I did not say US laws on free speech are more restrictive; in fact, they are probably less restrictive. But that's what I consider to be the problem.
Freedom ends when you cause harm (intentionally or not) to other people. This is, in my opinion, the ideal of personal freedom; do anything as long as you don't harm someone else.
But, and this is the point, this applies to freedom of speech as well. You can harm someone not just through actions, but also through words. More often than not words *will* become action. If you announce that you are going to rob a bank tomorrow, you will be arrested (even in the US), and you can't claim that this is "free speech" (you can, but others will laugh at you).
This is the reason why we have libel laws. What counts as libel and what doesn't is regulated by law, and the law is, at least indirectly, the will of the people (in a democracy). So the average perception of what is libel and what isn't is what the law sees as libel.
The same goes for incitation against groups of people within a society (which seems to be called hate speech in English-speaking countries - the German term Volksverhetzung fits much better, but can't be translated properly). In the "Weimar Republic" in Germany in the years before Hitler free speech was guaranteed in the same way as it is in the US today; the Nazis actively took advantage of this to spread their ideology while saying that they were just exercising their constitutional rights (which were granted to them by the state they eventually destroyed).
After World War II, the concept of the the "Defensive Democracy" (wehrhafte Demokratie) has developed in Europe. These democracies guarantee free speech, but only as long as nobody is threatened - especially not the democracy itself. If someone incites against a group of people (ethnic minority or whatever), against individuals or against the state itself in a threatening manner, then he will be arrested, put on trial and probably be convicted and jailed. Words *will* become deeds, given the right circumstances.
By the way, thinking that fascism (or radicalisation of large parts of the people) could never happen in the United States is very naive. A heavy economical crisis during the McCarthy era, for example, would have done the job.
Freedom has its limits. Too much freedom will lead to very little freedom very quickly.
[ Parent ]