If you like the work of P.J. O’Rourke — or political satire in general — you must read the amicus brief that he filed in the case of Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus. The case concerns an Ohio law that bans false statements about political candidates. SBA said that Driehaus supported taxpayer-funded abortions because he voted for Obamacare, Driehaus sued. Cato is arguing that false statement about politicians are protected speech so they hired a satirist to write the brief. No legal speak, just genius:
[W]here would we be without the knowledge that Democrats are pinko-communist flag-burners who want to tax churches and use the money to fund abortions so they can use the fetal stem cells to create pot-smoking lesbian ATF agents who will steal all the guns and invite the UN to take over America?
Voters have to decide whether we’d be better off electing Republicans, those hateful, assault-weapon-wielding maniacs who believe that George Washington and Jesus Christ incorporated the nation after a Gettysburg reenactment and that the only thing wrong with the death penalty is that it isn’t administered quickly enough to secular-humanist professors of Chicano studies.
That’s just a sample. O’Rourke actually makes the case very plainly that telling massive lies and half-truths about opposing politicians is a time-honored tradition (just ask Mitt Romney, whom the Democrats claimed killed a woman by cutting off her healthcare). He makes the case that the Court should err heavily on the side of free speech and that this law would have a chilling effect. He argues that the best response to free speech is more free speech. I agree.
And be sure to read the footnotes. Sample:
Driehaus voted for Obamacare, which the Susan B. Anthony List said was the equivalent of voting for taxpayer-funded abortion. Amici are unsure how true the allegation is given that the healthcare law seems to change daily, but it certainly isn’t as truthy as calling the mandate a tax.
Update: Thinking about this some more, I think this may be one of the more important cases before the Court this year.
The Left Wing has been gnashing their teeth for a long time on their perception that the Right Wing wins because they lie their socks off. Bush only won in 2004 because the Swift Boat Veterans lied, Obamacare is only unpopular because the Right Wing lies about it, the Republicans only took Congress because of Tea Party lies, Iraq only happened because Bush lied, etc. etc. They have long wanted a “truth detector”, as Bill Clinton put it, to make sure that Americans’ minds are not clouded by the prevarications of the evil Fox News.
The Ohio Law is born of this belief. It sets up the state as an arbiter of what is and is not true and then brings criminal sanctions down on those whom the state deems to have lied. Notably, it exempts politicians from lying about themselves, since they are unlikely to say defamatory things about themselves. When you add in, as I have frequently noted, that some of the “facts” being checked are not, in fact, facts at all, but opinions of what will happen (2013’s “Lie of the Year” — that you can keep your healthcare if you want it — was fact-checked as “true” before the law was actually written and enacted), the danger of this law becomes clear.
This law can’t be smacked down hard enough.