Mona Charen

Alito dissented. He dispatched the hunting example by noting that hunting is legal in all 50 states, while the statute referred to "a depiction of conduct that is illegal in the jurisdiction in which the depiction is created, sold, or possessed." Further, depictions of hunting would clearly fall within several of the exceptions -- "serious religious, political, scientific, educational, journalistic, historical, or artistic value" -- enumerated in the legislation.

As to tail docking and slaughtering methods, Alito advises that since the statute could only reasonably be interpreted as criminalizing depictions of animal cruelty as defined by state and federal law, and since those practices did not qualify, a video depicting them would not be within the law's scope. Further, a trade video showing slaughtering methods would easily fall within the range of the law's exceptions.

Crush videos and other depictions of animal cruelty, Alito forcefully argues, are directly analogous to a category of speech that the court has excluded from First Amendment protection, child pornography. As with child porn, the conduct depicted in crush videos is nearly impossible to curtail without criminalizing the sale and distribution of the resulting product. These nauseating and repellent acts are not performed before a live audience but only to feed the video trade.

It is the same with dogfighting. "'(V)ideo documentation is vital to the criminal enterprise because it provides proof of a dog's fighting prowess -- proof demanded by potential buyers and critical to the underground market.' In short, because videos depicting live dogfights are essential to the success of the criminal dogfighting subculture, the commercial sale of such videos helps to fuel the market for, and thus to perpetuate ... the criminal conduct depicted in them." The dogs abused in these videos suffer for years, Alito wrote, not just minutes. They are commonly fed hot peppers and gunpowder, beaten with sticks to incline them toward violence, and denied treatment after a ferocious fight.

The majority's stretch to imagine hypothetical scenarios in which the statute might infringe other speech seems farfetched compared with Alito's more realistic analysis. But wisdom is not determined by majority vote.

Mona Charen

Mona Charen is a syndicated columnist, political analyst and author of Do-Gooders: How Liberals Hurt Those They Claim to Help .
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