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I believe very strongly in free speech, but it seems to me it needs to actually communicate something.  Hence, we don’t permit child porn and can punish it criminally.  We can prevent and punish obscenity, although that seems a losing cause what with the Internet.  But the US Supremes, by an 8-1 vote, have protected a video distributor that depicts egregious animal abuse as free speech. From the story:

The Supreme Court struck down a federal law Tuesday aimed at banning videos that show graphic violence against animals, saying it violates the right to free speech. The justices, voting 8-1, threw out the criminal conviction of Robert Stevens of Pittsville, Va., who was sentenced to three years in prison for videos he made about pit bull fights.

The law was enacted in 1999 to limit Internet sales of so-called crush videos, which appeal to a certain sexual fetish by showing women crushing to death small animals with their bare feet or high-heeled shoes. The videos virtually disappeared once the measure became law, the government argued. But Chief Justice John Roberts,Samuel Alito said the harm animals suffer in dogfights is enough to sustain the law. writing for the majority, said the law goes too far, suggesting that a measure limited to crush videos might be valid. In dissent, Justice Samuel Alito said the harm animals suffer in dogfights is enough to sustain the law.

I don’t understand setting a standard that creating and showing images of some abuse is okay, but not showing others.  I mean, why isn’t this akin to the laws of obscenity? The activity is illegal.  The depiction of it appeals to the prurient interest (not sexual, but the same idea) and it violates community standards.

Update: The Washington Post has more details:
The Supreme Court struck down a federal law Tuesday aimed at banning videos depicting graphic violence against animals, saying that it violates the constitutional right to free speech. Chief Justice John J. Roberts Jr., writing for an eight-member majority, said the law was overly broad and not allowed by the First Amendment. He rejected the government’s argument that whether certain categories of speech deserve constitutional protection depends on balancing the value of the speech against its societal costs. “The First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech does not extend only to categories of speech that survive an ad hoc balancing of relative social costs and benefits,” Roberts wrote. “The First Amendment itself reflects a judgment by the American people that the benefits of its restrictions on the Government outweigh the costs. Our Constitution forecloses any attempt to revise that judgment simply on the basis that some speech is not worth it.”

But I still think Alito has it right:
Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. was the lone dissenter. “The First Amendment protects freedom of speech, but it most certainly does not protect violent criminal conduct, even if engaged in for expressive purposes,” Alito wrote.

Perhaps I should rethink my position as I am on the same side as HSUS!

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