Free speech martyrdom ain’t what it used to be in these United States.
Over the past half-century, the courts have widened and re-widened the channel through which our rights to speech flow. Smut prosecutions are largely a thing of the past (with the exception of child pornography, of course). The Postal Service hasn’t actively fished the mails for “obscene” novels in decades. A series of Supreme Court decisions, starting with 1964’s New York Times versus Sullivan, have disarmed those who would inhibit free expression with libel suits. Another measure of free speech glory: Lenny Bruce’s explicit stand-up act earned him court trouble and a four-month sentence to Rikers Island more than 50 years ago, whereas today, the same material would land him an HBO series. Finally, thanks to the internet, Americans by the hundreds of millions can create and partake of free speech with few restrictions or repercussions.