Benjamin, Aaronson, Edinger & Patanzo, P.A.

Nothing’s True, Believe Me!

By now, anybody with eyes, ears and an open mind realizes that the 2016 Presidential
Election was greatly influenced by the Russians. No one will ever know whether that
influence caused the defeat of Hillary Clinton and the election of Donald Trump. It cannot
be known and is subject to conjecture on both sides.

Before we Americans get so indignant that a foreign country could try to intercede in
our elections, we must remember a few things. First, our CIA, and the other dozen or so
intelligence agencies that we have, do not tell us and do not broadcast how they are trying
to interfere in other countries elections or fomenting uprisings. To say that we are not trying
to do the same thing that the Russians did to us would be naive and to sell our clandestine
operations short.

We also must remember that in the past we interceded in Chili and had the duly
elected President, Salvador Allende deposed because he did not fit into our political needs.
We installed the Shaw of Iran to the Peacock Throne, because he did serve our geopolitical
needs. We dominated and controlled Central America for decades, propping up puppet
regimes for our own corporate well being.

Although we looked at it as altruistic, we did have Radio Free Europe that broadcast
to communist countries, what we believe the truth to be. There was also Voice of America.
When radio was the major source of communication, we were the kings of trying to influence
populous of other countries. Again, our cause may have been noble, but it was definitely out
of self interest. So what the Russians did to us in the 2016 election should certainly offend
us, but it should not surprise us.

Obviously, another country interfering in our election is something that strikes the
core of our democracy. But equally as harmful is the potential fallout that these actions have
caused to the First Amendment, Freedom of Press and Freedom of Speech.

Day after day we have more revelations about how fake news was planted on social
media. The Russians had numerous, most likely thousands of accounts on Facebook, Twitter
and the other platforms. They targeted demographics that they believe were vulnerable with
these false stories and propagated these false stories as true. What occurred was a blurring
of real news and fake news, to the point that whenever anybody does not like a story, it is
branded as fake news.

The fear to the First Amendment is the potential backlash. Will the pendulum swing
to the point where every story will need proof, anonymous sources will not be believed and
testimonials to the accuracy must be provided? At first blush this sounds actually perfect.
But in reality, it would be the death knell to the First Amendment and to our democracy.

How many important stories have been told, that would not have been told, if the
anonymous source lost their anonymity? Richard Nixon would have served out his term,
because Deep Throat would have had to have been revealed. But he would not have been
revealed, and the story would have died. Whistle blowers, including those that have exposed
the nuclear plant failings of the past, the filth and dirt in the meat packing plant and poultry
farms, the waste of government spending and the $200.00 nut and bolt or $2,000.00 toilet
seat by the Department of Defense would never have seen the light of day.

No, we have a right to know these things, and yes, anonymous speech is
Constitutionally protected. And there is a remedy for that false speech, for those stories that
have no basis in truth, and it is called Libel and Slander. Of course, sometimes the libel and
slander come to late for the victim and the reputation is lost, the business is destroyed and
Humpty Dumpty cannot be put together again. Yet, that is the price that we pay to live in a
Free Society with the First Amendment. Demanding more than due diligence is too high of
a burden to place on Freedom of Speech and Freedom of the Press. There always will be
inaccuracies and the false story will slip through the cracks. But we as Americans have the
right to know, and if that knowledge comes by the way of anonymity, as long as it is verified
and held accountable, we are better off for it.

However that backlash that we fear is one of a public backlash. One in which nothing
is believed without that testimonial and verification. Everyone has the right to believe what
they wish to believe and discount what they desire to. But we cannot allow the falsified
stories planted by the Russians that influenced our election to create an atmosphere where
nothing is believed. Rather, in the future, the onus will be on us to not believe everything
that we read, to use our common sense and not to take everything at face value.

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