i am reading this howard zinn book and its speeches he gave throughout the decades. one of the chapters is called second thoughts on teh first amendment. he says the supreme court once used this absurd reasoning to make the first amendment meaningless. on top of that states can have their own laws which make it meaningless, like i think he said some states had a law saying you cant hand out anti slavery pamphlets. and then theres something to do with balancing free speech vs what the police want LOL. zinn generally argues that all of american freedoms are because of social movements struggling for freedom, not because of a constitution, or because you elected some politician. zinn makes no distinction between breaking the law or not, he says quite often the law is just a way of maintaining order. he quotes this lady who had some kind of power in nazi germany who said "they were just following the law". Free Speech Zinn " The members of the Supreme Court, sitting as individual circuit judges (the new government didn't have the money to set up a lower level of appeals courts, as we have today) consistently found the defendants in the sedition cases guilty. They did it on the basis of English common law. Supreme Court Chief Justice Oliver Ellsworth, in a 1799 opinion, said, "The common law of this country remains the same as it was before the Revolution." That fact is enough to make us pause. English common law? Hadn't we fought and won a revolution against England? Were we still bound by English common law? The answer is yes. It seems there are limits to revolutions. They retain more of the past than is expected by their fervent followers. English common law on freedom of speech was set down in Blackstone's Commentaries, a four-volume compendium of English common law. As Blackstone put it: The liberty of the press is indeed essential to the nature of a free state, but this consists in laying no previous restraint upon publications, and not in freedom from censure for criminal matter when published. Every freeman has an undoubted right to lay what sentiments he pleases before the public; to forbid this is to destroy the freedom of the press; but if he publishes what is improper, mischievous, or illegal, he must take the consequences of his own temerity. This is the ingenious doctrine of "no prior restraint." You can say whatever you want, print whatever you want. The government cannot stop you in advance. But once you speak or write it, if the government decides to make certain statements "illegal," or to define them as "mischievous" or even just "improper," you can be put in prison." zinn also mentioned that the quality of speech is not the same as quantity. meaning if you have money you can put out more ads, or have a national tv show to get your message across. he made this speech in 1980s, and at least now we have the internet.