Bearing False Witness

Depending on the version of the Ten Commandments, the eighth or ninth is “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor” – in simpler terms, you shouldn’t tell lies, especially a lie intended to falsely accuse another person. I was reminded again, of the damage done by malicious accusations, upon reading this horrifying story, linked through Insty – because there was such a malicious person in the neighborhood where my family lived for more than a decade – a person given to making random and spurious accusations about his neighbors. When I wrote about my family, I called this residence Hilltop House – a post-war bungalow perched on the knee of a range of hills, surrounded by similar and rather modest houses on half-acre or quarter-acre lots, spread out along a rambling tangle of narrow roads above Sunland-Tujunga. A good block away from Hilltop house was a cul d sac of about half a dozen houses; one of the residents in the cul d sac was an older couple … and the man, who I will call Felix S. began to go nuts. Like bankruptcy, it happened slowly and then all at once. He became convinced that his neighbors were all part of a vast conspiracy to manufacture drugs and that there were tunnels and pipelines running the drugs between all the houses around him, and that odors from the drug manufacturing were poisoning the air around his house. Eventually, he put up all kinds of industrial fans around his yard, intended to blow the fumes away, and became notorious as the “Fan Man.” But that came later.

He spied on neighbors, haunted the roads outside their houses, lurked in the hedges, taking down license plate numbers, walked around with a box in his hands which he insisted was detecting the drug fumes … and called the police incessantly, sharing his delusions with them. Of course, the LAPD pretty soon realized that Mr. S. was a total nutcase. When Mr. S. realized that they were blowing him off, he escalated to calling other law enforcement bodies – the county sheriff’s office, other municipal, state, and possibly even national law enforcement; for all I know, everyone short of the Secret Service. At one point, he began insisting that his next-door neighbor, an elderly woman who was dying of MS – was a serious drug abuser and that was what was killing her. I know there was at least one unsuccessful court case for unrelenting harassment brought against him by the nearest neighbors, but nothing legal could be done at first, as Mr. S. kept the derangement on the down-low in the courtroom, and came off as a respectable, reasonable citizen. My mother was convinced that Mr. S. had an undiagnosed brain tumor, which would account for the delusions of strange odors. In any case, when my sister Pip was married, we had the reception afterwards at Hilltop House … and there was Mr. S. lurking in the oleander shrubs outside the gate, writing down the license-plate numbers of our guests’ cars! Otherwise, we were spared the worst of Mr. S., although because of a house full of teenagers and a yard full of vintage cars, he apparently assumed that we were in the distribution end of the business and not the manufacture. Eventually, the ongoing annoying presence of Mr. S. in the neighborhood had to be included in the listing of any house for sale in the neighborhood within a certain distance, as if he were a kind of human toxic waste dump.

But that was not the worst, which is what Mom told me about, on what may have been the last time that I was on home leave when they were still living at Hilltop House. It seemed that a young couple with two small children bought a house nearby Mr. S.’s house, a distance by road and address, but on the hill below, and he could see into their back yard. You guessed it – he called the child protection agency and reported that they were abusing their children. This was a new agency, relative to Mr. S.’s mania – and they took his accusation seriously. It took the young couple six months to get their children returned to their custody, or so Mom said.
I was honestly glad when Mom and Dad moved away after Dad retired – Mr. S.’s malicious mania was verging on the dangerous. A good few years ago, I did find a local news story about neighbors bringing successful lawsuits against him, but nothing on him turns up now – I suppose his malicious antics in the old neighborhood are a matter of ancient history at this point. It’s been at least three decades, and there must have been a lot of turnover among residents, what with the real estate market in the outer LA suburbs being what it is. But I was reminded of how damaging bearing false witness can be – right up there with murder, adultery, covetousness and worshipping false gods.
Bearing false witness is like faking a hate crime, or accusing people of various ‘isms, creating a fake dossier/ fake documents for the purposes of smearing a political opponent, ‘swatting’ a person with a fake call to the police, or an anonymous accusation to Child Protective Services. In a more perfect world than this, bearing false witness out to be penalized with the punishment administered to the victim, if the accusation had been true. Discuss as you wish.

15 thoughts on “Bearing False Witness”

  1. Yup – so did it seem to all the neighbors – but he apparently ran rough-shod over all of them for about fifteen years, maybe twenty. I was so glad when my parents moved away. I thought it only a matter of time before Mr. S. cut loose with a machine gun or high explosives.

  2. CPS is the worst of the worst. I knew someone whose business and life was ruined by a CPS employee who decided to teach her a lesson for not showing him proper respect. And of course they never have to pay for their mistakes. Kinda reminds me of public health authorities, to be honest…

  3. Many years ago, I think I was still in college, I used to go to the courthouse in downtown LA and listen to trials. I would just sit in the spectator seats and listen. Maybe that was when I was still thinking of law school. Anyway, the one trial I remember was of a man in his 40s who had been accused by a girl about 10 of molesting her. He might have been a teacher or that might have been another case. There was such a case in Orange County about 20 years ago. The case I am referring to ended in a jury verdict of not guilty. If I recall, there were no witnesses and no corroboration. Remember this was in the 1950s or early 60s.

    The teacher case was a gym teacher who was accused by three girls of sexual abuse of some sort. I have forgotten how it turned out but the girls finally admitted they had accused him because he punished them for refusing to change for gym class.

    What would happen today with such accusations? God knows.

  4. Emmett Till’s family and friends could testify to the destructive and potentially murderous power of slander.

  5. In her memoirs, Russian combat pilot Anna Egorova remembered her mother ”kneeling before the icons, as she firstly listed all our names, the names of her children, begging God for health and wisdom for us, and then at the end of each prayer repeating: ‘God save them from slander!’” She didn’t understand that word ‘slander’ in her childhood, Egorova wrote, but after her brother was sent away as An Enemy of the People, “it was exposed before me in all its terrible nakedness.”

  6. I would drop the ‘bearing false witness is ”like”‘ all the things you list. It is they, and they are it.
    We just inhabit a more complex social world, with greater opportunities for mischief, than when the original commandment was revealed.

    Mr. S sounds extreme, but his kind are always with us.

  7. Agreed, Eddie – there are greater opportunities for malicious mischief – and maybe we should be sorting out penalties for doing it. What you tolerate is what you get more of.

  8. Gosh, did something about Supreme Court hearings bring to mind “bearing false witness”, Sgt Mom? lol

  9. Restitution has a central place in biblical ethics. While only God can right all wrongs (and will do so, if not in time, then in eternity), people are required to make an attempt. Thus, for example, see Exodus 22, where instead of thieves going to prison (at the victim’s expense), thieves paid back double or more multiples (depending on the ease = cost of identifying/capturing the thief and making the case proving their action).

    The wronging of another by false witness provides another example of the application of restitution. Deuteronomy 19:15 demands two or more witnesses (or independent lines of evidence) to establish guilt in a trial. To further protect the integrity of witnesses in a trial, the next verses recognize the possibility of a false witness and prescribe the penalty for such. The wrong intended must be righted by restitution. The false witness bears the penalty intended for the victim of that false witness. This is the “in a more perfect world, ought” of Sgt Mom’s post.

  10. This reminds me of a story from San Francisco years ago – about a malicious attorney who brought frivolous lawsuits on his neighbors – or anyone who crossed his path.

    He turned up dead – Don’t think the murder was ever solved. Mr S bordered on Evil.

    No border about it – he was Evil.

    And it says something about CPS when the “word” of one person can result in losing your children.

  11. Roy Kerns- I love your comment. You appear to have a deep understanding of God’s will and the situation in the world now. If you desire, please contact me so we can help get the world closer to what it needs to be. I’m not selling anything, just giving away understanding to those with eyes to see and ears to hear, trying to connect with people wherever they are physically, who seem to be in a great place, spiritually. ttomeny at gmail

  12. Oh, we’re well past tolerating it. “He didn’t win, did he?”, as Dingy Harry Reid put it. We have 1/3 to 1/2 of the country that CELEBRATES it.

    Do a DuckDuckGo search on “I’m not that concerned about false accusations” and you’ll get pages of other nauseating examples. I’ve said for years that men should give serious consideration to keeping themselves under audio/video monitoring.

  13. And women wonder why they “…can’t find a good man…”. I can think of at least three guys in my circle of current acquaintances who’ve been dealing with the after-effects of either one-night stands or bad relationships where they were gone after by said women for child support of kids they didn’t even know they had. One of them is almost certainly not the father, but because of the vagaries of the “child welfare” system, he’s on the hook for said child.

    What’s bad here is that none of them wanted the kids with those partners in the first place, and all three insist that they’d been assured by said partner that there was birth control in place. The sheer glee with which one of them informed the male that he’d be a father made it fairly plain that she’d lied in the first place.

    Which is not to say these guys are paragons of male virtue, but… That’s three males essentially entrapped and extorted, which leads to the point I’ve always made with people: There ain’t no such thing as casual sex, and if you think there is, you’re in for a rude awakening.

    The current imbalance between the sexes in terms of legal protections is something that cannot continue, if society is to keep functioning. It may have been unfair in the past, but that’s no excuse for what is going on in family courts around the country when it comes to these things–And, at least one of the side effects of it all is the reluctance of any male with a brain to even think about getting involved with women. You get burned once, and after awhile, you find anything that’s even vaguely red-flaggish to be a deal-breaker in relationships, and end it. Meanwhile, women are left wondering why men won’t commit, and never look to observe what their peers on their left and right are doing.

    From the male perspective, it’s damn hard to tell someone with a crush from a bunny-boiling stalker. Woman inadvertently sends the wrong signal at the wrong time, and you’re suddenly finding virtue in celibacy, because she’s transitioned from “cute and charming” to outright creepy. I’m sure that the same thing goes on in the other direction, but that’s always been with us, males classically being the wooer in most cases.

    This will hopefully work itself out, as things swing back and forth, but… At the moment, a lot of people are getting chewed up in the machinery.

  14. }}} Do a DuckDuckGo search on “I’m not that concerned about false accusations” and you’ll get pages of other nauseating examples. I’ve said for years that men should give serious consideration to keeping themselves under audio/video monitoring.

    Anyone ever tries that shit with me, and really pursues it, it’s going to be one of the very last things they do on this Earth.

    I will accept a certain degree of injustice, but there is a point beyond which, if you’ve aimed to take someone’s life from them, that person should resolve to not go alone.

    This is what is missing from the modern world: If not the Fear of God, then the fear of honorable retaliation.

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