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Posted in: Culture Wars & Censorship, Free Speech

Published on May 23, 2013 by Phyllis Chesler

Published by Huffington Post

Taking the Fifth

Lois Lerner, the Director of the IRS Unit responsible for ruling on applications for tax-exempt status has refused to testify. She is taking the Fifth.

There is an eerie resonance in America and especially in Hollywood, when someone "takes the fifth." It harks back to the McCarthy hearings in the early 1950s, when the "good guys" refused to name their friends as communists. We remember how great filmmakers and script writers -- "good people" -- were cruelly blackballed for refusing to name names; instead, they endured decades of poverty and ostracism. We remember them as heroes. Perhaps they were.

They would not betray their friends or their own innocent ideals, no matter how misguided they may have been. (Stalin's totalitarian Hell was not the paradise they imagined it was). In any event, those who "took the fifth," refused to knuckle under to state power.

Lois Lerner represents the power of the state. She is not taking a noble stand against unjust government authority -- she is protecting those who are even more powerful than herself. We should not see her as a brave "victim."

Her government has also just invaded the First Amendment and violated our free press. We, the people, are the victims.

I am not "taking the fifth." I want to understand how government can violate our IRS rules and our media with such impunity and get away with it.

Mafia hit men "take the fifth." They are protecting their Dons. Drug lord underlings also "take the fifth" and for the same reason. Once, my former husband's second wife "took the fifth" in a hearing about child support which my ex-husband refused to pay and for which failure he was jailed.

One "takes the fifth" as a way of not incriminating oneself or more powerful others. Amazingly, for all those who have been well schooled in the evils of McCarythism, at an unconscious level, Lerner may symbolize nobility not criminality, bravery, not cowardly obedience.

She is "stealing fifth," Lerner is playing political hardball. That's all.

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