Editorial supporting Supreme Court on ‘crush video’ ruling uses twisted logic

I’ve read two editorials of late, supporting the US Supreme Court’s ruling on distributing videos depicting animal cruelty, on First Amendment grounds. In an editorial published Tuesday on LATimes.com, the writer suggests even the more narrow bill working its way through Congress should be struck down by the court.

The writer notes the court has ruled that two categories – obscenity and child pornography – are not protected as free speech. I contend that violent acts against people and animals should not be protected.

[ Note – I’m covering some material here that I’m somewhat uncomfortable in covering. But the examples and the discussion are too important not to cover. ]

Gang members, for example, should not be allowed to kidnap someone, tape the beating of that person and then sell the video on the Internet. That is worse – criminally and morally – than recording an obscene act between two adults and selling it.

(Let’s be clear that I’m not saying it is worse than child pornography, where the punishment for this crime should be especially harsh.)

But torturing animals and selling the videos is worse than obscenity.

Some criminals are banned from being able to profit from their crimes, as in writing and selling books about those crimes. Should the court rule against this ban, on free speech grounds?

The writer of the LA Times editorial uses a bit of twisted logic in the statement – “” But if crush videos can be classified as obscene simply because a minuscule number of people find them sexually arousing, so can depictions of all sorts of behavior — including fictional violence. “”

What the writer doesn’t understand is that same twisted logic could have been applied to banning obscene videos across the board. Only a percentage of the population watches obscene videos. Does that mean the court should reverse its previous ruling because it could lead to a ban on fictional violence? – No.

It’s an illogical argument at best. We’re talking about engaging in torturous, violent acts against animals or people, that are illegal across the nation – and then distributing the videos of these criminal and violent acts.

We should also note that free speech is restricted in other areas. For example, you could not get away with handing out flyers spreading the lie that your neighbor is a serial killer or something worse. Distributing videos of violent, criminal acts against innocent people or animals is more extreme and obscene – criminally and morally.

Would the Supreme Court rule that selling videos of the executions of death-row inmates is covered under the First Amendment? Violent acts against people and animals are far worse – both criminally and morally.


4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Anne Voloshin on August 4, 2010 at 8:13 pm

    So the bottom line is, what are you proposing we do to get this passed?? You sound like an intelligent person who has researched this problem and yet you have not suggested what can be done? I will get many many signatures if you can come up with the correct submission to the courts. Please publish ASAP because the time is running out. Thanks.


    • Posted by Tom Grady on August 4, 2010 at 9:42 pm

      I’m not an attorney, so I’m not the one to submit the actual text to the Supreme Court.
      But I feel the law should be written to ban the distribution of videos depicting criminal acts of cruelty or torture against animals – or people. The exception might be, off the top of my head, for news outlets reporting on a crime being committed.
      It would seem to me that depictions of animal cruelty should serve as evidence of the crime, not as means for profit for the criminal.


  2. Posted by D Gary Grady on August 5, 2010 at 1:56 am

    A technical point: No law in the U.S. can prevent a criminal from writing a book or article about his or her crimes, no matter how horrific, or penalizes a publisher for publishing such a book. Any such law would be a clearly unconstitutional violation of the right of free speech and free press. However, there *are* laws that permit seizure of any advances or royalties paid to the criminal for such a book, either on behalf of the victims or the public at large.

    It’s true that there are some restrictions on freedom of speech and the press, but it’s dangerous and unwise to evoke this as an argument in favor of more restrictions, since it could just as easily be advanced to try to justify *any* restriction on free speech, even, say, a prohibition on saying bad things about greyhound racing. Freedom of speech and the press should be restricted only in very clear and narrow circumstances when there is genuine, clear, demonstrable harm that can’t otherwise be addressed. The classic example is falsely shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theater.

    It seems to me that depictions of horrific criminal acts such as child pornography and animal torture clearly are covered by that exception, and I suspect the Court will eventually agree provided a statute is sufficiently narrow.

    (On the other hand, the fact that the Supreme Court has a few times tolerated laws against the vague concept of “obscenity” — which it has never even clearly defined — doesn’t mean that it was right to do so. Such rulings were historically based on factual misconceptions and have in actual practice led to prosecutions of works that are now recognized as literary classics, e.g. by James Joyce.)


  3. Posted by Tom Grady on August 5, 2010 at 3:10 pm

    I guess the bottom line for me is – someone should not be able to commit a terrible crime such as the beating death of a child or animal, distribute the video of the crime and claim he is actions are in any way protected by the Constitution.
    If the person wants to talk about it or claim it’s okay to engage in these acts, I don’t like it but they should be to express these views. That is free speech.


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