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Sociopaths and the real harm of lying

The Stolen Valor Act, passed by Congress in 2005, made is illegal for anyone to falsely claim, verbally or in writing, to have been awarded a U.S. military decoration. Last week, the Supreme Court ruled that the law was unconstitutional because it violated the First Amendment’s protection of free speech. The ruling by six Supreme Court justices proved that they simply do not understand how lying works in real life.

Lies must lead directly to fraud

The majority opinion in United States v. Alvarez, written by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy and joined by Chief Justice John G. Roberts and Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, said that the Constitution does not allow speech to be prohibited solely because of its content—the message or ideas expressed. In other words, people are allowed to say anything they want, with a few exceptions, including obscenity, child pornography, threats and fraud.

Kennedy points out that “the First Amendment requires that there be a direct causal link between the restriction imposed and the injury to be prevented.” He says that that the government may restrict speech where “false claims are made to effect a fraud or secure moneys or other valuable consideration, say, offers of employment.”

In other words, if a person lies to the Veterans Administration about receiving a military medal in order to receive higher disability benefits or a bigger pension, that’s illegal. But if a person claims to be a hero in a public meeting, as Xavier Alvarez did, without receiving an identifiable benefit directly as a result of the lie, then it’s not illegal.

Lies cause little harm

A concurring opinion was written by Justice Stephen Breyer and joined by Justice Elena Kagan. They agreed that the Stolen Valor Act was unconstitutional, but for different reasons. They believed that the law harmed First Amendment rights, and the government could achieve its objective of protecting military honors through other means. In other words, the Stolen Valor Act was the legal equivalent of swatting a fly with a sledgehammer.

The problem, Justice Breyer wrote, was that the Stolen Valor Act made the act of lying about medals illegal, without demanding that someone be harmed by the lies. Breyer stated:

As written, [the Stolen Valor Act] applies in family, social, or other private contexts, where lies will often cause little harm.

Lying about military honors causes little harm in social contexts? Excuse me?

James Montgomery’s lies

My ex-husband, James Montgomery, told me that he had won the Victoria Cross, which is the Australian equivalent of the Congressional Medal of Honor, for his heroism in Vietnam. He claimed he was still in the Australian military, assigned to U.S. Special Forces. He showed me documents to back up his claims.

Montgomery didn’t only make these claims to me. He was active in the local chapter of the Vietnam Veterans Organization. He was the keynote speaker at a Veterans Day ceremony, and twice I accompanied him as he told a classroom full of school children about his military service, including how sad he was when his buddies were killed.

It was all a lie. James Montgomery was never in the military.

Montgomery lied in a “family or social context.” Did I suffer harm? You bet. James Montgomery took $227,000 from me, telling me the money was for his “businesses.” He spent much of it entertaining other women. In our divorce, Montgomery was ordered to pay all my money back, plus $1 million in punitive damages for fraud.

Did I get the money? No—I only recovered $517. I had to declare bankruptcy.

I was not the only person Montgomery swindled. I know for sure that he took large amounts of money from at least five other women, and suspect that he took money from many others as well. I know of at least one businessman who lost $100,000. I know American Express tried to sue him, and many credit card companies wrote off his debts.

I also know that James Montgomery is not an isolated case.

Lovefraud Romantic Partner survey results

All sociopaths lie. And, as I discovered while researching my book, Red Flags of Love Fraud—10 signs you’re dating a sociopath, 10 percent of respondents to the Lovefraud Romantic Partner Survey said that the sociopaths they encountered lied about being in the military or Special Forces.

So what happened to these survey respondents? Many of them lost money, just like me. The 114 survey respondents who said the sociopath they encountered falsely claimed to be military lost the following amounts:

  • Under $5,000 — 18%
  • $5,000 – $9,999 — 10%
  • $10,000 – $49,999 — 25%
  • $50,000 – $99,999 — 18%
  • $100,000 – $499,999 — 19%
  • More than $500,000 — 11%

What else happened to these unsuspecting targets?

  • 32% lost their home
  • 67% incurred debt
  • 37% were physically abused or injured
  • 44% had their lives threatened
  • 28% considered or attempted suicide
  • 26% had lawsuits filed against them
  • 16% had criminal charges filed against them

Intention to mislead

Sociopaths lie about military service, and military decorations, intending to deceive, mislead and ultimately harm their targets. How does this work?

Most Americans have high regard for members of the military. We recognize that our men and women in uniform put themselves in harm’s way to protect the rest of us. These brave individuals do the difficult and often deadly work of preserving our freedom and protecting our way of life. For that, we honor and respect them.

When sociopaths claim to be military, their goal is to assume the mantle of respect and honor that that we confer upon true members of the military. These predators portray themselves as military so that we believe they can be trusted.

I suppose there are some people who simply engage in idle boasting when they claim military honors, and their lies, as Justice Breyer wrote, cause little harm. But I’m sure that many, many military impostors engage in their reprehensible behavior with a distinct agenda. They are lying in order to pull off a scam.

But it is not necessarily a direct cause-and-effect relationship. The fakers don’t necessarily lie to steal the benefits awarded to those who truly did earn the medals. Rather, the fakers lie to create a false perception that they are responsible and trustworthy, so that they can then steal money or other valuable commodities from the rest of us.

The justices’ view of the relationship between lies and harm is simplistic. Sociopaths are extremely sophisticated in how they use their lying and manipulation to take advantage of others. And now, because of the Supreme Court’s ruling, they can do it with impunity.



63 Comments on "Sociopaths and the real harm of lying"

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  1. Back_from_the_edge says:

    Thanks Truthspeak: I am hoping I can remember how to use those construction materials after all this time. I seem to have lost the manual. hehehehe

    Yes, I argue with my therapist, all the time, that just because someone is ‘sick’ does not mean we should be an enabler through our pity. We should always expect better and more from ourselves and one another. My therapist and I argue about this all the time, they say some people don’t have the capacity for choice. I say we ALL have the capacity for choice. I will never feel any differently because “I” have made those same choices for myself. Just because my childhood was dysfunctional does not mean I HAVE NO CHOICE to be something different. And that is the point, to all of this, I think.

    Oh yes, empowering ourselves will be the fuel that feeds our souls through this. Find that empowerment and hang onto it and never let it go again. That is the only way to survive. I am not gay but I do not care for any more ‘male relationships’. I am not a ‘male basher’ but I just don’t want to be disrespected any more in the name of love. I don’t think that is love at all. I think it is garbage and I do know I deserve better than that. THEY are the garbage and the garbage needs to be taken out. In fact, it HAS been taken out. I am recovering and starting to do fine.

    Right, I just don’t have the energy, mental or otherwise to go through all of this ever again. I just want to be left inside my little cave with the wool rugs and we’ll call it good. No counter-flirting for me, Truthspeak. 🙂

    Hugs back ~ Dupey



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  2. strongawoman says:

    Haha Dupey,

    The nephilim!!! WTF?

    Although spath boy wasn’t a giant, he was a big bloke.

    Yah can certainly see why you made the connection between spaths and the nephilim. Both have evil intent. Not sure the spaths would work together though. They would want all the glory and riches that destroying the human race would bring them. Wouldn’t they? Or if they did work as a team, they would eventually destroy each other. Truly dog eat dog.

    Thanks …..interesting.

    Ps a buffoon suggests someone of lower intelligence. A fool.
    The spath, in my exp, strategic, cunning, manipulative and clever.

    Happy day to you Dupey doo



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  3. Back_from_the_edge says:

    strongawoman: yah, supposedly the giant nephilim shrunk over the centuries…makes a soul wonder; doesn’t it?

    Oh yes, the ‘connection’ is very similar; is it not?
    They do both have the same evil intents; don’t they?
    hahahaha: spaths do work together and beautifully, I might add….truly dog eat dog…it’s a magnificent union when two of them get together – then they feed off one another and leave the rest of the population alone. Just a PERFECT UNION; is it not?

    Oh yes, a buffoon…and that is being ‘nice’…and so spot on!
    Happy day to you too Lovey…
    Nice to see and read you…

    Dupey



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  4. Truthspeak says:

    Okay…..”moral” question, here: is it “wrong” for me to gleefully anticipate the expspath being crushed in Court? I mean, the evidence is irrefutable and there is a mountain of it (2 file boxes full) among with his refusal/failure ti abide by numerous provisions of the emergency Court Order.

    Dupey….the “manual” for the construction was kinda faulty, anyway. We can improvise and “A-Team” our respective undertakings! 😀

    Pppfffffffft! Adios, jackass! (Waving hand at exspath dismissively)



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  5. 7stepstoheaven says:

    Thanks for the link to that Lance Armstrong article. I really didn’t have much of an opinion about whether or not he doped, but I always had a bad feeling about the way he treated Sheryl Crow after he broke up with her, and she then got breast cancer, and he showed no concern for her. I thought “this is the guy who’s made his whole life about fighting cancer?” It didn’t sit right at all. I know guys a lot of times break up with women and they’re done, and it doesn’t
    necessarily mean they’re terrible people, but still, it seemed really callous to me.

    The part where he answered questions with questions “Why would I do something like that?” was a real red flag for me, and someone else mentioned in the comments that it’s something defensive that teenagers do all the time, to get out of a lie.

    It struck a chord with me, because I tried to finally call out my stonewalling, smear-campaigning brother when he appeared on Facebook. I sent him a letter stating he needed to man up and stop lying, that it was an indication of poor character, and I would have no respect for him if he didn’t come clean. Well, I got a response, in writing, which CONFIRMED every suspicion I had, and made it much easier for me to tell him I want nothing more to do with him,
    unless one day he decides to come clean, apologize, and pay his debts, both monetary and as a family member.

    I KNEW the truth pretty much, and had stopped making excuses for him, but it’s another thing altogether to have the truth of his ongoing deception, along with a dose of his undeniable hostility and contempt for me, on the page in black and white! I was angry, I was sad, but I was also VINDICATED. I was RIGHT about everything, and now had solid proof. Having that brings a level of comfort to me.

    I have been debating whether or not to show it to the one sister who I still speak with. She knows about the lies to the women, but she hasn’t really noticed any other indications of him being a narcissistic, raging pathological liar. I TOLD her what happened, in general, and that he was nasty to me, but at some point that letter would be the nail in the coffin for anyone who sees it, really. I still don’t trust her 100% either.

    I so much want to have ONE family member left. It’s so stressful, wondering whether or not she’s going to turn on me again. She believed all the lies the first time. Now she knows about my brother, and she actually stated to me about a month ago, that she KNOWS my other sister scapegoated me. I had been waiting to hear this for almost two years, since we began speaking again. They live in the same town, so I didn’t say anything. But the truth of things eventually comes out. I just don’t know if she takes it as seriously as she should, or if she has any idea of the damage this has done to me mentally, physically, and emotionally. But I’m not going to
    lay a big story on her. She’s starting to get the picture, and sometimes you have to wait till people start to “get it” themselves.



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  6. Back_from_the_edge says:

    Truthspeak: No, it is NOT wrong to eagerly anticpate x spath being crushed in Court. That’s good. Fortunately, I was able to just throw it all in the trash. I have tons of proof as to the things he has done to me. But, you know what? I chose to admonish (I did not say forgive) and turn my back on it all and move on. They love the drama and attention and that is a lot of my decision to not pursue legal action.

    THEY ARE NOT WORTH THE ATTENTION.
    ANY ATTENTION.

    I have a fatal heart condition now, thanks to “IT”, and I am not wasting one more ounce of strength on “IT”, in court or otherwise. “IT” is not making MY LIFE more miserable than it already has. Good for you! Going for that restraining order! Good for you! In my case, it’s kind of hard serving a vagrant who lives from woman to woman, off the internet. But, that doesn’t matter where I live, FORTUNATELY, because they will stand behind me and back me up anyways and “IT” has already had a taste of that, the last time he threatened to murder me, showed up 3 days later, and was promptly shuffled out of town and given an escort OUT of town and told he should never come back here anymore. Although that didn’t even stop him because there was one more visit after that, when I said: ASTA LA VISTA IT. That was the last time I saw “IT”. He wanted to see me and I took the opportunity to put a RESOLUTION to it because I knew he wouldn’t give me any but I also knew I WAS SO OVER THIS ALL. I took that opportunity to say to “IT” everything I have ever wanted TO say, even though I knew it probably wasn’t listening, standing there with a smirk on it’s face….pffft!That has to be a year and a half ago now, I would guess. YAY! They always come back but I am hoping (with fingers crossed) (going on 3 months now since I have said a peep to it) this time it will stick. If he has any sense at all, it will. But, there is still the ocassional stalking incident, which I never even respond to; all it does it make me laugh and I post it in my stalking log. How’s that? Hm? You know THEY JUST HATE BEING IGNORED. THEY REALLY HATE IT. Even bad attention is better than no attention, to them. So, “IT” gets NO attention. The minion who has it’s meat hooks in “IT”S back these days is doing a great job of keeping it confined and babysitting “IT”; I am happy to be relieved of the responsibility anymore. “MINION” is making the world a safer place. She wanted it: SHE CAN HAVE IT and I even told her so a time or two, her, calling me up with her jealousy..hahahaha Yikes: such drama…I just want the crap away from my life now. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.

    No, you are not wrong for looking forward to some justice and gratification, not after everything you have endured. Just like myself….don’t feel guilty or as a lesser person trying to show A SPATH a new trick…and floating in that justification this gives you. That does NOT make us a lesser person. It’s setting a boundary.

    The manual was faulty??? NOW you tell me.==!!!
    WTF? And here, all this whole time I thought it was me. hehhehe

    oh yes: pffffffft! adios jackasses are in order.
    Adios “IT” and all your minions…

    Dupey



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  7. 7stepstoheaven says:

    BTTE:

    I think you’re REALLY SMART to not waste any more time and energy on someone who just sucks it out of you like a vampire.

    I am trying to move forward without getting sucked back into the whirlpool of negative drama that my family lives in. But the hard part is that I so much want to be HEARD, and to have some VINDICATION, and to OUT them for the abusive, lying creeps they are. I wish i did not feel such a need to PROVE that I am the GOOD one, the one who’e taken the high road. Part of me wants to rub that in their face, so they will understand there is a COST to what they have done to me. I have FOUND OUT who they are, and the evil games they play. I want to give them the finger, publicly, so they can never pretend to anyone else that they are good people, and i am the one who can be kicked around like a dirtbag.

    It’s just part of the process, i guess, but I wish I didn’t want it so badly!



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  8. Truthspeak says:

    7steps, of COURSE you want validation!! We receive that on this site from one another – fellow survivors.

    I don’t intend to diminish the priceless healing that I’ve found on this site, but individual counseling with a therapist that “gets it” is valuable, too. This is someone that may not be a survivor, and they are utterly objective. Without this site and my counseling therapist, I don’t even want to consider where I would be, right now.

    Brightest blessings, 7steps!



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  9. Back_from_the_edge says:

    7steps: Why should I waste any more time on someone who doesn’t (obviously) want anything from me but to use me up until I die? Nope. Not happening. I am sorry for “IT” that it is a SICK person. Yes, this gave me MASSIVE COG DISS: dumping someone who is that ill, HOWEVER, standing on the edge of the cliff, myself, I am choosing to take care of ME instead of expending anymore energy on someone who just simply does NOT care about ITSELF nor anyone else? It’s sad, yes but this is MY LIFE NOT ITS.

    No, drama is not good.
    I SO DESPISE drama and for ten years, that is what my life has been. Filled with OP’s drama and BS. That is THEIR life to deal with not mine. I chose, at a very young age, to NOT live that way and I stand behind my choices NOW. I tried; I cared; I gave this ‘sick’ person the best I had only to be trampled on, threatened with murder, stalked and treated like crap, for ten years. No more. And I am prepared to stand up for my choices and decisions. THEY RUN FROM THEIRS.

    You ARE being heard, right here, right now, 7steps…do you go to counseling? If not, I would suggest that perhaps you find a conselor that is to your ‘liking’ (shop around, they are not all the same) – it helps ME immensely to have a spot to go where I can just blurt it all out and leave it there when I go home. I have had to separate the experience from my life. In fact, I have “IT” completely blocked out of my life and working on my thoughts. Blocking “IT” out of my thoughts will come easy as long as I don’t slip and fall back into that cog diss.

    The funny thing I learned about abused people, is that a high percentage of them RETURN to the abuser. That is NOT going to happen with me. There IS no going back.

    Why would I go back to all of that? As I said, yes, I care about this ‘sick’ person but “IT” is not my responsibility. I am not a superhero and I shouldn’t have to fight my battles and “ITS”. We all have to be responsible for our own choices in this life, sick or not. While that may not sound very ‘sympathetic’, that’s okay, I am myself and entitled to feel that way after all the rotten things “IT” has done to me over the years.

    It’s difficult finding someone to really listen and ‘connect’ with the horror of the whole experience. People don’t want to listen, I know. It feels like I have been raped, beaten, robbed and left for dead but that’s alright, because I AM STILL HERE and climbing up out of that dank hole. Hm?

    I don’t want ANYONE around me that will EVER try sucking my soul out of me, ever again. THAT and the fact that THEY will NEVER have a normal life. They will ALWAYS be in that drama and chaos because they just don’t know any better. No. I choose something different for myself. It is the way of ‘survival’. I am as entitled to ‘survival’ as the next person.

    You don’t have to ‘rub’ anything in anyone’s face…
    All you have to do is be the person you know you are and want and choose to be and stand on that premise. Either people around you will ‘fall into’ respecting that or they won’t. When I find people around me who stress me, have drama and chaos in their lives all the time, I usually try to get them away from me because my life is not going to be lived that way. No matter how much I may love someone or care for them, if they upset MY APPLE CART, they are gone from my field of vision because I simply cannot live that way and I am not going to.

    IF “IT” would have shown SOME interest in getting ‘help’ and/or treatment, that would be one thing. I really don’t think that even if he did, I can ever trust enough to go back to all of that. If that makes me a cold, uncaring, B*T*CH, then I guess that’s what I am. MY LIFE. THIS IS MY LIFE NOT ITS.

    We aren’t superheros and can’t follow them around through what we have left of OUR LIVES, warning people from a sense of good conscience. The next ‘victims’, they will have choices too. We have become SURVIVORS not VICTIMS. We learned a life lesson, the hard way. That demands some respect and sometimes it is US who must enforce that by setting down boundaries.

    You WILL move forward, whether you want to or not, 7steps. It’s part of evolution. We will fit ourselves in amongst the cracks and our wounds will heal and turn into scars.

    I will say prayers for you that you will find peace.
    Blessings to you ~ Dupey



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