Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Federal Judge Gags On Idaho ‘Ag-Gag’ Law — This Is No Gag

Kevin Gosztola at Shadowproof reports a federal court decision that deems an Idaho law forbidding certain kinds of ‘whistleblower’ speech... specifically in this case, the documenting and revealing of animal abuse in an agricultural processing plant... to be unconstitutional. The law runs afoul of the First Amendment to the US Constitution: the whistleblower has the freedom to speak or publish information supportive of his/her assertion that abuse of the animal(s) does take place and may be criminal in nature; otherwise, there would be no point in whistleblowing in that context.

Something similar was attempted in Texas in 1996: some cattlemen sued Oprah Winfrey and a guest on her show for libel under the False Disparagement of Perishable Food Products Act of 1995 when Oprah and the guest discussed mad cow disease in beef cattle. (Wikipedia has a decent short summary.) The jury found Winfrey did not libel the cattlemen and did not owe them the obscenely high monetary damages they sought, but after the trial, Oprah got cold feet, refused to provide copies of the video of the original broadcast to interested reporters, repeatedly refused to speak in public about the incident, etc. Living in Texas, I can understand quite well why she might exercise such restraint.

But IMHO, those cattlemen were effing paranoid, and they certainly never had any legitimate basis for attempting to suppress speech about cows. The Constitution establishes for us all the right to defame all the cows we feel like, Texan or Idahoan, now or two decades ago, mad or merely a bit quirky. Of course it speaks more about the cowboys than the cow-critics, but the notion that any commercial product, agricultural, automotive or simply asswiping, is above public criticism is, um, fucking crazy. Let it be, pardners [sic].

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