Monday, September 17, 2012

Exemplars or Exempt-Liars?

I find that my students are surprised to learn that false advertising regulations do not apply to political speech. I suppose this is an understandable revelation from the standpoint of a young person for whom the world is just beginning to expand. They learn (hopefully) at a young age that lying is wrong.  They learn, later, that false and fraudulent advertising or statements are illegal. (See posts here and here.) The logical conclusion is that false political ads would also be illegal.  Of course, such is not the case.  Choosing our policymakers is such an important matter that we choose to refrain from protecting the process by encouraging only truthful speech in favor of a "marketplace of ideas" where anyone can say any crazy thing and any one listening can believe any crazy thing."  At a concert recently, popular Country music star Hank Williams, Jr. spouted, "
"We've got a Muslim president who hates farming, hates the military, hates the U.S. and we hate him!" . Mr. Williams is not only protected in his free expression of his opinion, but is equally protected in his declaration of untruths.  Students, though surprised, are eventually accepting of the philosophy behind the legal protection.
Does this line of thinking create a new paradigm for political speech? If there is no legal penalty and no stigma, no shame, no downside to lying, then why should anyone ever tell the truth in the political realm?  Is there any wonder why it is so difficult to teach our students to act ethically?  Politicians, millionaires all, lie with impunity and, now as part of a strategy for success.  These exempt liars are the exemplars for our students to emulate. And we are merely seeing the tip of the iceberg of Superpac activity following the Citizens United case.
Where does law come from?  It is made by people who lie under the cloak of legal protection, with no shame while propped up by unlimited funds to spread their lies and achieve the American dream. Don't we deserve a better system than this?
Here is the link to We are all going to need it far more often than we should.
Click on the image below to see a Colbert Report skit on Paul Ryan's RNC speech.

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