Forward Thinking

Liars, Civil Liberties and SuperPACs

By Dan Friedman

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.

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