penny reading

where nickle-and-dime is over-budget

Tag Archives: writing

lies, lies, lies

Spam is an interesting phenomenon. I’m able to say that only because the Gmail spam filter is such that I never see any obnoxious material in my actual inbox (though it periodically catches updates from the Turkish government up in its web).

But seriously: She wants your big hot cock. Give him the pair he really wants to handle. Make six figures in six months. Do you remember me from high school. Payment has cleared.

There are, at some stage of things, people who sit down and type these things up. With the hopes (or the knowledge, for all I know) that this muck will turn a profit. This is even harder for me to wrap my mind around than the peddlers I discussed the other day; they, at least, have a comprehensible plan of action and are providing real services. But what interests me more than that this morning is the question of the legality of it. Is it legal to send someone an email with the subject “You’ve just made $20” when that’s a patent falsehood? Does that fall more in the category of first amendment rights or crying fire in a movie theater? (Given current economic woes, the latter has more pull that it might once have.)

The right to lie. It’s quite a thing, isn’t it? Except in very rare circumstances that are ceremonialized and sequestered and necessitate things like courtrooms and lawyers and contact with books considered holy and hands raised and oaths sworn, U.S. citizens are not legally bound to speak the truth. Obviously, the ramifications of lies can get you caught up in legal action, and companies have certain (crazily limited) responsibilities to informing the consumer about their products, but in terms of individual interactions, in terms of the way we live our lives on a daily basis, there is no legal propulsion that makes us be honest (or at least to be not dishonest).

Personally, I believe in lying. My just over two decades of experience have not led me to believe that reciting the nearest possible thing to what I believe to have been the reality of any given situation will benefit myself, my community or the world at large in any direct and measurable way, at least not consistently. I cannot accept that honesty is always the best policy. I’ve been in uncountable situations wherein saying something that doesn’t align with what I would consider the “truth” of an event (in itself a pretty amorphous concept) has led to outcomes far more positive for everyone involved than the honest alternative would have. And I’m a fan of positive outcomes.

I was watching Casino Jack at some point last week, and when we got to the part where Kevin Spacey’s world is crumbling and he’s in court and he’s asked a direct question to which he pleads the fifth, my (non-American) fellow audience member paused the film to ask me what the hell that was. I answered that in the U.S., you have the right not to incriminate yourself. You never have to say you’re guilty, even if you are. (I skipped the part about double jeopardy, which is also a remarkable thing.) My friend couldn’t get his mind around it, and his surprise at something I’ve come to see as less than mundane, as just there, prompted a similar (re)analysis of the facts in me. “If you do that, don’t they just assume you’re guilty?” was his entirely logical question. And of course the honest answer to that is yes. But they’re not, for the purposes of adjudication, allowed to. Pleading the fifth does not a felon make. Put aside your instinctive support and ingrained acceptance of the concept for a second and try to come at this fresh. Try and justify why a person can just stick out their tongue and say “not telling,” and the jury can’t turn around and say “guilty.” Because logically, that’s what would happen; and in fact, it is what happens in many countries around the world.

I’m no patriot, or at least not one of a variety that would be recognized by people who call themselves patriots. And the feigned poetic devotion to the U.S. Constitution being acted out right now by people who not only haven’t read the Constitution but also don’t know anything about poetry more than disgusts or saddens me; it scares me. But if I can pretend, for a moment, that what I’m writing will not be considered part of their discourse or in any sense in dialogue with them, I’d like to express a bit of quiet amazement at some shining concepts presented in a flawed document that didn’t want women or blacks or poor people to have much of a say in the future of their country.

In any case, we’ve made it from big hot cocks to the Constitution in a few paragraphs. I think that’s enough for now.

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