Now, just a minute here!
An enemy of the free and imaginative press and the wacky and wonderful political world off which we feed has prepared a new law for good people to disapprove. Here it is below:
Criminalizes False Statements About Legislative Acts, Elections, or Government Employees. Initiative Constitutional Amendment.
Summary Date: 11/30/09 Circulation Deadline: 04/29/10 Signatures Required: 694,354
Proponent: Glen C. Simmons firstname.lastname@example.org
Amends constitution to hold candidates for public office, government officials and employees, and members of the media criminally liable for intentionally making a false statement of "material fact" about legislative acts, elections for public office, or the employment or dismissal of government employees. Imposes on violators a 2 to 10 year prison term, a $10,000 to $500,000 fine, or both, and a lifetime ban on serving as a government official or employee, or member of the media. Permits private citizens to criminally prosecute suspected violators. Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local government: Unknown increase in state criminal justice costs offset partially or entirely by fines levied against persons convicted under the measure. (09-0049.)
The sponsor of this initiative is Glen Simmons, who was kind enough to talk with the Prospect. We asked him why he wanted us to go to jail.
He said, "At the heart of every problem is a lie… there are so many insidious lies. The damage is being done at the local level, in our schools, certainly in our media. If we get this in place, and once it’s enforced a few times, it will have a chilling effect on liars."
We asked Mr. Simmons how you know the truth?
"There are those who love a lie and hate the truth. In any disagreement only one truth…You have to force people to tell the truth."
Who does he think should go to jail?
"If you're operating in the public trust like an elected official or an editor and lie, you should go to jail."
Mr. Simmons seems to agree with Thomas Jefferson that "If the American people know the truth they’ll make the right decision," but even Jefferson never suggested sending public liars to jail.
Never mind what this does to the 1st Amendment, think of what it will do to politics and worst of all to the media. While it is true that most of our lies are unintentional or the direct result of apathy, or perhaps the desire to give the public more interesting news than reality will provide, still, a few intentional lies might sneak through. Jail time and cash for a simple press fib seems a little strong, let alone a lifetime ban. You can’t keep people from being journalists anymore than you can keep them from selling sex. Same principle: give people what they want.
Finally, how ever will politicians get elected if they have to tell the truth? The truth is politically ugly, complicated, unpredictable. Politicians in the past who’ve told the truth have paid the price in defeat and humiliation.
We can’t take the truth, don’t people get that by now? A rich and famous sports figure hobs a hooker and has a minor traffic accident and the world comes to an end. Does that sound to you like the reaction of people who are used to the truth?
We strongly encourage our readers to vote against this terrible, denial threatening legislation.