Pretty, Fizzy Paradise

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Saturday, December 20, 2008

Strike Out Not At Your Own Defenders

I am in a hotel room right now, officially on my way back home for the holidays. FREE of finals. Which means I finally have time to catch up on what I've been missing about the internet.

This post from Rick Rottman actually got me thinking. Well, really, it's the title more than anything.

"The CBLDF is making the world safe for virtual child-porn."

It's a sentiment that seems to be going around lately.

I think it's a sentiment that misses the point entirely. It's a sentiment that doesn't understand the role of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. It's a sentiment that doesn't understand the role of a legal defense.

Defending someone does not mean that you think they're right.

In fact, I've often said that the one thing no one teaches you about the law before you go to law school is that "lawyers aren't allowed to have opinions." Which is pretty much bullshit, as we have opinions as much as everyone else. But in a professional capacity our opinions count for jack shit.

In a sense, lawyers are interpreters. We translate the client's perspective into the language of legal claims, defenses, rights, statutory law, constitutional law, legal precedent and all that fun gobbledygook that is the reason we have jobs at all.

No one asks the opinion of the interpreter, and why should they?

Now this is particularly relevant when it comes to legal defense because, let's face it, while there are definitely innocent people stuck going through the system, there are a lot of people who are guilty too. And if lawyers only took part in the defense of people they believed to be innocent, well, there would be a lot of people left standing before the court, like a college student on his first trip abroad trying to remember how to stammer out "Where is the bathroom?"

A guilty person is still entitled to a legal defense. A guilty person is still entitled to have the government prove every element of the charge against him. And he also has the right to make damn sure that his and anyone else's rights weren't trampled on in the process of proving the case.

This guy bought something that may or may not be considered child pornography. But he still has the right to a legal defense.

And the First Amendment is one fucking doozy of a defense. No, freedom of speech is not absolute, and I think that you will find very few people who actually think it should be, but it is still a pretty fucking important right in the United States of America. And we should not and will not accept the erosion of our rights without a damn good reason.

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is helping to make sure that the courts have a damn good reason in this case, or that they will not find this man guilty.

Ultimately, our opinions about whether or not this actually constitutes child pornography are irrelevant to whether or not the CBLDF is doing the right thing here. The CBLDF is working to defend one of our basic Constitutional Rights, and you don't necessarily have to agree with them to appreciate what they are trying to do.

Misguided or not, the CBLDF is trying to protect US. And while no one is saying that you have to support them, we should not condemn them for it.

(For a far better defense of the CBLDF's position, read Neil Gaiman's post.)


  • At December 20, 2008 5:54 AM, Blogger LurkerWithout said…

    I think I'll skip Rottman's post. I've already had my weekly dose of head to desk action thanks to Val...

    Verification: Ships. Weird, real word...

  • At December 20, 2008 9:52 AM, Blogger SallyP said…

    Well said.

  • At December 20, 2008 10:31 AM, Anonymous Rich said…

    I hear the same sort of complaints about the ACLU's activites every year around this time. Oh, holiday family reunions, and forced exposure to my relatives and their politics, what a joy.

    Verification: Totor. Simple, easy to spell and pronounce, and not currently in use. Really should be a word for something in English, don't you think?

  • At December 20, 2008 12:50 PM, Anonymous Rick Rottman said…

    Just to clarify, I in no way meant to imply that Christopher Handley shouldn't be defended. I just don't understand why comic book fans need to be the ones doing it. Sure, technically, the material involved in this case is in the medium of a comic, but I don't think it is anything like the comics I like to read. I guess I feel the same way a movie buff would feel about coming to the defense of someone who imported a snuff film from the Philippines. Just because the two share an interest in works created with film doesn't mean they are alike.

    I'm a big believer in free speech, I just don't think images showing young children being sodomized is something we should feel an obligation to defend.

    What I really don't understand are those that argue that drawn child porn isn't really child porn because it doesn't involve real children. Its only lines on a paper. For a long time now, we have been trying to convince people that graphic novels can be just as substantial or as important as works created in other mediums. This "lines on paper" argument seems to negate that.

  • At December 20, 2008 3:14 PM, Blogger Zaratustra said…

    (In answer to Rick Rottman's 'I am in support of free speech except when it's PERVERTS that do it' text)

    Did you see the Simpsons movie? Remember the scene where Bart skates naked through the city?

    Yep. Congratulations, you're a supporter of child porn.

  • At December 20, 2008 4:53 PM, Blogger Dane said…

    Rick, thanks for your original post and I get what you're saying, but let me put my 2 cents in on that "lines on a paper" reasoning. The idea that it's drawn doesn't take away its "substantialness," it's the the idea that these are only lines that we choose to represent as people/children/goats having sex. Comics are a form of art, and thereform representations of images that can sadden, enliven, and titillate us. But at the end of the day they are our representations done by ink and paper.

    On actual film, the actors are who the actors are, and there's no denying that fact. Those people in pornography are adults that consented; kids can't do the same thing. That's where the line gets drawn, at least for me and others. This argument isn't a matter of taste, but what's allowed to be represented and distributed to others in comics.

    Thanks for the post, Kal, it was good to a law perspective on this. Glad your paper's done, and have a good holiday.

  • At December 20, 2008 7:33 PM, Anonymous Rick Rottman said…

    Zaratustra, I'm sorry if I somehow gave you the impression that I support free speech except when it comes to “perverts”. Whatever that actually means. I don't have anything against pornography, or a person's right to make it, own it, view it, or sell it. I really don't. I just draw the line when it comes to pornography that objectifies children as sexual objects. Do I think that the First Amendment gives pedophiles the right to procure images of pre-teen children being anally penetrated by adults? No, I don't.

    That doesn't make me a bad person. Really.

    And to answer your original question. No, I have not watched the Simpson's movie. The Simpson's jumped the shark for me about six years ago. I do understand the reference though. I understand that there is a hilarious scene in which Bart is shown completely nude. Guess what? Nudity does not equate pornography.

  • At December 20, 2008 7:35 PM, Blogger kalinara said…


    I can understand why it would be frustrating, but the fact is, sometimes the CBLDF is going to support causes that individual contributors might not agree with.

    Ultimately, the precedent decided here will have an effect far beyond this one case. That's something that really may end up concerning ALL of us as comic book readers.

  • At April 08, 2009 9:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Coming so, so late to the party to say that you rock like a rocking thing. It really cheeses me off when I hear people say that one accused person somehow deserves legal defense less than another does. (Please note that I am not speaking specifically of Mr. Rottman; I haven't read his post and don't care to. I'm speaking more generally about a behavior I see sometimes that bugs the ever-living $#!% out of me.)

    Srsly, dude, I don't care if your man snuffed your mom on live TV and did unspeakable things to the corpse, he still has the right to a trial. All you have to do to understand that is to imagine yourself unjustly accused and to think about how you'd want to be treated.



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