The issue of free speech has come up for me because of the current political environment: Israeli cities are being targeted by an Arab Islamic tribe. I read on my social media comments from Jew haters and friends of Zyklon B who don't even know what Zyklon B is because they don't know history (it was the gas used to kill Jews by the Nazis). We Jews have faced this kind of hatred for 2000 years.
This brings me to the issue of free speech and taboos.
One of my close friends, Catherine, believes that free speech is the most important element in a democracy. She argued that only with free speech could major issues be settled in a rational open debate.
Those two positions are the traditional American boundaries for arguments about free speech.
Let me take Catherine's position first. Open debate will supposedly resolve issues in favor of the rational position. We have a 2000 year example of free speech. Jew hate with vehement and dominant support on one side versus a slight response on the other side. That is billions of person days of free speech on the issue of Jew hate. We have had free speech with both sides represented for over 100 years in the United States. None of this free-speech has ever led to a remission of Jew hate or the spread of anti-Jew liable. Jews have always been the supporters of law and rationality. They never win and they still aren't winning in a global free-speech debate.
The same has been true for Rom people, gays and other sexual minorities.
On the Holmes Jr. side of the debate issue, it is important to note that Holmes Jr. used his anti-First Amendment argument in order to send Seattle prostitutes to internment camps in WWI as a ‘clear and present danger’. Pornography has always been exempted from the First Amendment. So the First Amendment has always had a notion of free speech with serious limitations.
Now to taboos. There are effective ways to suppress hate speech. It has nothing to do with the legality of the 1st Amendment or official government suppression. Absolutely no one but a black person will use the term Nig--r in public. The use of this taboo for a form of hate speech has been very effective for the past 60 years. (Aside from the fact that a black president is destroying the taboo; it continues to be effective today).
All of which can be summarized by nuanced understanding of free speech. The argument that free-speech is necessary for rational arguments to triumph is false. Free-speech is limited by the boundaries of the current social milieu. Truly effective suppression of hate speech is only successful when it becomes a taboo.
What makes anything taboo is a separate subject. It comes from the traditional religious notion of ‘shunning’. When someone uses taboo speech they are shunned. The First Amendment can only be meaningful if it parallels the use of taboos and shunning.