"This sacred privilege is so essential to free government, that the security of property; and the freedom of speech, always go together; and in those wretched countries where a man can not call his tongue his own, he can scarce call any thing else his own. Whoever would overthrow the liberty of the nation, must begin by subduing the freedom of speech; a thing terrible to publick traitors."
A gentleman from Mesquite took issue with my Sunday column in which I distinguished between Congress’ ability to criminalize the act of animal cruelty but not the trafficking in video depictions of animal cruelty such as dogfighting.
This is what he wrote in his first e-mail missive:
"Let me understand this concept. If I get two individuals, who make a living of breaking into homes, stealing contents and terrorizing and/or killing the occupants, to agree to let me make a video of it, I am just exercising my free speech rights.
"As I have said before and say again, with any freedom comes the requirement for responsibility, morality and plain common sense. To justify the video-taping of dogfighting and not being responsible for the content and the legality of it is not free speech. It is sensationalism at its most vulgar point.
"I was taught that society determined the law and when 99 percent find something offensive, the remaining 1 percent don’t have the right to disobey the will of the majority. Guess in this new world, anything is permissible. Seems to me I recall reading about the Roman Empire and how it destroyed itself when it allowed decency, morality and laws to go by the wayside. I hope we are not going down the same path."
As for the hypothet, I contend the video is no crime, but it might be evidence the cops could use to charge you as an accessory and with failing to report a crime. Such video is often called surveillance video.
The only responsibility that comes with freedom is to make sure your freedom does not infringe on the freedom, rights, property or liberty of another.
As far as 99 percent being able to dictate to the 1 percent, I think Alexis de Tocqueville had a phrase for that. He called it "tyranny of the majority." The constitution recognized the natural rights of individuals, rights that may not be taken by president, legislatures, judges or even a majority at the ballot box. This concept is as old as the Magna Carta. (As for Rome, the tax burden might’ve played a role.)
After I replied in this vein to the gentleman from Mesquite, he replied with further polemics:
"Then let’s say I go to Thailand and film an individual having sex with a 12 year old. Legal in Thailand as far as I know. Can always say I am doing a documentary and invoke my right not to disclose my sources.
"Guess that is okay as long as it doesn’t happen in the United States. As far as the rights of one, then I guess I have a right to do whatever I wish, despite the rule of the majority. I don’t think so, but, I guess, in your world, I can say or do whatever I want, regardless of what the majority imposes.
"According to your definition, free speech allows you to film and broadcast anything, whether or not it is against the law, as long as it is not in the United States. And yes, it does bear upon the content of speech. Guess we will always disagree."
Though some may say it is quibbling, the Supreme Court made a distinction for child porn in Ferber. The court’s rationale has merit: "The distribution of photographs and films depicting sexual activity by juveniles is intrinsically related to the sexual abuse of children in at least two ways. First, the materials produced are a permanent record of the children’s participation and the harm to the child is exacerbated by their circulation. Second, the distribution network for child pornography must be closed if the production of material which requires the sexual exploitation of children is to be effectively controlled."
The first cannot be said of dogs, but the second can be said of dogfighting video, but you have to read minds as to the intent of the content. Better to charge for the act than the thought.
I sympathize with the umbrage over bad behavior and immorality, but if we are to keep our rights we must grant them to those with whom we disagree.
As for that fall of Rome thing, professor J. Rufus Fears has an interesting take about the role of the Middle East: