The Web’s Leading Military Blog Since 2004
Stolen Valor Act Deserved to Die
I read an opinion piece today the Colorado Springs Gazette that I felt a need to respond:
Despite what the Supreme Court says, the Stolen Valor Act is not freedom of speech. It is contemptible fraud and an insult to armed forces members who served heroically.
There are exceptions to the First Amendment such as libel and slander. I believe the Stolen Valor Act is a similar exception.
David J. Baker, Colorado Springs
Image courtesy of This Ain’t Hell, the leading source of outing these fakes and phonies in the milblogosphere.
I categorically disagree that the act is an insult to those of us serving in the military. I have never been personally affected by people claiming to own medals they haven’t earned. I’ve been personally affected by ignorant man-apes falsely claiming that I didn’t earn medals that I do have, but I’ve never been affected because someone lied about a medal or pretended to be a Soldier.
I will agree that those lying about being a Marine or some of other service member to gain access to resources they would not otherwise have access to constitutes a “contemptible fraud.” However, there is a fine line behind what the Court deemed protected free speech and fraud.
I have always argued that I thought the Stolen Valor Act was unconstitutional. Free speech was made to be free. While I personally detest liars and the lies they tell, I know from experience that people who are pathological liars always
end up losing readers and lose credibility get their just deserts in the end. For people and entities that feel they been personally affected by someone claiming to be a veteran or owners of particular medals of valor we have the civil court system.
I disagree with the author of the letter about libel and slander. The reason that those are against the law and don’t violate the first amendment are because there is an injured party.
Rights are always limited to the extent that they infringe on another’s rights. For example, I have the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” If I decide that to pursue happiness I want to build a house and just start building on someone else’s property I have just negated my access to that right because it infringes on the property owners.
Interestingly, this is how I successfully many of my speeding tickets. Because speeding tickets are fought in constitutionally-recognized courts as crimes or civil penalties. In order for a crime to be committed there must – according to legal definitions – be an injured party. Who is injured if I’m doing 11 miles over the speed limit on the highway? I’m not going to get into the weeds about traffic law; I just wanted to give an example of how I SUCCESSFULLY fight speeding tickets. Don’t use this defense unless you know how to use it (There are about 40 pages of briefs that must be submitted to the court, so it’s not a cut and dry example).
Anyway, libel and slander are not equal to Stolen Valor cases unless the individual perpetrating the fraud (I sound educated today, huh?) is using an actual veteran’s identity.
There are already fraud laws on the books that deal with people misrepresenting themselves to attain resources that wouldn’t otherwise be attainable. The Court noted in its decision that the DOD should come up with a database of medals that is available to the general populace.
Another way I believe the Stolen Valor Act could be saved in intent is to strengthen existing fraud laws at the state and federal level. They should add clauses that make the commitment of fraud a greater offense if the defendant committed said fraud while posing as a veteran or claiming medals to which he was not entitled.
Again, I don’t believe that anyone’s valor has been stolen by morons claiming to be something they’re not. Real troops will always be respected and their accomplishments celebrated. No one can prove that the court of public opinion has ever shifted because of these douchebags. A just punishment for these people is public humiliation and castigation.