Jordan Guthmann at Blanc and Otus started a blog on free speech recently (link). It's a good piece about getting over ourselves in relation to the concept of free speech.
We're in a time that reminds me of America 200 years ago (no I'm not that old, I'm just an amateur historian.) Everyone was forced into politeness because of the imminent threat of a duel. You either apologized for a public slur of fought for your life. That's kind of where we are today. Apologize and be shown the lesser to the person you offended or see your career go down the drain.
But as much as I agree with you, the real battle here is not freedom of speech but freedom from speech. We have come to a point in theJordansocial dialectic that we want to say what we want to say, but we don't want to hear that we upset anyone or that anyone disagrees with us. And it's on both sides of the coin.
A person who wants to use a social slur in casual or public conversation, or who wants to brand a national leader as a war criminal, for that matter, doesn't want to take responsibility for the emotional backlash that the statement will create. Similarly, the person "backlashing" doesn't want to accept the social repercussions of their action. All of us want to wrap ourselves in the "freedom of speech" flak jacket and say, "We can say whatever we want. Neener, neener, neener."
But this is nothing new. Read McCullough's John Adams biography and you'll see that the diatribes that happen today are now worse (and maybe a little tamer) than what went on in the 1700s America.
We need some social mechanism for restoring social grace to our discourse. Maybe we need to bring back fencing and single shot pistols as the means for restoring order. Might work.