Letter From the Editor 

On April 18th, the Tennessee House and Senate passed what's been termed the "ag gag" bill. This piece of legislative flimflammery requires that anyone who takes video or photos of animal abuse must turn over said photographs or video to law enforcement within 48 hours.

Proponents of the law say it's designed to help prevent animal cruelty, but this is pure horse puckey. The law, identical to those proposed in many other states, is the brainchild of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a right-wing, corporate-funded outfit that's helpfully writing corporate-cuddly legislation for GOP legislators all over the country.

The real purpose of the law is to stifle investigations of corporate food-factory animal abuse or cruel and unhealthy conditions for animals being bred or trained for sale. It might better be termed a "First Amendment gag" law, since it's intended to deter activist organizations and the media from reporting on offensive or illegal practices.

It's beyond absurd. What if ALEC next decides we shouldn't have anyone reporting on corporate pollution (not that far-fetched an idea)? They could write a law stating that all video and photos of polluted streams and illegal landfills and belching smokestacks must be turned over to law enforcement within 48 hours. I honestly think many of the simpletons in the Tennessee legislature would jump on board.

It's a textbook example of what's gone wrong with our governing process. It's become a top-down process driven by special interests, not the will of the people. There was absolutely no public demand for this law. None. In fact, I would wager that, if surveyed, the great majority of Tennesseans would say they didn't want it. The only ones behind this bill are corporate lobbyists. And our legislators dance to their tune like puppets on a string.

I don't believe the law as written would stand up in court, and the Knoxville News Sentinel has already declared that it would ignore the law — as would the Flyer. But, if passed, the law could — as it was no doubt intended to do — deter some media outlets, activist groups, and individuals without the money or fortitude to take such a case to trial.

The "ag gag" bill has been sent to Governor Haslam to sign. It only passed by a bare majority in the House, and if Haslam vetoes it, the veto might even be sustainable. Will he do the right thing? As of this writing, he was still undecided, his usual default status on anything controversial.

The Tennessee legislature is all about protecting the Second Amendment and the right for citizens to bear arms. The First Amendment and the right to bear cameras? Not so much, apparently.

Bruce VanWyngarden
brucev@memphisflyer.com

Comments (26)

Showing 1-25 of 26

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-25 of 26

Add a comment

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
    • Common Sense Pot Policy

      Unlike Bill Clinton, I've inhaled. So have 49 percent of all Americans, according to a recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Marijuana (medical or otherwise) has been decriminalized or legalized in 23 states, and measures are on the ballot to legalize it in five more states this November, including Arizona, Nevada, Massachusetts, Maine, and California (where medical pot is already legal). A recent Gallup poll found that 53 percent of Americans think pot should be legalized and regulated like alcohol ...

Blogs

News Blog

MATA Security Guard Placed on Diversion in Passenger Death

News Blog

Top Guns: Shelby Tops Tennessee in Handgun Permits

Film/TV/Etc. Blog

Movies and Video Games Meet at the Cossitt Library

News Blog

President Jimmy Carter Discusses His Work with Habitat

Politics Beat Blog

Haslam, in Memphis, Suggests Calling Special Session

Film/TV/Etc. Blog

Politics and the Movies 3: Olympia

Intermission Impossible

"Small and Essential," New Quark Theatre Company Offers Alternatives

Intermission Impossible

Disgraced Sets A Course for Conflict

ADVERTISEMENT

More by Bruce VanWyngarden

  • Common Sense Pot Policy

    Unlike Bill Clinton, I've inhaled. So have 49 percent of all Americans, according to a recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Marijuana (medical or otherwise) has been decriminalized or legalized in 23 states, and measures are on the ballot to legalize it in five more states this November, including Arizona, Nevada, Massachusetts, Maine, and California (where medical pot is already legal). A recent Gallup poll found that 53 percent of Americans think pot should be legalized and regulated like alcohol ...
    • Aug 25, 2016
  • Tales of New Orleans

    I'd reached the point in the evening when a gnat in my drink seemed more like a feature than a bug. I'd reached the point where that line seemed like comic genius, so I tweeted it. I'd reached the point where having a small dog walking up and down the bartop seemed perfectly normal. I'd reached peak New Orleans ...
    • Aug 18, 2016
  • Schadenfreude at the Polls

    • Aug 11, 2016
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • In Spring ...

    (such a sky and such a sun

    i never knew and neither did you

    and everybody never breathed

    quite so many kinds of yes) — e. e. cummings

    • Apr 30, 2015
  • A Bridge Too Far

    The Tennessee Department of Transportation announced last week that the I-55 "old bridge" across the Mississippi would be closed for nine months, beginning in 2017, so that the department could build new exit and entrance ramps. This is a really horrible idea, with potentially disastrous economic, public safety, and even national security ramifications ...

    • Jun 4, 2015
  • Game of Drones

    So the latest season of Game of Thrones ended like most of the other seasons have ended: A seemingly essential character who everyone really liked was hideously murdered. Of course, we won't know if Jon Snow is really dead until next season. But if he survives getting run through with several broadswords, it will probably have to involve dark magick or be revealed as a dream sequence or some other screenwriting chestnut ...

    • Jun 18, 2015
ADVERTISEMENT
© 1996-2016

Contemporary Media
460 Tennessee Street, 2nd Floor | Memphis, TN 38103
Visit our other sites: Memphis Magazine | Memphis Parent | Inside Memphis Business
Powered by Foundation