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!
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • "Sometime in my childhood, I realized that the Exodus wasn’t as remote or as faceless as I thought it was, because I knew a former slave. His name was Hersh Nemes, and he was my grandfather." Share this moving Passover essay!
  • Getting ready for Seder? Chag Sameach! http://jd.fo/q3LO2
  • "We are not so far removed from the tragedies of the past, and as Jews sit down to the Seder meal, this event is a teachable moment of how the hatred of Jews-as-Other is still alive and well. It is not realistic to be complacent."
  • Aperitif Cocktail, Tequila Shot, Tom Collins or Vodka Soda — Which son do you relate to?
  • Elvis craved bacon on tour. Michael Jackson craved matzo ball soup. We've got the recipe.
  • This is the face of hatred.
  • What could be wrong with a bunch of guys kicking back with a steak and a couple of beers and talking about the Seder? Try everything. #ManSeder
  • BREAKING: Smirking killer singled out Jews for death in suburban Kansas City rampage. 3 die in bloody rampage at JCC and retirement home.
  • Real exodus? For Mimi Minsky, it's screaming kids and demanding hubby on way down to Miami, not matzo in the desert.
  • The real heroines of Passover prep aren't even Jewish. But the holiday couldn't happen without them.
  • Is Handel’s ‘Messiah’ an anti-Semitic screed?
  • Meet the Master of the Matzo Ball.
  • Pierre Dulaine wants to do in his hometown of Jaffa what he did for kids in Manhattan: teach them to dance.
  • "The first time I met Mick Jagger, I said, 'Those are the tackiest shoes I’ve ever seen.'” Jewish music journalist Lisa Robinson remembers the glory days of rock in her new book, "There Goes Gravity."
  • 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.