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!
  • Clueless parenting advice from the star of "Clueless."
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • 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.