Forward Thinking

Liars, Civil Liberties and SuperPACs

By Dan Friedman

  • Print
  • Share Share

In a famous Supreme Court ruling in 1927, Justice Louis Brandeis said:

If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence.

In a perfect world, Brandeis is probably right. But we don’t live in a perfect world. Surely his imprecation against banning speech, cited by William Bennett Turner on February 20 in an OpEd piece “Is There a Right to Lie? in the New York Times, misses the point in our SuperPAC era.

Unlike his book “Figures of Speech,” Turner ignores the context of Citizen United in sounding a small note of alarm at the real erosion of civil liberties in America.

The real problem of lying in today’s society, though, is not when it’s about some crackpot individual claiming to have a medal that he doesn’t: Xavier Alvarez, focus of Turner’s OpEd officially admits he is a liar. In an election year, the real problem is when a highly funded political group, whose funders are anonymous, can place important lies into the public discourse at crucial moments when recourse is — for reasons of timing — impossible.

At the moment the Republican candidates jostling to become their party’s nominee are being attacked by a series of Republican SuperPACs. Politi-fact, and other fact checking organizations, have already found a number of “Pants on Fire” claims and that’s only intra-party squabbling, nine months before the election.

In his lampooning of the institution, Stephen Colbert has pointed out many of the paradoxes with SuperPACs: most notably how money is accrued, spent and coordinated. However, the core legal and philosophical problem with SuperPACs is that, unlike people, when they misbehave there is no way to hold either the perpetrators or the beneficiaries of their lies appropriately accountable. And, unlike fibbing about medals, which is lying, telling patent untruths about your opponent (or about any politician) is bearing false witness, and that’s one of the big 10 commandments.

Surely we don’t want an election cycle marked by constant and unaccountable transgressions of one of the ten Judeo-Christian principles that Pat Buchanan and whichever candidates appear on the ballot in November claim to hold so dear.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Stephen Colbert, SuperPAC

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • "Despite the great pain and sadness surrounding a captured soldier, this should not shape the face of this particular conflict – not in making concessions and not in negotiations, not in sobering assessments of this operation’s achievements or the need to either retreat or move forward." Do you agree?
  • Why genocide is always wrong, period. And the fact that some are talking about it shows just how much damage the war in Gaza has already done.
  • Construction workers found a 75-year-old deli sign behind a closing Harlem bodega earlier this month. Should it be preserved?
  • "The painful irony in Israel’s current dilemma is that it has been here before." Read J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis of the conflict:
  • Law professor Dan Markel waited a shocking 19 minutes for an ambulance as he lay dying after being ambushed in his driveway. Read the stunning 911 transcript as neighbor pleaded for help.
  • Happy birthday to the Boy Who Lived! July 31 marks the day that Harry Potter — and his creator, J.K. Rowling — first entered the world. Harry is a loyal Gryffindorian, a matchless wizard, a native Parseltongue speaker, and…a Jew?
  • "Orwell would side with Israel for building a flourishing democracy, rather than Hamas, which imposed a floundering dictatorship. He would applaud the IDF, which warns civilians before bombing them in a justified war, not Hamas terrorists who cower behind their own civilians, target neighboring civilians, and planned to swarm civilian settlements on the Jewish New Year." Read Gil Troy's response to Daniel May's opinion piece:
  • "My dear Penelope, when you accuse Israel of committing 'genocide,' do you actually know what you are talking about?"
  • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.