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Videos of Small Animals Being Crushed by Women in High Heels Are Protected Free Speech?

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Joanne98 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-23-10 09:16 AM
Original message
Videos of Small Animals Being Crushed by Women in High Heels Are Protected Free Speech?
By Liliana Segura, AlterNet
Posted on April 23, 2010, Printed on April 23, 2010
http://www.alternet.org/story/146582 /

This week the Supreme Court handed down an eight to one ruling that, depending on your priorities, either reflects its total, unwavering belief in the primacy of the First Amendment, or else proves once and for all that the justices have no soul -- except for maybe Samuel Alito.

The case: U.S. v. Stevens (pdf). The plaintiff: Virginia resident Robert Stevens, jailed for selling dogfighting videos. The law: 1999 federal legislation punishing anyone who "knowingly creates, sells or possesses a depiction of animal cruelty" for profit.

The original motivation for the law was to prevent a brand of pornography known as "crush videos."

"Crush videos," the Court explains, echoing the argument brought forth by U.S. Solicitor General Elena Kagan (who is on Obama's shortlist to replace Justice Stevens) "often depict women slowly crushing animals to death 'with their bare feet or while wearing high heeled shoes,' sometimes while 'talking to the animals in a kind of dominatrix patter' over 'he cries and squeals of the animals, obviously in great pain.' Apparently these depictions 'appeal to persons with a very specific sexual fetish.'"

Sickening, yes, but according to the Court, sickening is besides the point. This week, the justices agreed, almost unanimously, that the government's attempt to stamp out such vile acts 10 years ago was an example of legislative overreach. However well-intentioned, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority, the law "creates a criminal prohibition of alarming breadth," which, in this case, did not even apply to crush videos themselves, but, rather, to a man who "ran a business, 'Dogs of Velvet and Steel,' and an associated Web site, through which he sold videos of pit bulls engaging in dogfights and attacking other animals."

http://www.alternet.org/rights/146582/videos_of_small_a...
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hlthe2b Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-23-10 09:19 AM
Response to Original message
1. May karma strike with great haste
anyone who would take part in such horror or profit from it.
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kenny blankenship Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-23-10 09:26 AM
Response to Original message
2. If that is protected speech, then what wouldn't be?
I'm not sure I've seen a news article that has explained the SCOTUS' reasoning clearly yet. I know I have not seen one that explains it to my satisfaction.
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Recursion Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-23-10 10:18 AM
Response to Reply #2
7. The reasoning is the law was too broad
As written, it would make watching a hunting video in the District of Columbia illegal.

What's still illegal is child porn, since the possession of child porn is itself a victimization of the child (people talk about "drying up the market" but that's not the actual legal theory).
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cloudbase Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-23-10 09:35 AM
Response to Original message
3. Kind of like this
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Recursion Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-23-10 09:46 AM
Response to Original message
4. Yes. The act itself is illegal and can be prosecuted.
But a broad ban on any depiction of cruelty to animals is Constitutionally not-permissable, as 8 of the 9 justices agreed.
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SteveM Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-23-10 10:11 AM
Response to Reply #4
5. Yep, I agree.
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Uncle Joe Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-23-10 10:16 AM
Response to Reply #4
6. So I guess the same logic could be applied to slasher murder videos of people being killed? n/t
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Recursion Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-23-10 10:20 AM
Response to Reply #6
8. I remember the oral arguments on this, the example was a human sacrifice video
And the argument that won out was, "Congress can't pass a law simply to protect us from seeing things."

Producing the snuff film is illegal, since it's murder (just like producing the crush video is illegal). Watching it isn't.
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jaksavage Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-23-10 10:26 AM
Response to Original message
9. As long as they aren't
wearing a burka.
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Recursion Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-23-10 10:39 AM
Response to Original message
10. Incidentally, the court said crush films can still be made illegal
Just not with that broad of a law.
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X_Digger Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-23-10 12:50 PM
Response to Original message
11. Two things bothered me about this law (the one overturned)..
One was that it was left to the government (cop, DA, AG, Judge, etc) exactly what has 'serious religious, political, scientific, educational, journalistic, historical, or artistic value'. I could see a future conservative administration (or locale) using this law to suppress expose reporting of animal cruelty.

Secondly, the whole idea of making the sale of a reproduction of what was a legal act in one jurisdiction illegal in another is just a race to the most restrictive jurisdiction. To me, that sets a dangerous precedent.

The law in question:

http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/18/usc_sec_18_0000004...
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