcia, who is working across the street right now, I am crossing into dangerous territory. And if I am charismatic enough to convince the crowd that Mr. Garcia needs to die, and they start pulling out their nail scissors and getting ready to stab him, and pulling out their cigarette lighters and getting ready to set the bodega on fire, and heading over to the bodega to do the deed while chanting KILL KILL KILL, while I am kneeling with my head in prayer, I will be taken into custody and charged with inciting a riot.
Here’s another one. Let’s say I’m really pissed about a traffic light in my neighborhood that is out of sync with the other traffic lights. It turns green and yellow and red, but at the wrong times. So let’s say I put on a bright orange vest, and stand in the intersection and shout at the cars sitting at the red light, telling them that the light is broken, and I wave them through. I might be right. The light might be broken. But I’ve still broken the law by telling the drivers to go through the redlight.
Let’s say I call up homeland security, and explain to them that HAL is part of an al qaeda cell, and that he and his terrorist buddies are using model railroads to act out their plan to blow up the Long Island Railroad this evening during rush hour. Let’s say I have specific details that make my story sound credible. And they raid HAL’s house and take all of his railroad stuff away, and then discover I have no evidence at all, and that I’m just pissed at him for smiting me about my freedom of speech. Well, it would probably turn out that I had abused my freedom of speech, and had filed a false report, and I’m probably going to jail.
I can’t tell the IRS that I earned $12,000 last year, even if it felt like I was living on 12K. I can’t tell the bank teller that I have a bomb strapped to my waist and that I would really like her to hand me the contents of the vault. I can’t leaflet for my favorite candidate in within a certain number of feel from the polling booths. If I make a widget and tell everyone it has passed extensive quality control testing, and then a dozen people die using it, and it turns out that I did not do extensive quality control testing, I will certainly have some legal liability.
It is probably not illegal for me to go up to a beat cop and start making explicit comments about the sexual activity of his mother, but if I did, I would probably end up in custody on some other charge.
If I tell my church congregation that the evil O’Conner family is performing satanic rituals on our pets in their barn, and that we must stop them, and then, some members of my congregation burn down the O’Conner barn, I probably have some liability.
There are lots of limits on my freedom of speech. Most of them are designed to protect other people.