SCOTUS Ponders Dog-Fighting Videos, ‘Human Sacrifice Channel’
Posted on Oct 6, 2009
Sometimes when making a legal argument, it’s useful to go to hyperbolic extremes to illustrate the ideological flaws or possible outcomes associated with a potential ruling, which is why the conversation in the United States Supreme Court on Tuesday ranged from dog-fighting videos to a (hypothetical) cable channel for human sacrifice enthusiasts. —KA
The Los Angeles Times:
Justice Antonin Scalia, an avid hunter, insisted the 1st Amendment did not allow the government to limit speech and expression, unless it involved sex or obscenity.
“It’s not up to the government to tell us what are our worst instincts,” said Scalia. He repeatedly cited German dictator Adolf Hitler and his policies of extermination. Scalia asked, “Can you keep him off the screen” just because his deeds were vile?
But Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. garnered the attention of his colleagues with a series of questions on whether videos portraying humans being killed would be protected as free speech.
Alito said there may well be a “pay-per-view” market for programs made outside the United States, so there would be no criminal jurisdiction here, that showed real people being killed. He called it the “Human Sacrifice Channel” and wondered aloud whether Congress could outlaw the showing of such programs in this country.
What about “snuff films,” asked Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.