Speech has never been, and will never be, "free".
As a result of a terrorist attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris, there has been a lot of wholly incomplete discussion about "freedom of speech". Often, the argument jumps back and forth endlessly between the notions that a) no one should be offended, and b) no one has the right to be protected from such offense. Sometimes the discussion involves people who have no history whatsoever of observing that idea, which would be funny at another time.
All of these arguments stop short of really meaning anything. It's sloganeering. If you can get someone to say something, then they think they have actually done something, when they have not.
I expect this sort of confusion, this sort of "spatter" to continue so long as the common mind does not recognize the difference between speech and action. Idealists apparently think that speech is all that is required– for instance, that the Founding Fathers simply argued the United States into existence. The next step - the commission of actual violence in support of the ideas derived in the practice of free speech - might as well be on another planet for them. So, of course speech becomes the new violence. What did you expect would result from raising a generation of bedwetters?
To change the subject by way of example, people were similarly flabbergasted by the idea of flying airplanes into skyscrapers. They called it "cowardice", not once recognizing that the fear calling that word into existence was their own, NOT that of the hijackers.
The public does hold gross conceptual errors close to its heart. These have just been two of them.
Don't forget: run your mouth, all you have done is run your mouth.
Mao said, "Power flows from the barrel of a gun." Never forget that this is the next step after speech.
To forget this - to think that arguing actually produces anything but argument - is to focus so intently on one's ego that one will be tragically surprised by those who eventually take action. An opportunist may appear who knows this:
"The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."
The USA has already decided to strip-search its own population for wanting to travel on an airplane, its schools already contain police and some state photo IDs are prohibited from use to enter Federal property. Hmm.
Speech, as enumerated as a right in the American Constitution, is actually paid for by the exercise of the commensurate responsibilities obliged of every citizen. A failure to monitor and control what public officials do in the wake of such events as the Charlie Hebdo attack can and will lead to public action which gets Americans restricted, regulated and even killed for no gain, pursuing ideas found tasty with chips and a Coke™ while sitting comfortably in front of a TV.
Change the channel.