Home > Uncategorized > Stolen Valor Done Right (and other loosely related musings)

Stolen Valor Done Right (and other loosely related musings)

The Supreme Court may have recently decided that freedom of choice is not something we have as Americans, but at least they have left us with one freedom, freedom of speech.

I wrote a while back about the Stolen Valor Act, a law that criminalized lying about having received certain military awards. To sum it up quickly, my argument was that while it is abhorrent to lie about having been awarded the Medal of Honor (just as an example) it shouldn’t be a crime. Actually, it is a crime under certain circumstances and it should be under those circumstances. Those circumstances are fraud!

If I were to write on my blog about how I was awarded the Medal of Honor (which I most certainly have not been awarded) there would really be no real harm done. It would and should be protected speech because I would gain no real benefit from the lie and furthermore cause no direct harm by making that claim. On the other side of the coin, if I were to make such a claim when applying for benefits of some kind or applying for a job or what have you, that is clearly fraud, illegal and damn well should be.

So what to do? I do have to say that false claims do actually cause harm, it’s just indirect harm. The lawyers that argued in favor of the law’s constitutionality correctly stated that false claims, even when not done for benefit/gain or causing direct harm, dilute the integrity and value of awards that are legitimately awarded. However, that fact is not enough to allow the government to go and prohibit, in a wholesale fashion, a block of speech. If speech could be so restricted, simply on the basis of incidental and indirect harm being done, my friend Michael would be up shit creek.

Once again, what do we do about this?

The answer is shame! As usual, shame, when applied properly, can be an unstoppable force. The Pentagon will be creating a public database where military awards will be published and stored. If someone wants to make a claim, soon we will be able to check that claim out in seconds. I suspect this will have a pretty chilling effect on this sort of speech, but in no way does it prohibit it. This is exactly what should have been done in the first place.

We don’t need to be throwing people in jail for this, we simply need to use some common sense and make it impossible to make certain claims because the information is widely available. Instead we spent (correctly I might add) million of dollars fighting to uphold this law in the courts. It is not the executive branches job to decide what laws it will and will not defend in court, just like it is not the job of the executive branch to decide what laws it will enforce. Someone should probably mention that to His Highness Barack Obama. You don’t make the law, you enforce it, regardless of your like or dislike for it. DOMA needs to be defended on principle, just as stolen valor was and immigration law, including that governing deportations, needs to be enforced.

Barack, you are the president, not the sultan, king, pope or God. That may be news to you, but maybe you should take a look at that Constitution thing those violent Tea Partiers are always going on about. What violence? Uh… well there was- nope, that was all occupy… well anyway, I’m sure they are violent someplace at some time, but even if not, they have a point, I am pretty sure the Constitution and its division of power and the rights recognized is still the law of the land.

I would like to give the current administration credit, what small amount they are due, for the military awards database that will soon be up and running. It’s not really Obama’s doing, but it’s on his watch, so good job not fucking it up or blocking its creation.

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