Friday, October 9, 2009

Gotta Crush 'Em All

What a time to be alive! If history has taught me anything, it’s that those poor folks in the past got a raw deal. Nowadays, crime is down, we’ve pretty much got the black plague licked, and we get to keep all our teeth! Yes, truly, it’s a wonderful time to be a living breathing whatever.

Unless you’re a furry little varmint, of course.

The Supreme Count in America has recently begun hearing an animal cruelty case, concerning not the actual act of cruelty, but its depiction and distribution as video. The case revolves around Robert Stevens, a man who was convicted and sentenced to over three years in prison for making what he calls “educational videos” of the dos and don’t of dogs fighting, which include footage of dogs viciously mauling each other and tearing into other animals such as wild boars. How this is “educational” is obvious: It educates us to STAY THE HECK AWAY FROM THOSE DOGS.

What makes this case so peculiar is that Stevens' videos were snagged not for anything specific to them, but because they fell into a range of products made illegal by a statute in congress which was meant for something else altogether - to counter the growing culture of “crush videos” found online.

Not this. But close.

If you’re one of the many people who have yet to hear about crush videos, this can be your little choose-your-own-adventure moment right here. Do you really want to know another way that people are depraved and disgusting on the internet? You know, just to round off your growing despair in humanity? Or would you rather just have a nice day today – maybe go for a walk, see the autumn colors, enjoy your life. If so, I suggest leaving now. I don’t want to ruin your day, and things are about to get hinky.



Are they gone? Okay. Now it’s just me and the perverts. A crush video is like the meeting of Rule #34, and Looney Tunes. Specifically, it is the depiction of nice-looking-ladies killing nice-looking-animals with their nice-looking-feet. This of course is confusing to that percentage of the population that has a fetish for nice-looking-ladies doing anything at all. Why not playing video games, or having an ice cream fight, or wrestling in a giant vat of spaghetti? You know. Normal stuff.

For the brave of heart, I’ve found a crush video online and will link it here, even at the threat of my own safety and liberty.

Huh. That wasn’t so bad. The U. S. Supreme Court seems to agree – discussion of what could and could not be in these videos ranged wildly, since the current statute protects any video depicting animal harm that has "religious, political, scientific, educational, journalistic, historical, or artistic value." Thus bullfighting is in, due to Spain’s rich cultural heritage of killing angry cows after psyching them out a bunch. Scientists are free to video their horrible experiments involving manimals, then hide them deep within their underground laboratories because the world is not ready to know. The ‘religions’ angle is an interesting one as well: By this criterion, I could videotape my sacrificing a goat to Mammon, but not to my neighbor Barry. As if that’ll get him to stop asking, right?

Barry demands blooood.

Because here’s the tricky spot: You know what else has no "religious, political, scientific, educational, journalistic, historical, or artistic value?" Ninety-five percent of the Internet. For the occasional beacon of civilized, rational discourse, there’s a lot of just… stuff. This isn’t necessarily an indictment of value: Yes, in the best of all possible worlds, the Internet is a communal project designed to index and resource the whole of human culture. But until that happens, it’s a handy place to keep our .jpgs of cats saying funny words.

You can see the wispy chemtrails of the logic: Don’t post videos of animal killing, unless it has "value," by which we mean all the normal kinds of animal cruelty like huntin’, fishin’ and goat-sacrificin.’ Those have precedent, and are okay. Put simply: Sure, have your fun. But just don’t be weird about it.

Many justices on the court jumped at the chance to gnaw on this bone, taking their time to outline the vacuity of the statute through a series of fanciful hypotheticals. The transcript is here, and Dahlia Lithwick presents a breakdown over at Slate. Questions ranged from the innocent to the forcefully absurd: Who decides if something has artistic merit? Is there a difference between cockfighting, dog fighting and bull fighting? What about hunting out of season? What about dressing up like a Roman and killing a lion out of “historical value?” What about people-fighting? What about people-fighting to the death in a gladiatorial pit and aired live to screaming fans via pay-per-view in a dystopian future in which Violence. Is All. We. KNOW.

Let's hope so. For all our sakes.

This is not a joke. This is Justice Alito, testing the bounds on which a government is allowed to censor and censure depiction. And It raises some interesting questions: If our mediated age marries content to its representative fact, how prepared are we to chase after the one and not the other? Yes, it may be easier to crack down on these disgusting videos rather than track down the people actually doing the stomping – but to what end? Is our responsibility towards policing an image, a way of looking at ourselves… or are we truly interested that people behave decently, even to the least of us? Is this about enforcing decency, or the appearance of decency? Last I checked, there is a great word for people who do their best to look decent while behaving despicably.

That word is “hypocrite.”

1 comment:

  1. I always thought the word was "douchepig", but I guess hypocrite will do. You can always count on humans to do two things: to act in accordance with their own lack of insight, and be lazy while doing it. I guess the supreme court is no different than anyone else. Now I'm off to my furrie covention.