The Corner

P. J. O’Rourke’s Defense of Truthiness

I noted below U.S. District Court judge Timothy Black’s ruling yesterday striking down an Ohio law that allowed the state election commission to censor “false” political speech.

The judge’s decision is a good one, but the best reading in the case is an amicus curiae brief filed on behalf of the plaintiff — by none other than right-wing humorist P.J. O’Rourke. “The case concerns amici,” he writes, “because the law at issue undermines the First Amendment’s protection of the serious business of making politics funny.”

Co-written with the Cato Institute, the brief manages both to argue and to entertain (with barbs aplenty at both Left and Right). Borrowing Stephen Colbert’s notion of “truthiness” — “a ‘truth’ asserted ‘from the gut’ or because it ‘feels right,’ without regard to evidence or logic” — O’Rourke makes the case that Ohio’s law chills the speech not just of politicos but of anyone who might care to make a political point by way of a joke — not just O’Rourke, of course, but outlets such as the Onion. When it comes to political deception, he says, “a crushing send-up on The Daily Show or The Colbert Report will do more to clean up political rhetoric than the Ohio Election Commission ever could.”

“Criminalizing political speech is no laughing matter” — but the case against it can certainly be funny. Two choice tidbits that conservatives will enjoy:

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 a mandate a tax. . . .

While President Obama isn’t from Kenya, he is a Keynesian—so you can see where the confusion arises.

There is much more — for “pinko-communist flag-burners” and “assault weapon-wielding maniacs” alike. You can read O’Rourke’s brief in full here. (And don’t miss the footnotes.)

Ian Tuttle — Ian Tuttle is the former Thomas L. Rhodes Journalism Fellow at the National Review Institute.

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