Better And Better

If you don't draw yours, I won't draw mine.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

It's not the speech. It's the qualification.

Who knows what motivation Rick Glen Strandlof had for claiming that he was a former Marine, decorated with a Purple Heart and a Silver Star for his actions in Iraq? The fact is, the Marines don't have any records of his being a member of their rolls. That's pretty damning, right there, because the Marines, being the cliquish organization that they are, are darned good about keeping up with who was one of them, for better or worse. (For example, they still claim Whitman and Oswald, and even Jeremiah Wright, among their former ranks.)

So when the Justice Department found out about Strandlof's false claims, they utilized the relatively new Stolen Valor Act of 2005, which broadened a former law against claiming to be a Medal Of Honor recipient. The new version of the federal law made it a violation to claim all badges and decorations of the armed forces as having been earned. (Text here.)

The case went to trial in a Denver federal court. Strandlof claimed a freedom of speech defense, and the feds claimed that false speech isn't protected.

And that was their case.

Well, when you stop right there, it's almost understandable that U.S. District Judge Robert Blackburn dismissed the case, ruling that the law was unconstitutional. My argument would have been one of qualifications. If a man puts himself out to be an attorney, but is not, he is guilty of a crime. If a woman claims to be a medical doctor, but is not, she is guilty of a crime. If a person claims to be a police officer but is not, that person is committing a crime. It is proper that these persons be charged with those crimes, because there is a compelling public interest in vesting real doctors, lawyers, and police with certain credentials, lest just anyone claim to be able to be able to give legal advice (that might get you locked up), or do surgery on you (that might kill you), or arrest you (which will take your freedom away.).

What's the compelling interest? Oh, offhand, I would say that it's in reducint the cheapening of the heroism of our nation's soldiers. That sounds jingoistic, doesn't it? It's not meant to be. I simply mean that, if our nation is to stand, it must maintain a group of armed forces that defends it against enemies foreign and domestic. That's a Constitutionally valid goal. If we allow the awards and decorations, badges, and ranks bestowed by our military to be cheapened by permitting those who did not earn them to claim them, then we are undermining the esteem held by the public for our veterans: "Oh, so you're a retired Army Major with two Bronze Stars? So what? That guy begging spare change out on the corner is a former Marine Colonel, with a Navy Cross, a MoH, and a Purple Heart for the damage done to his liver during the Kaiser War!"

In Texas, we've got a law against preparing or presenting a fraudulent educational degree as one that was earned. I'm glad of it, in that I put in my time and money and effort to get my degree, and I'd rather not have its worth diluted by worthless diplomas put out. In effect, that degree is a financial instrument, and may advance my career, earnings, and reputation.

At the very least, can we not look at military decorations the same way, for our veterans? While I was at college, they were earning their own skins on the wall.

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6 Comments:

At Sunday, July 18, 2010 10:27:00 PM, Blogger Ted said...

I'm not sure I'm OK with Constitutional protection for outright lying.

 
At Monday, July 19, 2010 8:11:00 AM, OpenID williamthecoroner said...

Matt

I respectfully disagree with your logic. As a physician, I don't care one whit if some other person calls himself "Doctor". I do believe in strict freedom of speech, and that lying about the awards one has attained, though reprehensible, should not be illegal. If someone, not a doctor, called himself that and then tried to practice medicine that needs to be stomped on firmly. But the lie, in and of itself, no.

Only when someone lies to defraud someone--and that includes claiming awards they didn't earn for political gain or for begging, is the behaviour illegal.

Reprehensible speech needs protection too, for then no one would be safe. And Ted, there is no protection for outright lying? Therefore there is no protection for works of fiction or allegory? You really don't want to go there.

 
At Monday, July 19, 2010 9:33:00 AM, Anonymous Shrimp said...

I'd be okay with the way this turned out if the person making those claims was instead turned over to the service from which they claimed to have served.

You claimed to be a Marine with a Silver Star? No problem, here's the Marine Corps, and a chance to see what it takes to be one.

Make them back up their words with their butt.

I'm sure there are a few DIs out there that would love to have this guy in their boot camp.

Training accidents happen, and if one were to happen, would the world really suffer the loss of a liar? Maybe that's too harsh, but that's the way I feel.

 
At Monday, July 19, 2010 12:00:00 PM, Blogger Jay G said...

I think we could clear the matter up right quick if we could grant blanket immunity to members of the Armed Forces for reacting to someone falsely claiming medals or service...

Personally, I'd do it just to see the Gunny put a world 'o' hurt on someone like Standlof...

 
At Tuesday, July 20, 2010 8:12:00 PM, Blogger John B said...

when we presented ourselves as KISS the tribute band, I required at least two female members of the audience to refer to me as DR LOVE or we wouldn't play the song. I didn't feel right about singing that refrain unless they actually HAD "Called Me Dr. Love".

Honesty's a funny thing, I was wearing 2 hours of makeup, and a stage costume that misrepresented me as Gene Simmons, but I felt wrong about singing a song. I never felt that way about "God of Thunder".

Or Denis Leary's magnum opus "I'm an Asshole"...

 
At Friday, July 23, 2010 5:23:00 AM, Blogger KD5NRH said...

Neither fiction nor allegory presents itself with the intent that the audience take it as fact.

 

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