Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Don't Govern Me!

First of all, I'm going to start off with something completely unrelated to my topic for the day.  I am sooo soo excited because the Stater (on-campus newspaper) is looking for columnists for next fall, and I have been thinking lately about how I'd really love to do a column in the paper.  And now I have a chance!  All I have to do is submit a 500 word sample before Monday, along with a resume, and short note (and by e-mail too, so no scary interview - at least yet).  I cannot say how excited I am about this.  And I soo hope I can do it!!

Okay!  Now back to the topic at hand.  I was reading USA Today during my break this morning and came across yet another article about a Supreme Court case.  And yes, I am miffed about this one, too!  Here's the gist of the article.  The Court was ruling on a law which was "used to prosecute a Virginia man who advertised videos of dogfights" and which "covered 'any depiction' in which 'a living animal is intentionally maimed, mutilated, tortured, wounded or killed.'"  The Court voted 8-1 against the law, saying it was written "too broadly, potentially covering hunting and other activities that would not always be deemed cruel."  That's fair.  I'm not upset about this because it's a logical argument, and the Court's opinion "invites Congress to craft a law targeting only 'crush videos'" which they explain "typically show women's heels digging into small animals."  I agree that the law was too broad and the language should be narrowed, but read what comes next.

Okay, here's the juicy part.  USA Today describes the opinion, written by Chief Justice Roberts, as a "forceful, often derisive, rejection of the government's arguments."  Roberts even described them as "'startling and dangerous.'"  I don't see how this law warrants that kind of a reaction.  How is it dangerous?  Or startling?  The law was crafted for the protection of animals, and that's not exactly an unworthy cause.  Think of young, angry boys (or girls, perhaps) watching videos of someone that they look up to who mistreats animals.  Those little boys are going to go out and do the same thing.  (And as a side note, it's actually a symptom of conversion disorder, which is often later diagnosed as a more serious psychological disorder).  We all emulate those we want to be like.  So yeah, I see a problem here.

It gets better!  Roberts also gives us this little gem, "'Our Constitution forecloses any attempt,' he wrote, to outlaw speech on the basis that it simply 'is not worth it.'"  He also called the law "'a criminal prohibition of alarming breadth.'"  Uh, don't you get the feeling that he's going a little far.  Like the people who wrote the legislation were purposefully trying to take any rights they could get away from the American people?  Um, yeah, everyone knows that elected officials undergo a werewolf-like change as soon as they enter office, becoming tyrannical overlords of the type that spend the majority of their time practicing their evil laughs, rather than leading the country, right?  Or am I getting this all jumbled up...

There are just too many people today who are trying their hardest to paint the government as some Big Brother type organization constantly scheming up new ways to screw over the American people.  And yes, a lot of politicians are corrupt, but a lot of other ones are just trying their hardest to make the country a better place and a more equal place.  I won't get started on this, though, because I could write a whole other post.  Back to the point!

The Virginia man from whom this whole debacle originated, says that he was selling the dogfight videos for education on pit bulls, not the promotion of illegal dogfighting.  And yes, that argument makes little sense at all.  I will concede that the government came back with the weak argument that "prosecutors would go after only the most 'extreme' cruelty."  There is just no way to ensure that, and the weak language of the law could be used abusively.  But this is my favorite part!  Stevens then said, "'Not to worry, the government says... But the First Amendment protects against the government:  it does not leave us at the mercy of noblesse oblige.'"

Shock!  Awe!  What did he just say?  Yes, he said the government is trying to practice their noblesse oblige on us.  Um, wait, isn't noblesse oblige a reference to the 19th century French concept of the king's right to take whatever woman he wants, regardless of her marital status?  Yeah, I can imagine you smacking your forehead right now, too!  

The only dissenting justice said in support of the law, that "the court could have upheld the law to cover only crush videos and dogfighting videos."  Okay, so why didn't that do this?  Maybe I don't understand court rulings that well, but I've had some exposure to how the process works, and the judicial branch was given rights to effect legislation through their rulings.  So it really shouldn't have been a problem to specify the reach of the law or at the very least recommend changes to the language of the legislation.

Other arguments in favor of this ruling:  "'The mere fact that speech is offensive doesn't justify banning it.'"  Even though it was mentioned earlier in the article that the Supreme Court has approved stipulations to First Amendment rights regarding obscenity.  That's why you can't swear on television.  And that's offensive, but it doesn't really cause little kids to go out and kill other living animals.  Also, "'We don't say we're only going to allow speech when it has social value or speech that we all agree with.'"  Okay, well this is different.  Because it has to do with actual lives.  Living animals.  Who are tortured and killed for entertainment.  And it is wrong. So I sincerely hope that a new law is passed, with more specific language, that can protect harmless animals from being abused for others entertainment.  

Maybe the Virginia guy had a good, albeit twisted, intention for his videos.  But does that give him the right to exploit dogfights?  Some people have huge gambling problems connected to dogfights and thousands of dogs are killed through this "sport" every year.  Maybe he was trying to raise awareness about the problem, I don't know.  But the real issue here is the ridiculous, hostile, and, honestly, infantile language given by the Chief Justice, and I'm sure, other members of the Court.  The law was created to protect animals and stop the spread of violent videos depicting animal cruelty.  I agree that the language needs to be tweaked, but the essence of the law is benevolent.  And a simple, 'the language of this law needs to be narrowed and specified,' would have sufficed.


Anonymous said...

I agree, the language really does need to be specified. especially since one of those sports stars that you were talking about in the above post was sent to jail for hosting dog fights i believe... if it is wrong to host one, why would it not be wrong to advertise them?

also, i would really like this to be changed because of those poor dogs who never did anything to deserve this terrible kind of maltreatment. poor dogs!

Christen said...

And I didn't even touch on the problem of puppy mills in this post. I'll have to do some more research on them before I write about the subject, but look for it in upcoming posts!

Another thought: I don't agree with people who say animals are just as important as humans. And I don't mean that in a disrespectful way. I just believe that humans are different - we have culture, language, deep emotions and psychological layers. Things that set us apart from all other animals, and those things need to be tended to in a different way. But I am definitely against animal cruelty and believe that no living creature should be abused, killed, or made to suffer for no reason other than someone's sick, sadistic wishes.