A culture of free expression depends on a proper legal regime, but it also requires a people who value and actively support diverse and challenging expression, both in form and in content. A society where many fear exercising their legal rights due to the threat of social reprisal may have free speech, but not a culture of free expression. Sometimes, especially where constitutional schemes are different or weaker than in the United States, an anemic culture of free expression can corrode legal free speech.

A society where many fear exercising their legal rights due to the threat of social reprisal may have free speech, but not a culture of free expression.

Any enthusiasm we might have about America’s culture of free expression in the wake of Charlie Hebdo should be tempered by the relative silence of the free-speech brigade about controversies where speaking out carries real risk. Tweeting a hashtag in support of murdered cartoonists is costless. Almost everyone agrees the killing was wrong, and there’s no way the Islamists are going to track down Mr. #JeSuisCharlie from Paducah, Kentucky. You can cancel your ADT Security subscription.