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The Military

Daniel Dvorkin's Journal: The Supreme Court strikes down the Stolen Valor Act

Journal by Daniel Dvorkin

Kind of lost in the shuffle over the health care ruling (my opinion, FWIW, is that it's a lousy law, but clearly the best we're going to get in the current political climate, so all in all I'm glad it was upheld; perhaps in another couple of decades, we'll be ready to try again) is this piece of news about another Supreme Court ruling: the court voted 6-3 to strike down the Stolen Valor Act.

I admit to mixed feelings about this. It was clearly the right decision -- any law that limits free speech is prima facie a bad law, and the government's argument that it only restricts "false statements (that) have no value and hence no 1st Amendment protection," to quote the LA Times story, is chilling. We cannot outlaw people telling lies. OTOH, there are a hell of a lot of people using lies about their claimed service for personal advantage (up to and including a certain former President) and this is not only disgusting, it's often outright fraud. The SVA was an exceedingly blunt instrument for a problem that called for a scalpel. I guess the solution I'd like to see is the use of existing criminal fraud statutes for cases where it could be shown that the liar is not just telling stories to impress his buddies at the bar, but actually deriving financial or other measurable gain. Oh yeah, also court-martial for deserters (preceded, where necessary, by other measures such as, oh, say, impeachment, for those whose position places them beyond the usual corrective measures.)

I blame Hollywood, really. At this point they've probably given out more Medals of Honor than have actually been awarded in the entire history of the US military. Lesser decorations have been relegated, in this mindset, to something you get just for showing up. It's not just lazy storytelling; it has a real effect on real people who earn real medals. And no, I'm not saying this should be illegal either, but it should certainly be mocked at every opportunity.

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The Supreme Court strikes down the Stolen Valor Act

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