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Di Leo: A Few Words on Free Speech




By John F. Di Leo - 

I feel compelled to say something about free speech. It’s horrifying to many of us that this matter even needs to be explained, but sadly, our First Amendment guarantees are tragically misunderstood nowadays.

What you’re about to read may be new to many, particularly to those who've attended school in the past 50 years or so, since modern leftism destroyed political education in America.

In sum: Our right to free speech does not apply to just anything that anyone wants to say or do, at any volume, at any time.

For example:

  • You cannot publish child porn, and call it free speech.
  • You cannot lie about a business competitor to destroy his product's reputation, and call it free speech.
  • You cannot light an American flag and wave that burning flag under a tree in a public park, and call it free speech.

For something to be your right, it cannot create an inherent imposition upon someone else.

There are laws about pornography and child abuse, about slander and libel, and about public safety that set logical boundaries in the way of the excesses that I described above.

And there are thousands of other similar rules to manage the risks of other crimes that some people will often claim (equally wrongly) to fall under the protective mantle of "free speech."

In fact, free speech is about your right to write something political; it does not compel anyone to publish it.

And free speech is about your right to speak freely about politics in the public square; it does not compel anyone to stand around and listen.

And free speech is about your right to offer a political statement in a blog, a newsletter, a brochure or flyer; it is not a command that anyone within earshot actually listen to you.

Free speech is a two-way street; both the speaker and the audience must be respected.

Public safety, right of contract, and disorderly conduct laws are all in place to protect people from abuses, both abuses of people's right to speak, and also abuses of people's right to hear others speak.

When someone shouts down a politician in an indoor rally that the politician's campaign (or a donor, or a host organization) contracted and paid for, then that heckler is NOT engaging in his own right to free speech.

Rather, that heckler is violating the free speech rights of everyone else in that hall.

When I was a young movement conservative in the 1980s, I participated in plenty of protests. The Left would be inside a venue, and we would set up our demonstration across the street from the entrance. We'd hold up our banners, distribute literature, maybe yell a slogan or two… but we NEVER tried to gain entry to the event and disrupt it from inside. That would be wrong.

The Black Lives Matter crowd – and all the other leftist thugs who've been disrupting Donald Trump rallies lately – are proving the intellectual and moral bankruptcy of their side of the aisle.

That's not a reason to vote for Trump, of course (he’s as liberal as they are on a lot of things), but all those demonstrations have indeed been helping his campaign, and further coarsening the public discourse in this difficult year.

I'm glad I support Ted Cruz. Both that candidate, and his supporters, are capable of not only citing the First Amendment, but understanding it as well.

In this – or any – campaign year, we need to both listen to the candidates and study their records, without fear that bullies and loudmouths will prevent the voters from learning the information we need to make one of the most important decisions we make in our lives: the election day decision to determine whether America is going to continue on the long, painful road to big-government totalitarianism, or if 2016 will be the year we return to the right path, and again set America on track for the limitless potential available only with limited government.

Copyright 2016 John F. Di Leo

John F. Di Leo is a Chicago-based writer and trade compliance lecturer. His columns are regularly found in Illinois Review.

Permission is hereby granted to forward freely, provided it is uncut and the IR URL and byline are included.


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  1. It’s ashamed Ted Cruz took the progressive/fascist path to blame Donald Trump then to articulate what you just said here John.
    I appreciate the fodder of shutting down the event provided for Ted Cruz, but the proper thing, the Constitutional thing, was to address the rights of the rally goers and Trump who’s rights were suppressed that evening.
    Ted Cruz DID NOT articulate nor show any understanding of this article when commenting on the disrupted event.

  2. His failure was not that of being ignorant of the limits of speech but his ignorance of the protest. As a Tea Party demonstrator in its earliest days, we attempted a demonstration in front of Rep. Deb Halvorson’s office in Joliet. ACORN and the SIEU provided paid counter demonstrators to our efforts and they did an adequate job of neutralizing our efforts. What Cruz fails to understand is that the protest would happen no matter what Trump or anyone has ever said. In fact, if Trump was not leading the delegate count, the protest would have been held to attempt to shout over Cruz’s message . I support Cruz but it was a failure on his and his staff’s account that they did not recognize the real problem. The verbal shot across Trump’s bow was an unreasonable attempt to discredit the Donald. Hopefully he learns from this.

  3. The disturbing suppression of Free Speech in the US has been percolating upward – for a long time – from the elementary schools to the high schools to the universities and to the people now functioning as so-called journalists.
    Establishment Republicans are – in no small part – to blame for this.
    While they were touting “fiscal conservatism” they had no qualms about joining liberal Democrats in voting for “Hate Crime” bills – wherein one’s purported state of mind made a common crime worse than one if they did not have “unapproved thoughts.”
    And “Hate Crimes” begat “Hate Speech” which is a common term now in American schools.
    And “Hate Speech” begat “Safety zones” in schools were the supposition is that no one is allowed to ever make another “uncomfortable” by their speech.
    And now it has devolved to the point where Donald Trump’s free expression of legitimate political views is being blamed for inciting violent leftist protestors.
    And all this, because the staid Republican establishment was more concerned with capitol gains tax rates and OSHA regulations than they were about who was being elected to local school boards and who were being hired to university faculties and who were assuming control of their local town libraries.
    This has now reached a crisis point. That is why we are now having a Trump Revolution which may well render the GOP entirely obsolete and send it into the dustbin of American history.