nuther one by the journo Idema shot at cuz me reminded him he was a felon
Stolen Valor Act: A second opinion
By Tod Robberson / Editorial Writer email@example.com
4:01 PM on Tue., Feb. 21, 2012 | Permalink
I happen to belive the Stolen Valor Act is necessary, enforceable and constitutional. Nicole would disagree, which is her constitutionally protected right to do. The New York Times op-ed today by UC-Berkley professor William C. Turner contains an interesting twist of words. "The court should rule in favor of Mr. Alvarez. Harmless fibbing should not be a federal offense." Not all "fibbing" is harmless, especially not the kind Xavier Alvarez committed when he portrayed himself as a decorated war veteran.
I would argue that there is significant harm inflicted upon current service members, veterans and their families, and survivors of military personnel killed in action when someone who did not earn medals or did not even wear the uniform claims to have done so. The harm in this case is psychological, and it can be serious. If you argue that psychological harm isn't real harm, please explain to me, then, why the U.S. military accepts post-traumatic stress disorder as a legitimate injury from war. No, you don't get to see any blood or bullet holes or blown-off limbs. But the harm is real. A person who misrepresents himself as a decorated veteran devalues the service of those who actually did the job and did earn the medals. Such a person reaps potentially enormous benefits -- financial or otherwise -- from making such false claims. It's not just fibbing. It's fraud.
I was among scores of people in Afghanistan defrauded by a man who claimed to have been a decorated, combat-trained Special Forces member. Although he did finish Special Forces training, his commanders deemed him unfit for service. He did not serve a day in combat as a uniformed American serviceman. And yet he convinced NATO, ISAF, some members of the U.S. military, and lots of journalists in Afghanistan that he was the real deal. And he profited from it. Television networks paid him lots of money for his lies, and he even published a book. This was a fraudulent action. It was not "harmless fibbing."
But let's flip this argument. If we claim that lying is constitutionally protected free speech, then why would it not be constitutional to walk into a bank and say, "I have a gun, give me your money," when you don't actually have a gun and might not really expect to get any money? All you want to do is exercise your constitutionally protected right to lie. Hey, what's the harm? No one got shot. There's no blood. All you did was cause some anguish. In other words, you caused psychological harm.
But the law defines that kind of lying as harmful nonetheless. If you say the word "bomb" in an airport, you will be arrested, even if you were just joking around. The law actually does distinguish between protected and unprotected speech. Not everything we utter is protected as a constitutional right. Nor should it be.
Fraud is not harmless fibbing. It's lying with the effect -- intended or not -- of making other people say, do or think things about you that they otherwise wouldn't. So, if someone employs a liar like Alvarez because they think he actually is a decorated veteran, is there harm? I say yes. And it is serious enough that the law should protect the public against it.
The Stolen Valor Act does exactly that. It doesn't outlaw all lying. Politicians still will by able to get elected by claiming things they didn't do, or by pledging to vote a certain way when they have no intention of doing so. The law doesn't outlaw playing a decorated veteran on the stage or in film, a la Robert De Niro in The Deer Hunter. Heck, the Supreme Court itself will still be able to lie when it says that corporations are people.
It is not overly broad, as Turner suggests. But it does specify exactly what is not permitted. Under the Stolen Valor Act, you are not allowed to claim you're a decorated war veteran when you're not. The worst harm of all would occur if the Supreme Court declares that fraud is constitutionally protected free speech.