The court ruled today, in an extremely rare 8-1 decision, that the 1st Amendment protects videos depicting acts of animal cruelty. Specifically mentioned were the selling of videos of dogfights, boar hunts (by pit bulls) and ‘crush videos’ which apparently depict, disgustingly, women crushing small animals with their high heel clad feet.
Only one justice (Alito) had the good sense to dissent, noting rightly that, “The animals used in crush videos are living creatures that experience excruciating pain. Our society has long banned such cruelty”. One imagines the PETA people are cursing the ACLU folks right about now – and for this rare moment I would agree with them.
None the less, considering the 1st amendment precedents, this ruling is not so surprising. The court has in times past defended as legitimate exercises of one’s 1st amendment rights, ‘exotic dancing’, graphic pornography, and burning the flag. It is of little surprise that images of animal cruelty should be protected under such a legal theory, though it is unclear how far out the boundaries lie – would the torturing and killing of humans for profit be next?
I personally would offer that this and the preceding rulings fail on similar grounds – namely that the 1st amendment was never designed to protect such broad expressions. In fact, I think the 1st amendment should be construed much more narrowly – limited to the written and spoken word. Within that purview, if one wants to describe verbally or through text all manner of cruelty and obscenity, the first amendment should be a strong fortress of protection. This would seem to fit the spirit with which the first amendment was written, much as it existed to protect those words which were spoken against those in authority – as a means of addressing and criticizing abuses of official power, not as means of profiting from every manner of degradation. Visualizations however, particularly those to make money, should be afforded much less protection; indeed, they could not even have been conceived of by the original authors of the 1st amendment.
The other benefit to this understanding is that it would bolster an informed electorate in as much as those who wished to express themselves freely would have to know how to read and write well, in addition to knowing how to speak – mere protest through acting out or profiting from the degrading of others could be limited.
Of course, we have probably gone too far down this road to turn back now. And as the Progressives now in power actually hate opposition expressed in word and print more than they do the actual harm and degradation of animals and humans, there is little hope of official support for such change.