New Supreme Court Session Begins

Friday, October 14, 2011


The latest session of the Supreme Court began on October 3rd, and, as usual, the court will be hearing cases on the First Amendment, surveillance, copyright - all topics we regularly cover at On the Media. Brooke talks to TheĀ New York Times Supreme Court correspondentĀ Adam Liptak about some of the cases on the Supreme Court docket, and their potential ramifications.

Comments [1]

Matt Matson from San Francisco CA

Part of this segment discusses the Stolen Valor Act. Both Brooke and Mr. Liptak suggest criminalizing false speech goes "too far," with Brooke defending a Constitutional protection for false speech by pointing out "politicians lie all of the time."

A few comments.

First, I think the story gets the legal context incorrect. Speech, including false speech, is regularly subject to civil and criminal penalties. Making a false statement a crime or subject to liability is common, constitutional protection for certain types of lies would be new.

Second, unlike many types of false speech that harm specific individuals (and given those individuals a right and incentive to seek compensation through litigation) a false claim to a military award constitutes a diffuse harm. The only remedy available in this situation may be government action.

Third, as pointed out in many prior On the Media shows, fact-checking is inadequate to correct the record and shame does little to stop misrepresentations. If anything, our experience with misrepresentations in the political sphere calls for greater accountability, not greater constitutional protection.

Fourth, your story--like many news programs that review court cases--focuses on what is the best policy rather than what is mandated by the Constitution. Weather the Stolen Valor Act is good policy or not, the Supreme Court's job is to determine whether the law violates the Constitution. A holding that certain lies are insulated from liability takes this issue away from the democratic process.

Finally, it should also be noted that, as prolific speakers, media organizations and journalists (including On the Media) have an incentive to be hostile to laws that hold people accountable for false and damaging statements.

Oct. 17 2011 01:10 PM

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