United States v. Stevens – Protecting Animals no Justification for First Amendment Amputation

Motari
I can sellz video?

INTRODUCTION

If there is one fixed star in our constitutional sky, it is that content-based restrictions on free expression are repugnant and almost never permissible. If we are to create new categories of unprotected speech, we should do so as if we were amputating a limb. As a man would certainly cut off his leg to save his life, he would not do so in order to avoid mere discomfort. Similarly, carving off a piece of the First Amendment should be a sacred act – and we should, as a society, receive such an overwhelming benefit from such constitutional amputations that we are willing to surrender not only the speech that such a new exclusion removes from the marketplace of ideas, but every bit of derivative speech, every thought that might emanate from it, and any collateral freedom that might also fall down the cliff as the slippery slope of censorship gets just that much steeper.

UNITED STATES v. STEVENS

In United States v. Stevens, __F.3d__ (3d. Cir. 2008), the federal government begged for judicial activism of the darkest order by requesting that the appeals court engage in constitutional amputation.

We have made this trade-off in the past to combat the scourge of child pornography, but truly no other category of speech has risen to the level that the courts have been willing to categorically place it outside the First Amendment without the application of reservations, safeguards, and multi-part tests. In rejecting the government’s case, the Third Circuit reaffirmed that the right to free expression is so sacred that even prevention of animal cruelty is not a sufficiently loathsome societal cancer to justify lopping off a slice of The First Amendment.

The case stemmed from a conviction of a rather unsavory fellow. Robert Stevens was convicted of selling dog-fighting videos. Aside from being a bit demented, doing so was a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 48. That law provides, in pertinent part:

Creation, Sale, or Possession.— Whoever knowingly creates, sells, or possesses a depiction of animal cruelty with the intention of placing that depiction in interstate or foreign commerce for commercial gain, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 5 years, or both.

Stevens’ lawyer, public defender Karen Gerlach, argued that Section 48 was an unconstitutional infringement upon free expression. The government countered that the prevention of cruelty to animals is a cause of such great importance that we should all give up a little bit of liberty in order to combat it. Although the Court did not accept this argument, the Court did not give mere lip service to the reprehensibility of cruelty to defenseless animals:

The acts of animal cruelty that form the predicate for § 48 are reprehensible, and indeed warrant strong legal sanctions. The Government is correct in arguing that animal cruelty should be the subject of not only condemnation but also prosecution. To this end, anti-animal cruelty statutes have been enacted in all fifty states and the District of Columbia. These statutes target the actual conduct that offends the sensibilities of most citizens. (source)

The Court noted that § 48 did not criminalize the conduct of being cruel to animals, but criminalized the “creation, sale, or possession of a depiction of animal cruelty. The Court also noted that any law prohibiting or regulating a depiction is obviously a law that must be examined under the fabric of The First Amendment.

THE GOVERNMENT SEEKS TO CREATE A NEW CATEGORY OF UNPROTECTED SPEECH

The government claimed that depictions of animal cruelty are categorically unprotected speech. Finding no support for this in existing law, the Bush administration sought the creation of a sparkling new category of unprotected speech. The Court held strong to the Constitutional principle that such requests are not granted lightly:

It has been two and a half decades since the Supreme Court last declared an entire category of speech unprotected. See New York v. Ferber, 458 U.S. 747 (1982) (holding that child pornography depicting actual children is not protected speech); see also Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition, 535 U.S. 234, 256 (2002) (refusing to recognize virtual child pornography as a category of unprotected speech). Other types of speech that are categorically unprotected include: fighting words, Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire, 315 U.S. 568 (1942), threats, Watts v. United States, 394 U.S. 705 (1969), speech that imminently incites illegal activity, Brandenburg v. Ohio, 395 U.S. 444 (1969), and obscenity, Miller v. California, 413 U.S. 15 (1973). The common theme among these cases is that the speech at issue constitutes a grave threat to human beings or, in the case of obscenity, appeals to the prurient interest. (source)

I question whether it is the proper function of the Court to declare that any category of speech falls outside the First Amendment. Nevertheless, Chaplinsky, Watts, & Brandenburg did not create a new category of unprotected speech – but simply recognized that the mere fact that an act involves words does not automatically mean that it is wrapped in the sacred cloth of the First Amendment. To invoke the quote most often used by those who would suppress free speech, yet who have very little understanding of The First Amendment, “The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic.” Schenck v. United States, 249 U.S. 47 (1919) (setting out the “clear and present danger” test). See also Giboney v. Empire Storage & Ice Co., 336 U.S. 490, 498 (1949) (“It rarely has been suggested that the constitutional freedom for speech and press extends its immunity to speech or writing used as a integral part of conduct in violaton of a valid criminal statute.”)

On the other hand, Ferber and Miller were the result of the Supreme Court short-cutting the Constitutional Amendment process by deciding that the First Amendment contains un-written limitations visible only to the justices. Miller seems incapable of application to forms of speech other than erotica, and every attempt to expand Miller has, blessedly, seemed to die an early death.

Ferber, on the other hand, seems to be the result of nothing more than the Court shoehorning the logic in Giboney into the context of child pornography due to the fact that we so universally condemn child porn.

The Third Circuit gives us a good explanation of why the result in Ferber is not such a bitter pill — even absolutists like me can swallow it. Child pornography is not merely a depiction of a crime. It is a category of expression in which the crime and the speech collapse into one another. Child pornography is sui generis and “is the only place in First Amendment law where the Supreme Court has accepted the idea that we can constitutionally criminalize the depiction of a crime.” U.S. v. Stevens at 19 (citing Amy Adler, Inverting the First Amendment, 149 U. Pa. L. Rev. 921, 970 (2001); See also Osborne v. Ohio, 495 U.S. 103, 144 n.18 (1990) (Brennan, J., dissenting)

For these reasons, we are unwilling to extend the rationale of Ferber beyond the regulation of child pornography without express direction from the Supreme Court. (source at 8)

I agree with Ferber’s general principle that an adult can not produce child pornography without abusing a child, therefore the expression and the crime merge. However, the Ferber Court completely skipped over the possibility that consenting 17 year olds could photograph one another, and yet would still be considered to be creating contraband child pornography. Nevertheless, given the fact that almost nobody would dare stand up for the right to disseminate child pornography, and given the right that even an absolutist (like myself) is willing to forego this one small bit of freedom in order to prevent wide-scale child abuse, Ferber has not been roundly criticized. As long as Courts exercise the kind of restraint that the Third exercised, even I will not find myself on the absolutist side of the Ferber divide.

In U.S. v. Stevens, the Third Circuit realized the gravity of wielding the Ferber blade. Although the Third does not condemn the doctrine of First Amendment amputations, the court expresses extreme discomfort with the process – even when the activism is in pursuit of a noble goal – and refuses to commit such a constitutional travesty on its own authority.

Without guidance from the Supreme Court, a lower federal court should hesitate before extending the logic of Ferber to other types of speech. The reasoning that supports Ferber has never been used to create whole categories of unprotected speech outside of the child pornography context. Furthermore, Ferber appears to be on the margin of the Supreme Court’s unprotected speech jurisprudence. Adler, supra, at 936 (noting that, aside from child pornography, “when the Court eliminates a category of expression from constitutional protection, it carefully defines the speech that can be banned; the definition then serves as a limit on legislative enactments”) (source)

Therefore, without discounting the seriousness of the crime of animal cruelty, and without condemning efforts to protect animals, the Third Circuit held that there was no support for the proposition that restriction of free speech rights in favor of animal protection is a compelling reason to leave part of the First Amendment on the cutting room floor.

DESENSITIZATION THEORY REJECTED

The most heartening part of the case is the court’s rejection of the desensitization theory. This frequent stated justification for censorship tells us that the type of disfavored speech desensitizes the viewer to the horrors depicted in the disfavored speech, therefore the speech must be banned lest it lead to bad thoughts and bad acts thereafter. For example, second-wave feminists still screech that viewing pornography desensitizes men to rape (even as their third wave successors have rejected this idiocy while embracing erotica). In Stevens, the government dusted off that theory and says that when we citizens view depictions of animal cruelty, we will be desensitized to it, and thus more likely to commit such acts.

The Third Circuit has a more enlightened view of human free will:

This reasoning is insufficient to override First Amendment protections for content-based speech restrictions. The Supreme Court has rejected a similar argument in the context of virtual child pornography, stating that [w]hile the Government asserts that the images can lead to actual instances of child abuse, the causal link is contingent and indirect. The harm does not necessarily follow from the speech, but depends upon some unquantified potential for subsequent criminal acts.” Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition, 535 U.S. at 250 (internal citation omitted). When balanced against First Amendment rights, the “mere tendency of speech to encourage unlawful acts is not a sufficient reason for banning it.” Id. at 253. The Supreme Court cannot speak more clearly than it has on this issue: “The prospect of crime . . . by itself does not justify laws suppressing protected speech.” Id. at 245. Similarly, general references to speech repugnant to public mores cannot serve as a compelling government interest sufficient to override constitutional protections of speech. See, e.g., United States v. Eichman, 496 U.S. 310, 319 (1990) (“If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the Government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.”) (citing Texas v. Johnson, 491 U.S. 397, 414 (1989)); United States v. Playboy Entm’t Group, Inc., 529 U.S. 803, 826 (2000)). (source at 27-28)

LOW VALUE SPEECH

Yet another common argument put forth by those who would suppress speech is that the speech is “low value speech.” Anti-capitalists have characterized advertising as “low value speech.” Atheists call religious speech “low value.” Social conservatives and critical gender theorists call pornography “low value speech,” and so on. Most who believe in equality would call racist speech “low value speech.” However, the notion of “low value” speech is a lie – it all depends on whose ox is being gored. “Low value speech,” is just code for “speech you don’t like.” Those who would prefer an America without a First Amendment always call speech they would rather not compete with in the marketplace of ideas “low value,” and thus use this as a justification for their calls for censorship.

Consider the example of the film Two Girls, One Cup (I can never resist a 2G1C reference). I would agree that a film of two girls defecating and vomiting on one another is speech with any great value, the manure of 2G1C has served as the soil from which an entire genre of comedy has spawned. See here and here – both safe for work. Once you’ve watched those, spend a few hours on YouTube watching 2G1C reaction videos. Perhaps 2G1C was of low value at the time it was made, but just like baseball cards, you never can tell which one will be worth something one day. See also goatse (look it up yourself) vs. The Unintentional Goatse. (Need I go on?)

The Third Circuit not only rejected the Bush administration’s argument that animal cruelty video is low value speech, but it hints that it would be very reluctant to paint any speech with such a label.

First, outside of patently offensive speech that appeals to the prurient interest, the First Amendment does not require speech to have serious value in order for it to fall under the First Amendment umbrella. What this view overlooks is the great spectrum between speech utterly without social value and high value speech. (source at 33)

THE DISSENT

The dissent in this case is intellectually lazy, intellectually dishonest, and constitutionally sloppy in taking the position that the First Amendment is a mere balancing test.

[T]he Supreme Court has consistently reaffirmed that the Government may, consistent with the Constitution, restrict certain types of speech when the social value of the speech is so minimal as to be plainly outweighed by the Government’s compelling interest in its regulation. See, e.g., Virginia v. Black, 538 U.S. 343, 358-59 (2003) (citing Chaplinsky, 315 U.S. at 571-72); R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul, 505 U.S. 377, 382-83 (1992) (quoting Chaplinsky, 315 U.S. at 572)… Because depictions of animal cruelty possess the integral characteristics of unprotected speech when considered under these precedents, we conclude that it escapes First Amendment protection.

The dissent is lying – plain and simple. Virginia v. Black did not hold what the dissent says it does — it holds that cross burning accompanied by an intent to intimidate or threaten is proscribable. R.A.V. was protective of free speech to such an extent that it invalidated a cross-burning statute, and reliance on Chaplinsky truly shows a spirit of desperation. See James L. Swanson, Unholy Fire: Cross Burning, Symbolic Speech, and the First Amendment: Virginia v. Black, 2003 CATO SUP. CT. REV. 81, 90 (2002-2003) (noting that “later precedents diluted the authority of Chaplinsky and, while the Court has never overruled it, Chaplinsky has certainly been marginalized“) (cited in majority and dissent).

The dissent seems overly fixated on the prevention of animal cruelty, rather than its proper function as arbiters of what is constitutionally permissible. At times, the dissent seems to wish to paint the majority as condoning cruelty to animals, rather than protective of its charge.

The dissent oversimplifies Miller v. California, claiming that:

[The] Supreme Court has made clear that a category of constitutionally unprotected speech may be regulated as long as the regulations do not extend to portions of speech within that category with “serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.” Miller v. California, 413 U.S. 15, 24 (1973).

And with that constitutional misstatement issued, the dissent returns to the simple balancing test which would, if allowed to run amok, render The First Amendment meaningless within 20 years as times change but judicial decisions linger on:

We find that section 48 outlaws depictions that “are no essential part of any exposition of ideas, and are of such slight social value as a step to truth that any benefit that may be derived from them is clearly outweighed by the social interest in order and morality.”

CONCLUSION

The “what about the puppies?” crowd, like the dissent, may paint this decision as a disaster for animal rights. For example, the L.A. Times reports that the decision is a “setback for the animal rights movement.” (source). No wonder the public is clueless when it comes to the First Amendment, when this is the way that a major newspaper leads into a landmark First Amendment case.

Animal cruelty is a horrible thing, and Mr. Stevens is not the kind of person I want anywhere near my family. Nevertheless, at the risk of losing my more conservative readers, I must invoke Noam Chomsky who said: If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all.

The Third Circuit was confronted with a politically difficult and constitutionally easy question. Fortunately, the majority remembered its oath of office, and upheld and defended the constitution against a domestic enemy rather than succumbing to the emotional plea to place yet another piece of asphalt on the road to hell.

75 Responses to United States v. Stevens – Protecting Animals no Justification for First Amendment Amputation

  1. hawkhead says:

    One thing I wonder about is the effect of the statute’s legislative history/intended purpose on the analysis here. As Eugene Volokh notes:

    The statute was enacted as an attempt to stop the distribution of so-called “crush videos,” which generally depict a woman’s legs and feet, often in high heels, stepping on insects, mice, or kittens; and it does indeed seem to cover such videos, assuming the relevant state law bars the underlying conduct (often yes as to killing kittens, often no as to killing insects). Don’t ask me why people would want to watch this stuff, but apparently some get their jollies this way.

    Now, Stevens’ videos certainly seem to fall outside this purpose, so I would think he’d win an as-applied challenge to the law. But is there at least a colorable argument to be made that, at least with respect to speech within the purpose of the statute, the law is constitutional because it only criminalizes speech that’s obscene, as crush videos are designed to appeal to certain sexual fetishes?

    Any thoughts?

  2. The whole “crush videos” issue is a red herring. If the genre exists at all, “Estimates vary, but it is believed that less than 2,000 people worldwide are participants or viewers of crush videos.” Source

    Don’t get drawn in by the salacious – it is there to serve as a distraction.

    But, lets pretend (like the federal government did) that this is really a sexual issue. Just because someone gets off on it doesn’t make it proscribable speech.

  3. hawkhead says:

    I didn’t realize it was less than 2000 worldwide. I would have to agree that that doesn’t come anywhere near justifying such a prohibition, when ordinary obscenity laws can probably take care of whatever problem there may be all by themselves, without needing a whole new exception to free speech to do it for them.

  4. I don’t think that the obscenity laws would apply – since there is no actual sexual activity taking place.

    However, the existing animal cruelty laws would apply — and handle the “problem” just fine.

    • sean says:

      While existing animal cruelty laws do provide a means to pursue the “participants” in these videos, it’s very easy for said participants to mutilate and torture their victims while remaining anonymous.

      If there are no consequences to _possessing_ or _selling_ videos with this type of content then it’s reasonable to predict that the market for crush/torture/execution videos will grow. Unfortunately there are so-called people on this Earth that will supply what the market wants – anonymously and therefore immune from existing animal cruelty laws.

  5. […] can’t come close to Prof. Marc Randazza’s spectacular analysis of the case, nor to Prof. Eugene Volokh’s summary, and shan’t try. I have just a couple of […]

  6. Mike says:

    I take it, then, that you oppose restrictions on child pornography.

  7. I take it that your reading comprehension skills leave much to be desired.

  8. Christopher Harbin says:

    “I take it that your reading comprehension skills leave much to be desired.”

    This is probably my favorite Randazza burn of all time. A+

  9. Donald Cleary says:

    Randazza states that, “It [child pornography] is a category of expression in which the crime and the speech collapse into one another.” If sex with children was legal, depictions of same might be objectionable to some, who might argue it was “low value speech”; but the collapse that Randazza describes would not have occurred. If animal cruelty and animal fighting are felonies, doesn’t this collapse take place in a live action crush video? Whether or not we act on that collapse, based upon Ferber, would depend on the value we placed on the lives and suffering of animals, would it not? Is there a threshold of the value we place on the lives of animals which, when crossed, would make crush videos subject to the Ferber standard?

  10. If animal cruelty and animal fighting are felonies, doesn’t this collapse take place in a live action crush video?

    No it doesn’t.

    First off, I find some problems with Ferber, but despite my absolutist tendencies, I’m prepared to give some ground in compromise. But, Ferber represents all the ground I am willing to give.

    Second, animal fighting and animal cruelty are not necessarily felonies. One could film a perfectly legal cock fight in San Juan, or a perfectly legal bullfight in Mexico, yet the film would then be contraband.

    Third, allowing Ferber to bleed past its heretofore well-maintained wall will now open the floodgates to all kinds of objectionable content. While Ferber remains a species unto itself, free speech remains well protected.

    Fourth, I’m not willing to yield free expression to prevent animal cruelty. Fuck animals. I don’t know what the animal rights crowd thinks the life of an animal is in the wild, but it isn’t all kittens playing with balls of yarn. The only reason that our cats don’t rip us to shreds, just for fun, is because we are bigger than them. Animal rights freaks need to be punched, repeatedly, in the genitals.

    • xemal says:

      As an animal rights “freak”, let me be the first to say: genital punching not cool! But relax: the courts are there so you don’t have to punch people in the genitals to protect your rights ;)

      Other than that little rant, I basically agree with your stance. I only saw a couple things in the third circuit court’s argument that could really be questioned without completely ignoring precedent.

      While I find what Stevens was peddling reprehensible, I’m not sure I see sufficient grounds for adding content based restrictions, and I couldn’t see the supreme court starting at animal cruelty anyway – the same would then have to extend to other crimes (although I can’t think of many with a similar market for videos that are as obviously horrible when viewed).

      It’s some consolation to think that depictions of dog-fighting probably aren’t anywhere near as profitable as the gambling it involves.

      It this law were upheld though, it might not signal the door blowing open on content based restrictions.
      It’s a very specific type of content AND action that’s being restricted. Although once that sort of thing gets in there, the government does tend to take as much as it can when it suits.

      And BTW, I certainly don’t think life in the wild is kittens and balls of yarn – but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try and do better when it comes to our own treatment of animals. That’s mostly what animal rights folks are about.

    • 1209111 says:

      Yea, we “animal rights freaks” are fully aware that animals have it harder in the wild.
      I’m agnostic, but for the sake of argument, I’ll say this, and hope you do believe in God.
      God gave you a fucking brain. He gave you the ability to seperate good from bad; right from wrong.
      Whether or not you choose to use it, that’s where the choice becomes yours.
      Do you think we ought to take some 7 year old girl’s pet dog, string it up, and beat the fuck out of it, dismember it?
      That’d be just fine?
      Yea. It’s not.
      That’s the right and wrong sense we have.
      We don’t HAVE to eat animals.
      Animals’ bodies have adapted to eating certain things to survive.
      So while yes, animals in the wild rip other animals to shreds, it’s different. They have no alternative, and they know nothing else.

      And as for the topic this is about, how is there even an argument that this isn’t wrong?
      Of course it is.
      What if I got off on killing humans?
      Does that mean I should record it and sell it to the other 5, maybe 6 people who genuinely get off on it?
      No, of course not.
      Just cause someone gets off doesn’t make it right.
      But, hell, this is a country that doesn’t protect animals such as chickens and turkey from being abused before cut up and cooked to be someone’s dinner, so why would they care?
      But it is still wrong that a poor animal should suffer so someone can dump their load on their keyboard.

    • Allow me to seem unconvinced. Child porn is consists of depictions of crimes, generally sexual battery. Animal cruelty videos are depictions of crimes, generally animal abuse.

      I’d agree that U.S. v. Stevens is correct, the First Amendment protects the animal cruelty videos. I’d also argue that Ferber is wrong, the First Amendment protects the child porn. In both porn and animal cases, I think the marketplace solution is probably best.

      Both child porn and animal abuse have to get past the “yuck” factor, and so are hard sells in the marketplace of ideas. Few people will support either the vendor of animal abuse or child porn.

      As well, in both cases, the producers of them are likely to run afoul of crusading prosecutors who would love nothing better than to prosecute the underlying crimes.

      And that is fine with me. I’d even be willing to see them prosecute the underlying crime in a video of a bank robbery. However, I cannot find anything in the First Amendment which excepts depictions of sex bat, animal cruelty, or bank robbery from the ambit of its protection.

      I will condemn the prosecutor who brings a case against the distributor of depictions of sex bat, animal cruelty, or bank robbery. At the same time, I will applaud the prosecutor who obtains convictions for acts of sex bat, animal cruelty, or bank robbery.

  11. Andrew says:

    This is what I understand from all of this. It’s considered legal to video tape acts of animal cruelty as long as it isn’t for profit.
    Now please do correct me if I’m wrong…

    Humans are mammals, correct?
    Mammals are animals, correct?

    A murderer could justify killing someone because he/she taped a killing for non-profit.

    Does that mean that the murderer could walk away freely because this could be considered as a loop hole in the legal system and freedom of speech act?

  12. jaide says:

    I honestly cant believe what iv just been reading on this site these people are sick and they should be shot! those poor animals! people like them make me sick to the pit of my stomach i hope they get whats comming to them its what they deserve and no less either! also theres no other word to discribe it just plain… EVIL. the devils spawn thats what they are.

  13. anon says:

    heaven forbid we prevent people from crushing helpless kittens with stilettos…

  14. Suzanna says:

    How have we come so far as to consider video, which is action, speech? Due to the law, beautiful as it is, our lives are more cerebral than heart-centered and we will fail until love is taught in our schools and ruled in our couts…it’s not arbitrary at all. Love is described in our bibles and dictionaries. If we tested against that standard, this world would have a better chance of not destroying itself.

  15. Shocking to think we are part of humanity and this is how much we have evolved in all these years. Please people get therapy for your problems. Don’t take it out on the animals. They have the right to exist in this world just like you do.

  16. anon says:

    A mother is put into a sack with her 4 children. The sack is tied up in a tree, and is beaten repeatedly with a baseball bat until both the mother and children have many broken bones, and are very close to death. The sack is then left in the tree, with them in it, so they can lie there in agony. The mother listening to her children whimpering in pain, while she’s unable to do anything to protect them.

    Are you disgusted by this? You should be. This happened to a mother cat and her 4 kittens. They were found several days after the beating happened, and the injuries were so severe that the mother and her 2 surviving kittens had to be put down immediately. Unfortunately they never found the sick, sadistic freak that did this.

    If you think that making a video of this isn’t just as despicable, and should be made illegal, then you are supporting their actions. Just like not preventing a murder from occuring is counted as assisting in it, not preventing videos of this despicable act is encouraging it.

    Randazza, as a human being, I am thoroughly disgusted and ashamed of you.

  17. rob skolik says:

    If I ever see anyone crushing a animal or putting them in sacks and beating on them, I will beat that person with a bat. If the asshole happens to die, I’ll sleep like a baby that night

  18. I do not believe the question is whether we approve of the beating of mom cat and kittens. The views here seem to be pretty uniformly opposed. I doubt that you would find many who object to prosecution of the person who did it.

    The debatable item is simply whether we want to regulate the evidence, which is to say, the video. I do not think you can legitimately do that. There is nothing in the First Amendment which excepts material of which we disapprove.

  19. Bambam says:

    Why the hell should you sick people get away with hurting animals sorry what have they done to you my dog is like my daughter to me i could never hurt her i cant see how people enjoy hurtin animals its sick and twisted you people realy need some help and to be quit frank i would love to batter you and see if you enjoyed what you put them poor defensless animals through!!

  20. Ashley says:

    I don’t care if it’s only 2000 ppl worldwide, stop it now before any more poor animals are tortured.. I watched one video for 8 seconds and saw a puppy get it’s eye punctured by a highheel… and i nearly vomited.. that’s disgusting and those ppl should be held reponsible…and anyone else who thinks different is just as messed up.

  21. omid says:

    hello,

    i want ask a question:how can i download clips movies about the crushing small animals or torture animals? please introduce me websites, thanks so much.

  22. i think the crush videos should be banned and any one that is cruel to animals should be convicted. Know one has the right to do disgusting acts that have done in the crush video’s. why would you over turn a law that has protected living animals from vicious acts to them causing pain before death. If people think they can hurt animals like this why do they not hurt people. Eventually it will get worse they might. Just because we are at the top of the food chain doesn’t mean we can start playing GOD!

  23. ANGRY-MAN says:

    i think they should throw these people in a dustbin and wait for the dustmen to come and crush them in the big crusher thing an show them what it feels like

  24. […] But, there is a wing of the animal rights movement that is populated by tinfoil hat shitheads. They discovered this post: United States v. Stevens – Protecting Animals no Justification for First Amendment Amputation. […]

  25. elbastardo66 says:

    Wow, I am truly amazed that this is even argued at all.

    Has the first amendment not received enough abuse. This is a legal loophole, no ifs ands or buts, when someone commits a crime specifically for the sake of filming said crime, I don’t really see how that is protectable by any stretch of the imagination. You have to commit a crime to create the speech.

    As for the argument of cockfighting in San Juan, and bullfighting in Mexico, the same could be used for child pornography. I am sure there is some backwaters country that doesn’t have the same restrictions we have here in the US, so the “it’s legal somewhere” argument is just stupid.

    As for only “animal rights idiots” being for the censorship of blatant cruelty to animals. I am sick of that argument as well. I am not an animal rights nut. I eat meat, and lots of it. I have no real problems with animal testing, as long is it is for medical research, whereas for cosmetics I don’t agree with. Hell, I even wear leather. Needless cruelty in the pursuit of those ends, I am against. Peta, in and of themselves, I find to be reprehensible. Putting the welfare of animals ahead of the welfare of people I can never agree with. People who use the “look at how they treat each other in the wild” argument need to look at how they actually treat each other in the wild. They don’t needlessly kill each other in as cruel a fashion possible, just for the sake of killing them, for the sake of profit, in the wild. If you watch most animals in the wild, they kill as fast as possible, lest their prey get away, or worse alert other predators that they are around.

    This is not freedom of expression, to argue that it is is nonsensical. What they are “expressing” is a criminal act, it is illegal. It isn’t “low speech”. “Crush” films are just “snuff” films with animals instead of people. Try making one of those and then arguing free speech. As far as regulating evidence of a crime, they regulate evidence all the time. this isn’t an argument about regulating evidence, it is an argument about free speech. The speech is criminal, immaterial of the medium.

  26. I believe freedom ends where it infringes on another’s freedom to NOT be crushed to death or be tortured. I am not against these crush videos only because i am an animal rights’nutter’ but also because i am against child pornography, snuff and the rest of the perverse tastes of mankind. Hey, if adult consenting adults want to film their consenting sexual actions, that’s fine by me..but when we overstep our line and FORCE animals,children,people to do things and get tortured, i will join the fight in putting a stop to it.I and many others(both AR activists and non-ARActivists)are sick and tired of the excuses and the blatant disrepect and cruelty our species subjects humans, animals, etc… to. WE HAVE HAD ENOUGH…so please help us ban these crush videos once and for all.Thank you.And bye the way, whoever chooses to respond to me, please do not insult me or call me names. That would be a childish way to express your opinion..and would not be relevant to what we are discussing here.

  27. Lori says:

    According to Psychology torturing and or killing animals as a child are signs of a major mental disorder and in many cases the children grow up to be serial killers!!!!!!!! So obviously the people making these crush videos are extremely mentally disturbed and need to be sedated and locked in a straight jacket. Or my philosophy is someone finds out where these people (making the crush videos) stay and someone can make a video of them getting their heads crushed. I’m sure there will not be a shortage of volunteers willing too crush the makers behind the video’s head!!!!

  28. Kristynn says:

    This is GROSS and wrong!! It should be stopped now… this is not freedom of speech it is just wrong. How could you actually believe this is how someone would want to express themselves that is perfectly mentally healthy. These video’s are signs that this world is falling apart for they are accepted. Sexual act’s with animals are even more sick and really that is not a sane way of expressing yourself. I am truly discussed and heart broken because I cannot believe that this is actually happening in our world and is approved of as freedom of speech.

  29. Rob says:

    My God what is happening to our World and Humanity when such cruelty sickness and depravity is allowed with Mans APPROVAL, under the guise of free speech

    • B says:

      Agreed. There is no justification for this. It has nothing to do with the Constitution. It gives you the right to free speech, not free action, and this is an action that deserves to be restricted.

  30. Courtney says:

    I don’t think the writers had animal crush videos in mind when creating the Constitution. This isn’t freedom of speech, this is just an excuse to kill an animal simply because you can. You can sit here and bawww “well the animal would kill me too!” But it wouldn’t strap on a pair of high heels and crush you. It wouldn’t even think to, even if it could wear high heels. An animal would kill a person for two reasons: food and defense. The only creatures sick enough to kill and torture for pleasure are humans. It’s not an instinct, and it’s not a necessity. It’s just depravity and perversion. And people complain about gay people…

  31. Thomas Condon says:

    Animal Crush videos are EVIL. They will have to deal with it ,or me …..come find me….I will show you. You are fucked up and EVIL. Just think about those lives and feelings. If you don’t have any then that explaines it.
    You will answer some day.

  32. EP says:

    Ooh, I love it when he chooses to respond only to the inane replies, leaving the more serious ones (elbastardo (poor name choice)) unacknowledged. Pick your battles, and make sure you win them easily. That’s so manly!

  33. EP says:

    Also, resorting to name-calling is a surefire way to be persuasive in the face of opposition! Looks like those years in higher education didn’t amount to much.

  34. mikeydogs says:

    You all have to stop calling each other names. Doesn’t help your argument. Stevens didn’t fight dogs to make these videos, he acquired them from being in the dog world, dog shows,dog trials etc. Found out about them and then marketed them. What nobody seems to understand is that when the American Pitbull Terrier is bred for fighting nobody makes them fight. They are just what they are, “Fighting Dogs”. I have found out from a lot of reading that a fight to the death almost never happens. One dog just quits and thats the end of the fight. What some people do to the dog after he quits should be and is against the law. Legally and morally. I know a whole lot of people will think that this blog is “sick” but it is reality. Go to sleep tonight and sleep well even though there will be dog fights in every state in this Country and every Country in the World. Check out UTUBE dog fights in Afganistan and all the other countries. Sorry, but it just exists and always will.

  35. Donald says:

    Mikeydog: Whatever the Court decides re Stevens, “bred for fighting” is not an accurate description of the dogs in fight yards. Also, fights to the death do happen more frequently than you characterize. In addition to fights to the death, losing owners do kill their dogs. Whether the dog dies in the pit or is later killed by his handler, that constitutes “to the death.” Also, notwithstanding the fact that many different kinds of dogs are fought in many different parts of the world, pit or ring fighting is not a behavior found in nature. Human beings must exert tremendous pressure to get dogs that will do it, not all dogs theoretically “bred” for this purpose will do it, and without that pressure, the behaviors associated with fighting in a pit will quickly fall away. Further, the pressure comes not just from what we are calling breeding. It demands intense environmental pressure, exerted by handlers. Dogs rescued from fight yards across the country have regularly impressed their evaluators with their stability and human friendliness. Many go on to live with other animals, as well.

    The dogs law enforcement finds in fight yards are not a clear and coherent group of animals. Their genetics are usually unknown, as is their role in the yard (i.e. are they contestants, are they bait, are they breeding partners?)

    “Bred for fighting,” is an incorrect term that assignes responsibility where it does not belong.

  36. mikeydogs says:

    Sorry, but “game bred” means dogs that are proven “game”, bred to dogs that are proven “game”, means hopefully you will get a game dog. If your dog quits, you lose. No deaths. Almost all of the time. LIke I said and you repeated some bad people do something else. American Pitbull Terriers are fought in every country in the World. Some, and I mean only a couple of other breeds of dogs are fought in the world. Japan, Korea, some middle east countries use other breed of dogs, and even in those countries they also use American Pitbull Terriers. But, and I mean but, they have different rules for those breeds and the fights are much, and I mean, much shorter. The rules are very different. But you don’t know that. No discussion can be held if we don’t know what is exactly takeing place. I never been in combat, that is why I never comment on war, except that War is hell, and thank God i’m not there. A lot of people talk and argue about war and they have no idea what they are talking about and so with dog fighting.
    Knowlege is freeing.

    Gog Bless, mikeydogs

  37. mikeydogs says:

    Sorry, but “game bred” means dogs that are proven “game”, bred to dogs that are proven “game”, means hopefully you will get a game dog. If your dog quits, you lose. No deaths. Almost all of the time. LIke I said and you repeated some bad people do something else. American Pitbull Terriers are fought in every country in the World. Some, and I mean only a couple of other breeds of dogs are fought in the world. Japan, Korea, some middle east countries use other breed of dogs, and even in those countries they also use American Pitbull Terriers. But, and I mean but, they have different rules for those breeds and the fights are much, and I mean, much shorter. The rules are very different. But you don’t know that. No discussion can be held if we don’t know what is exactly takeing place. I have never been in combat, that is why I never comment on war, except that War is hell, and thank God I’m not there. A lot of people talk and argue about war and they have no idea what they are talking about and so with dog fighting.
    Knowlege is freeing.

    Gog Bless, mikeydogs

  38. mikeydogs says:

    Sorry, but “game bred” means dogs that are proven “game”, bred to dogs that are proven “game”, means hopefully you will get a game dog. If your dog quits, you lose. No deaths. This is what happens almost all of the time. LIke I said,and you repeated some bad people do something else. American Pitbull Terriers are fought in every country in the World. Some, and I mean only a couple of other breeds of dogs are fought in the world. Japan, Korea, some middle east countries use other breed of dogs, and even in those countries they also use American Pitbull Terriers. But, and I mean but, they have different rules for those breeds and the fights are much, and I mean, much shorter. The rules are very different. Because most breeds of dogs won’t fight except for a brief moment. But you don’t know that. No discussion can be held if we don’t know what is exactly taking place. I have never been in combat, that is why I never comment on war, except that War is hell, and thank God I’m not there. A lot of people talk and argue about war and they have no idea what they are talking about,and so with dog fighting.
    Knowlege is freeing.

    Gog Bless, mikeydogs

  39. mikeydogs says:

    Sorry, but “game bred” means dogs that are proven “game”, bred to dogs that are proven “game”, means hopefully you will get a game dog. If your dog quits, you lose. No deaths. This is what happens almost all of the time. LIke I said,and you repeated some bad people do something else. American Pitbull Terriers are fought in every country in the World. Some, and I mean only a couple of other breeds of dogs are fought in the world. Japan, Korea, some middle east countries use other breeds of dogs, and even in those countries they also use American Pitbull Terriers. But, and I mean but, they have different rules for those breeds and the fights are much, and I mean, much shorter. The rules are very different. Because most breeds of dogs won’t fight except for a brief moment. But you don’t know that. No discussion can be held if we don’t know what is exactly taking place. I have never been in combat, that is why I never comment on war, except that War is hell, and thank God I’m not there. A lot of people talk and argue about war and they have no idea what they are talking about,and so with dog fighting.
    Knowlege is freeing.

    Gog Bless, mikeydogs

  40. mikeydogs says:

    I really didn’t read all of your reply. Dogs in fight yards are lines of dogs that all of their family is known, for many generations. You cannot, and everybody knows this in less you are not dealing with reality is that it all has to do with breeding. If you breed a retriever that doen’t retrieve to a retriever that does’t bretrieve you will get a retrieve taht does’t retrieve. I f you breed a thorough bred that doesn’ compete to a thorought bred that doesn’t compeat you will get thorough breds that don’t compete. Same with fighting dogs. I’m sorry to sat this but byou have been brainwashed

  41. James says:

    Some people argue that dog fighting is no more cruel than horse racing, and less cruel than coon hunting. Whether you agree or not, those people have the right to make their arguement, and these videos are a part of it. To make them illegal would be the equivalent of a Nazi book burning.

  42. James says:

    Animals, including dogs, are not the same as children. Therefore, they do not deserve the same protection under the law. We kill and eat animals. This is not acceptable for children. Yes, some people eat dogs too.

  43. mikeydogs says:

    Wow, who would of thought there would be some free thinking people out there. Maybe we’ll survive after all.

  44. Marla says:

    I beleive this comes down to compassion. It’s a question of moral and ethical values that we inherently instill. There is an a priori to the endeavours that people seem to place on their lives as being of greater value to anything else that exists. It is a hubris to believe that humans are more important than other life forms. Period.
    This is not a question of Free Speech. Crushing animals under the spikey heels of women so that others can gain sexual arousal from it, is not a First Amendment Right. It is a sickness.
    How we treat our animals is a reflection of how that society functions as a whole.
    It is misleading, I believe, in many of your thougths concerning this nature, but then I have discovered that many people who have no compassion alive in them, often have no feelings for those that suffer. Ergo, we have what we are witnessing today.
    What we have here, are people that choose to take life and will stop at nothing to acquire that (those that like to shroud their blood lust under the guise of “hunters”), even if it means, having sexual perversions readily available to be sold on video.
    I happen to know hunters, I happen to know people in the NRA, and even they are against what your comments and page are expousing.
    I volunteer with sick kids, and let me tell you something about the human race. I have seen sick children WAITING for their family to come, and when they do, some are too busy talking on their cell phones to take much notice of their kids. I see the lostness in their eyes and, when volunteeras bring in the animals for the kids to play with. Well. THese animals brighten their whole day.
    So before you condemn other species because they are not “human”, and not worthy of life unless you deem them to be so, I can honestly say, I have never seen an animal knock off a bank, or a Circle K, or beat up an old lady just to get her purse.
    No. Those are “human” traits. Gee. Aren’t you proud of that?

  45. RonJeremy says:

    Robert Stevens did not sell ANY crush videos. Only dog fighting videos. Incest, carpography, desire to eat and roll around in rotten, maggot filled carcasses, cannibalism, those are “animal” traits. Gee aren’t you proud of that? If you don’t believe that there is a difference in an animal and a human being, then you are FAR more disturbed than even the perverts envolved in these crush videos.

  46. EP says:

    Of course there are differences, mostly borne of our larger brains, does that make us superior? Are we masters and animals slaves to be tortured? What about children with autism or other mental handicaps? They might not function near our level, are different from us in some sense, yet we don’t argue about crush videos involving them.

  47. RonJeremy says:

    Once again, there were no crush videos involved in US vs Robert Stevens. Also, once again, you are comparing children to animals. The killing and eating of animals is acceptable. The killing and eating of children is most certainly not. There is a monumental difference, and if you can’t see it, you have VERY serious mental issues, and you should NEVER be allowed to be around children.

  48. EP says:

    I’m not comparing children to animals. I’m saying that we consider animals very different from people, because of the things we can create, our functionality, memories, etc. Less capable individuals with certain handicaps don’t have all of these things going for them, yet we still recognize their worth and respect their existence and right to live and not be tortured. We kill animals to eat them. Make it quick, painless, humane, and not a waste. Otherwise, “you have VERY serious mental issues”.

  49. RonJeremy says:

    So, its not all children that are the same as animals, just handicapped children? WTF? And now you say it IS ok to kill animals? Robert Stevens did not torture any animals, and the prosecution is not even accusing him of that. That said, you must agree with me that his conviction should be overturned as he is asking the court to reaffirm, correct?

  50. EP says:

    Stop putting words in my mouth and take your foot out of yours. :-)

  51. EP says:

    Learn to read, spell, and understand the fundamentals of logic ^^

  52. RonJeremy says:

    Stop resorting to personal attacks and stay on the issue. Did you even bother to notice that NO ONE is accusing Robert Stevens of torturing of killing an animal? Who tortured an animal? That is reprehensible. You don’t even know what the issue is here do you? You just want to come on here and beat your self righteous breast so you can feel good about yourself. Or, are YOU accusing Robert Stevens of torturing animals, even though no one else has?

  53. RonJeremy says:

    By the way EP, believing everything you see on tv without question, does not constitute logic. Ray Charles could see that is what you have done here.

  54. mikeydogs says:

    Again, thank God for people like Ron Jeremy. He sees the issue. Ep, who knows what she is talking about. I understand her many different issues, but they have nothing to do with the case. It’s just her feelings without ANY FACTS. That is who is leading us right now. That way of looking at things.

  55. Mac Myers says:

    I am a 51 year old, ACLU supporting, registered independent, white guy who has in every case, always come down on the side of free speech… until now. Committing a criminal act, video taping said act, and selling it to defective individuals for sexual gratification is not free speech. It’s illegal torture porn. Possession of illegal porn is a crime. So overturn the ruling on free speech terms if you must. Then arrest that greedy, defective, piece of human detritus and throw the book at him for distributing crush porn. Free Speech my fanny.
    Personally, this is the first time I’m willing to start the slide down the slippery slope. I’d also like to meet with Mr Stevens, film the meeting, and then sell it under the guise of Free Speech. For my own personal (non deviant, non sexual)gratification.

    • Mac,

      I’m not sure you understand the case, nor the facts of the case. Mr. Stevens didn’t do a thing to an animal, he just sold videos of dogs fighting.

      As far as the “crush videos” go, that’s a straw man. I challenge you to find a REAL crush video anywhere.

  56. RonJeremy says:

    Lay off the booze Mac, and read the facts before you make you self look so utterly foolish. You didn’t read article past the title or any of the comments following did you?

  57. mikeydogs says:

    Mac, it’s always the same. You support free speech until you don’t like it, then you want to ban it. Stop calling people names it only shows who you are. Stevens didn’t fight dogs, he didn’t even film the fights. He bought the films and then sold them to people who wanted to see what it was all about. I’m sure some people were excited to see the fights, but that is not what the trial is about.

  58. […] Globe Editorial on U.S. v. Stevens The Boston Globe’s editorial staff has weighed in on U.S. v. Stevens. No big surprise that a newspaper thinks that we ought to preserve the First […]

  59. alexbeauchard says:

    In the words of Jake Gittes, you’re right. When you’re right, you’re right, and you’re right.

  60. […] Related blog post and another, and another posting around the web Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)how everything is connected Published in: […]

  61. […] First Amendment!!! Free speech wins 8-1. The reasons for my joy are pretty clearly laid out here in a prior post on the case. The Government contends that “historical evidence” about the […]

  62. […] important victory for free speech.  The Legal Satyricon also has posts worth checking out here and here. […]

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