Freedom of Speech – How Far Should it Go?
As I’m sure most of you have already heard, the Supreme Court is deciding whether the First Amendment covers such things as dog fighting videos and other acts of animal cruelty. Will they strike down the 1999 that makes it illegal to sell film depicting animal cruelty? The law, 18 U.S.C. § 48, originated in an effort to combat “crush” videos was first applied in 2004 against Robert J. Stevens who was arrested from selling dog fighting videos. Initially convicted under the law and sentenced to 37 months, his conviction was appealed and the federal appeals court threw out the conviction.
Now the whole thing is before the Supreme Court to decide if the law should stand or fall. The NRA and many media groups stand on one side while many animal advocacy group and states stand on the other.
On one side, the NRA and media worry that they will be limited when it comes to showing depictions of things like hunting and fishing and using certain scenes which would definitely be considered cruelty in an educational manner, among other things. They claim the current law is too broad.
Neal Katyal, an attorney for the Justice Department, said the law was “narrowly targeted” and had exceptions specifically for “religious, political, scientific, educational, journalistic, historical, or artistic value.”
“This statute has nothing to do with the offense of the message. It has to do with trying to dry up an underlying market for animal cruelty,” said Katyal. (CNN)
So far the law has been targeted specifically aimed at banning animal cruelty videos which are being distributed for the derivation of pleasure, whether is be sexual pleasure as in the “crush” videos or the vicarious thrill of dog fighting which is illegal is all 50 states.
The only other time the Supreme Court has upheld a law which could be identified as a freedom of speech issue is when they banned all forms of child pornography. No one can say that this could possibly have any kind of significant social value aside from the thrill and gratification the someone could get from viewing it.
I’ve been reading much of the arguments on this and it seems that everyone wants to throw out extreme hypotheticals such as shows on human sacrifice and showing scenes that are illegal in this country but legal in others. Where do you draw the line?
To us lay people, it seems cut and dried, more or less I think. As most of us here are animal advocates, we don’t want it to be legal for people to but videos which depict scenes of animal abuse such as animal fighting and crush videos, videos which are designed specifically for the thrill of certain segments of society and the profit of others.
As someone who writes on animal cruelty, animal abuse and animal advocacy, I often show depictions, sometimes publicly provided videos, of cruelty, not anything that would be deemed extreme enough to even hypothetically far under this law, and I admit that I would not want someone to tell me that I could not do this but as far as I can see, this law is not in any way aimed at this. In my case and in the case of many others, bloggers, media, etc. who are in animal advocacy, our aim is to educate, create awareness and work toward an end to the rampant cruelties.
We get no thrill from showing even pictures but so it in an effort to let people see the vicious cruelty perpetrated. People who produce these dogfighting and crush videos do it for thrills and money. It has nothing to do with awareness or education and the only message they are sending is one of cruelty.
A decision is expected to be handed down in several months on this issue, a decision that many groups will be waiting and watching to hear. Will it be a victory for the animals or for those who will profit off the cruelty against them?
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