Last Tuesday the Supreme Court patted America on the back about its specialness, its sacred right of free speech, by striking down a law which prohibited the selling of “crush” videos where kittens and other small animals are stomped to death for the sadistic sexual satisfaction of, well, people who have a God-given right to sadistic sexual satisfaction and that most defended corollary American right — the right to make money off of it. The 8 to 1 majority decision is a straight up over broad interpretation of a very targeted law which let off the hook nearly every other kind of depiction of animal cruelty — hunting, slaughterhouses, bullfighting, etc. — as Justice Samuel Alito’s WTF! dissent makes obvious.
The case in question involved a man selling videos of dogfighting which, like the brutality in “crush” videos, is illegal in every state. However, the eight injustices weren’t interested enough to look at dogfighting on its own brutal “merits” and, instead, twisted themselves into knots trying to find a scenario where the law could be found “over broad.” They came up with a hypothetical someone in non-hunting Washington, DC (huh? — isn’t it always open season on Muslims there?) possessing a hunting video made in another state. However, even Congressional opponents of the 1999 bill (like Ron Paul) acknowledged that it didn’t apply to depictions of hunting. As Rep. McCollum said, ” The sale of depictions of legal activities, such as hunting and fishing, would not be illegal under this bill.” No matter, the human supremacist court majority wasn’t taking any chances.
Alito’s dissent made the point that “crush” videos are analogous to child pornography: the conduct that they depict has no redeeming social value, free speech does not protect violent criminal conduct and, without prohibiting the trade in these videos, the crimes depicted are almost impossible to investigate and prosecute. Here’s Alito citing the Humane Society of the United States brief:
But before the enactment of §48, the underlying conduct depicted in crush videos was nearly impossible to prosecute. These videos, which “often appeal to persons with a very specific sexual fetish,” were made in secret, generally without a live audience, and “the faces of the women inflicting the torture in the material often were not shown, nor could the location of the place where the cruelty was being inflicted or the date of the activity be ascertained from the depiction.” Thus, law enforcement authorities often were not able to identify the parties responsible for the torture. In the rare instances in which it was possible to identify and find the perpetrators, they “often were able to successfully assert as a defense that the State could not prove its jurisdiction over the place where the act occurred or that the actions depicted took place within the time specified in the State statute of limitations.”(“[I]t is the prosecutors from around this country, Federal prosecutors as well as State prosecutors, that have made an appeal to us for this”); (“If the production of the video is not discovered during the actual filming, then prosecution for the offense is virtually impossible without a cooperative eyewitness to the filming or an undercover police operation.”) In light of the practical problems thwarting the prosecution of the creators of crush videos under state animal cruelty laws, Congress concluded that the only effective way of stopping the underlying criminal conduct was to prohibit the commercial exploitation of the videos of that conduct. And Congress’ strategy appears to have been vindicated. We are told that “[b]y 2007, sponsors of §48 declared the crush video industry dead. Even overseas Websites shut down in the wake of §48.
Wow, a law that worked. A law that resulted in justice and prevented hideous torture and brutal killing. Well, we can’t have that.
And there’s a very good reason we can’t have that: it’s very important for the ruling class that the working class accept brutality, both of itself and other “lesser” beings. It’s also important for anyone climbing the greasy pole of American politics to prove their mettle by supporting the slaughter of innocents. It’s all the better if, like hunters Bush and Cheney, they actually get their hands bloody themselves. Before he was elected, all we had from His Barackness was the promise of killing people in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Now he’s made good on that, now he’s a “made” man. He can be trusted to make future “hard decisions” all across the globe.
So Alito did something highly suspicious for a Supreme Court Justice: he showed mercy to creatures who weren’t polluters, war criminals or bankers — and he did it in a way that linked protecting these creatures to protecting human children. This lapse clearly alarmed his fellow speciesist bigots on the court, especially Stompin’ John Roberts who wrote the majority opinion. And it contrasts with duck-hunting Justice Antonin Scalia who once again did not recuse himself because of his long-standing conflict of interest — that he’s a vicious bastard.
Now I’m not a lawyer so I can’t speak to all the issues in this case. But I am a revolutionary (i.e., I’m broke and I’m pissed off), so I’m able to say that the government always stands up for the nation’s sacred texts and founding myths as long as they don’t bother anyone in power. “Free speech” is trumpeted when it’s used to stomp on disenfranchised groups like kittens and hamsters or when it’s used to justify bankers buying more congress critters than they already own — see the recent Supreme Court decision on campaign financing. Capitalist law protects the ruling class, adjudicates disputes between ruling class thieves and sends the working class down long expensive dispiriting dead ends when the only true “redress” is revolution. And the Supreme Court is the oil that keeps the American capitalist juggernaut stable and running reliably.
The animal rights movement is no practical threat to the capitalist class, but it is a theoretical threat because it attempts to put a class of beings outside the bounds of who can be exploited — and that is dangerous and unacceptable. To paraphrase Animal Liberation Front founder Ronnie Lee, speaking at the end of Victor Schonfeld’s great documentary, “The Animals Film,” “The danger of animal liberation is that the working class might look around and say, ‘Maybe we should liberate ourselves from capitalism too.’ ”
And now it’s time for sensitive souls to look away, because I’d like to conclude with the written description of a “crush” video submitted by The Humane Society to the court so you can see the sadism and brutality that Stompin’ John and his smug cohorts have sentenced thousands of animals to in the days ahead, the horror that’s going on right now behind the walls of some anonymous house in an anonymous world of evil, where, when they hear you scream, it turns them on:
“[A] kitten, secured to the ground, watches and shrieks in pain as a woman thrusts her high-heeled shoe into its body, slams her heel into the kitten’s eye socket and mouth loudly fracturing its skull, and stomps repeatedly on the animal’s head. The kitten hemorrhages blood, screams blindly in pain, and is ultimately left dead in a moist pile of blood-soaked hair and bone.” Brief for Humane Society of United States as Amicus Curiae 2 (hereinafter Humane Society Brief).
The inspiration for this piece was a tweet of Salon’s Glenn Greenwald where he defended the court’s decision. Screw you, Glenn Greenwald, and your lofty liberal white bread apologetics, which don’t mean shit in the real world of “crush” videos and capitalism. ¥¥
(Randy Shields can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)