Like all other aspects of liberalism, freedom of speech can be only correctly understood as anti-absolutism. From the liberal concept of property as originating from labor, to capitalistic delusions about the nature of the market being comprised of atomistic individuals – all of it is merely anti-absolutism, it has no coherency beyond this point. The upshot of this, is that liberalism in all its guises is only manageable by the application of unprincipled exceptions which are then employed in the labor of maintaining the core delusions.
Freedom of speech is simply the claim that governance must not inhibit speech as outlined in the First Amendment of the US constitution:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
For a government to have absolutely no ability to abridge the freedom of speech is to declare itself non-existent – this is logically impossible. In any given society and organisation, a limit on what speech is, or is not, permitted, is implicit. If you set up a government – such as a liberal democracy as per the US founders, then you must by definition abridge the ability of anyone opposed to this to discuss deposing it, you must abridge their discussion with regard to organising deposing the government, and then abridge their ability to actually depose it by communicating and organising together.
Further to this, to maintain a society in which basic laws are able to work, you have to limit the ability of speech in relation to inciting violence, criminality, defamation, undermining national defence secrets etc. – just look at the list of exclusions to the First Amendment.
The minute you apply any single exclusion to freedom of speech, you no longer have freedom of speech. It is surely Boolean, is it not? And are these exclusion not basically unprincipled exceptions? I know there are many reasons put forward as to why certain speech is not covered by freedom of speech, but isn’t this all rather bizarre? To keep the charade going, whole aspects of speech are written off as not applicable.
Freedom of speech under the First Amendment should then be relabelled as “Freedom of speech in accordance to the acceptable barriers of society within a liberal democracy and the implicit assumptions that are carried by such a structure” but it is not, because it can’t be, as this would spoil the fantasy of liberalism. This state of affairs is also highly useful for liberalism as it is a selectively applied weapon in the hands of cynical actors. Just apply the pure version to yourself, and then apply unprincipled exceptions to others.
We could go further into this, but what would be the point. Freedom of speech is logically impossible and the result of it has been to develop all sorts of bizarre exceptions and to use (unacknowledged and therefore malignant) societal pressure to compensate for this structural fraud.