Weekly Obsession: ‘Ag Gag’ bill takes the state back to Orwell’s 1984

Friday, April 19, 2013 at 4:26pm

Hate Is Love.

Peace Is War.

Lies Are Truth.

Protecting animal abusers is protecting animals.

George Orwell would find in the Tennessee General Assembly materials for enough sequels to 1984 to bring us up to present day.

It is a place where retrograde radicalism is goodthink conservatism and where the names of laws are antonymic to their actual function.

The General Assembly passed the “Animal Cruelty and Abuse Bill” late Wednesday, legislation that purports to encourage whistleblowers, but in fact chills them from acting.

The law requires any photographs, video or other evidence of livestock abuse be turned over to law enforcement within 48 hours.

The problem here is that documenting animal abuse is often a lengthy and tedious process. The 2011 investigation into walking horse soring that sent trainer Jackie McConnell to jail took four months for the Humane Society to compile. By the way, that farm was located in the home district of the Senate sponsor, Republican Dolores Gresham.

Coincidence, surely.

A number of other states have already passed laws like this one — they’ve existed for years in places like North Dakota and cattle ranching states in the West — but the rise of YouTube and social media, and the intensity with which the Humane Society and PETA have gone after livestock abusers seems to have ratcheted up the efforts by agribusiness and an organization called the American Legislative Exchange Council, which creates so-called “model legislation,” the only model of which is a Randian dream world.

ALEC is no run-of-the-mill lobbying group, no cookie-cutter influence peddler — ALEC literally writes the laws that make the Koch Brothers sing.

And their bills, as shown by the “Ag Gag” bill, are rarely what they seem.

Gresham, either ignorantly or cynically (or both), boldly stood on the Senate floor claiming that this bill would curb livestock abuse by negatively coercing witnesses to come forward, a claim so bold she was called on it by Mark Norris — her party’s leader in the Senate, who rightly pointed out the law would make felons of the whistleblowers and not the abusers themselves.

Meanwhile, the bill runs counter to the First Amendment — the one that starts the Constitution, that document which Gresham and ALEC and their ilk claim to love unconditionally in its original form. The guarantee of a free press guarantees that the press is not some deputized arm of your local sheriff’s department. The press is free to act as it will, gathering information as it sees best, publishing that information on its own schedule.

The legislature considered a broad exemption for the press, which they should have passed, because in an age of Web 2.0, literally everyone with a phone line and a pulse could theoretically be considered “the press,” as the documentation of the terrorist attack in Boston and the fertilizer plant explosion in Texas by ordinary folks showed us.

That press exemption would have neutered the law into meaninglessness, which is exactly what it will be when first challenged in court.


1 Comment on this post:

By: Left-of-Local on 4/22/13 at 9:08

Nothing proves the power of psychotic religious manipulation and zealotry like the way the GOP can do this kind of underhanded and just plain evil hosrse-shit* and still keep such a blind following of brainwashed idiots, concerned more with their imaginary mythological fairy tales and their own greed than any well-being of any creature, or the sanctity of basic freedoms in the nation.

Way to go Conservatives. Keep on trashing the First Amendment while obsessing over the Second.

*pun intended