First, as already noted, there are some liberal hypocrites and some conservative hypocrites, as well as far more of both groups who hold their views honestly. Bypassing the former for the moment, then:
“Freedom of speech” is not an all-out guarantee that you can say whatever is on your mind wherever and however the mood strikes you. It’s a guarantee that the government (state, federal, or local) may not adopt any content-based restrictions on your right to free expression of your views. (And that private entities licensed to use public resources may not discriminate on the basis of political stance in making their facilities available to the expression of views, gratis or for a fee.)
This distinction is important because a person may hold what appears to be contradictory views in consequence of it.
For example, I support fully the First Amendment rights of Ann Coulter to express her political views. At the same time, I find both her politics and, more especially, her style to be so offensive that I would like to see every publisher, broadcaster, ISP, and other medium refuse to give her any space or time in which to express them.
These views are not contradictory. Like every other American, Ann Coulter deserves the freedom to express herself free from the power of government to inhibit that freedom. Because she is a shrill demagogue who will lie and spin for the purpose of promoting hatred against other Americans on political lines, I feel it is the moral obligation of a communications medium to judge the content of her work harshly and refuse to pander themselves to vending it.
I felt it important to say that because it draws a distinction important to me, but better examples can be found right here on this board. I am certain the Chicago Reader, Inc., Ed Zotti, and the entire Evil Cadre of Commie Nazi Mods. (TM, patent pending) is 100% in favor of First Amendment rights – which would include an individual’s right to advise another individual how to obtain illegal drugs, use file-sharing software to illegally reproduce and dissseminate copyrighted music, etc. Nonetheless, as a private entity, the SDMB, as the property of the Chicago Reader, and the ECoCNM will close, delete, and otherwise trammell on those individualks who choose to exercise their First Amendment right to discuss the above by posting material on it on this board contrary to the clearly stated policies of the board.
The difference: Government must be 100% fair, and (with very clear and specific exceptions) may not restrict content. Private individuals and entities have every right to judge on the basis of content.
There’s one other important exception on First Amendment rights that needs to be addressed: Any government body has the right to adopt non-content-based “time, place, and manner” regulations regulating the exercise of freedom of speech with a reasonable nexus to its own powers and responsibilities. E.g., a suburb may ban loudspeaker-bearing sound trucks completely during a political campaign, or limit them to specified hours; it may not ban Democratic-party sound trucks while permitting Republican-party trucks. A Roman Catholic diocesan paper’s staff may decide not to permit an ad from NARAL to run in its paper; if three members of that staff also constitute the majority of a municipal board in the town where the paper is published, they may not adopt the same rule for the community handout newspaper published by the town.
In short, I support the right of every individual to be free of government regulation in the expression of his or her views, subject only to reasonable rules equally applied to all persons. At the same time, I as a private individual reserve the right to discriminate on the basis of content, and to say that there are some persons whose views are sufficiently obnoxious to me that if I had my druthers, they would be permitted to express them only on a 250-watt radio station in the Badlands, where all they can corrupt are two hardscrabble farmers and a few thousand prairie dogs.
It would be appropriate here to also address the controverted question of “hate speech” – but that is one hot potato I’ll let someone else juggle.