So in the interest of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, should we impose more restrictive limitations on the freedom of speech? And if we were to do so, who would author those restrictions? Or would such restrictions in themselves constitute an infringement of liberty? Like so many other things in our society, our basic rights are a two edged sword. The freedom of religion can lead to religious intolerance, the freedom to bear arms can result in gun violence, the freedom of the press can produce hate-filled editorials, the right against unreasonable search or seizure can let criminals go free, the right for peaceful assembly can lead people to think they have the right to close bridges or college campuses with their assembly.
Generally the rights we exercise ought not to be used to cause harm to others, but that is a fuzzy line to draw, and how might that be enforced? Some would suggest that a strong government presence intervene to "regulate" our rights, by which they mean limit them, or make them more difficult to exercise. Remember, however, that this governmental intervention is also a two edged sword. The same groups who would be all for gun control might be adamantly opposed to the police breaking up an "illegal" protest. The more power that is given to a government to "regulate" or "moderate" our rights, the more likely it is that this government will become abusive or corrupt.
Remember Lord Acton's famous maxim: "Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.". While this may be just slightly an overstatement, the propensity for authoritarian power to invite the temptation to corruption has been shown to be strong. In 1971 an experiment in role playing at Stanford University, reported that when student volunteers were asked to simulate a prison social setting, the students randomly assigned the role of guards became abusive toward the "prisoners" in a matter of days. The experiment spun out of control within six days and had to be shut down well before it's anticipated deadline. Interestingly, the professor running the experiment played the role of "prison superintendent", and other faculty had to force the end of the experiment as he had become so immersed in his fictional power that he had lost sight of his scientific responsibility.
In a recent article in NaturalNews.com, Mike Adams coined the term "Trickle-down Tyranny"--http://www.naturalnews.com/034221_trickle-down_tyranny_America.html . In the article he postulates that the tyrannical tactics so prevalent throughout our society (see my blog on The Bully Pulpit), and most particularly at the many levels of government, have trickled down from the highest levels of government in much the same way that the child of an abusive parent learns that abuse is a normal way to relate to others and impose your will. When the Government is the abusive parent we learn that intimidation and restricting freedom is what government is supposed to do, and for those most dependent on that government, they learn to incorporate tyranny into their own social interactions. It's a controversial article, but a great read, and I won't repeat Mr. Adams' thesis here except to say that the antidote he suggests for Trickle-down tyranny is Trickle-up liberty... that is in my words, standing up to the bullies.
IMHO: Our basic rights are good things with a potential for evil; they are not derived from government, nor should they be controlled by government except in cases of blatant criminality, lest we transform our civil servants to tyrants, and we become the servants. Restricting basic rights on the basis of avoiding the possibility of future or connected criminal activity should be left to the plots of science-fiction. We are not children, or at least we ought not to be, and with every right comes the responsibility to use it appropriately. When we do not exercise that responsibility, government should intervene, but only in the case of criminality. Otherwise society itself should be able to deal with people who use their rights in an irresponsible way by exercising our own rights, creativity, civility, and kindness.