In Free Speech v. Dog Fights, Free Speech Should Win
We've always thought the Supreme Court could be livened up with more dog fights. Now, thanks to a controversy over something called "free speech," we're getting our wish. And the result could rip the liberal set asunder!
The case in question involves one Robert J. Stevens, who sold "pit bull training" videos that feature dog fights as, he says, cautionary tales on what happens when vicious beasts are used for evil, not good.
Well, people found the tapes themselves to be evil and Stevens was charged under a federal law the forbids to distribution of videos that depict "animal cruelty." (That law, by the way, came into being to stop "crush videos," which showed stiletto-clad women crushing small animals. Apparently people were getting off on such things back in the 1990s. Who knows? People are weird.)
Now the Stevens case has made it to the highest court in the land and animal activists want to justices to prohibit all dog fighting videos in the same way it prohibits kiddie porn, which hardly seems like a fair comparison, but alright. Others, like the New York Times editorial board, worry about the free speech implications:
All 50 states have laws against animal abuse. The best way to fight animal cruelty is to enforce these laws more vigorously and to increase the penalties. Anyone with an ounce of decency should be tempted to ban animal-abuse videos, but anyone with an appreciation for the First Amendment understands why we cannot.
Hip to this whole "free speech" argument, the American Humane Society offers a weak counter point:
While supporters of Stevens' position include many "freedom of speech" proponents who do not necessarily condone animal cruelty, American Humane believes that this law is necessary and does not infringe on the true intent of the First Amendment.
Er. We're going to have to go with the Times on this one. Sure, dog fighting's cruel and people who watch the movies are not quite right in the head, but if footage ends up being restricted, then even lowly bloggers such as ourselves could get in trouble for posting a picture like the one that illustrates this story. As the Times says, "There is no clear way to sort through all of the covered expression to determine who should be held criminally liable and who should not."
Regardless of what happens, someone's going to be unhappy. If the Justice's rule in Stevens' favor and say free speech laws protect these videos, then the animal activists will be upset. If the court goes the other way, then free speech activists are pissed. Those who don't know where they stand will probably just be so confused that their heads explode.
The lesson here: justice serves only some of the people some of the time, not all of the people all of the time. The only way to really solve this would be to fight to the death. Oh, shit: can we say that?