Former Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick is looking at 23 months in prison for his role in a dogfighting ring. In an era when the value of HUMAN life seems to be near zero, I guess we can take comfort—cold or otherwise—in this protective posture toward animals.
Still, don’t you find it a wee bit troubling that an investigative and court system that can’t convict known terrorists; routinely grants bail to repeat violent offenders and obvious flight risks; and seems to have no accountability of any kind, beyond simply replacing one incompetent judge for another pulls out all the stops when it comes to a few dead dogs?
Moreover, there are way too many inconsistencies on this subject for my taste.
It has been well established that from July 1998 through the end of 2005, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) killed more than 14,400 dogs, cats, and other pets at its Norfolk, Virginia headquarters. This number represents more than 80% of the animals they “rescued.” Inasmuch as numerous no-kill privately-operated shelters exist—surviving on a tiny fraction of PETA’s budget—one would think that PETA would care a whole lot more about getting these animals adopted.
Apparently, though, since this organization has crafted a better media image than Vick, they get a free pass.
As to Vick, his legal troubles on the dogfighting seem to have very conveniently occurred to coincide with his unmasking as a spoiled jerk, whose best years as a quarterback were clearly in college. Surely, I am not the only person who realizes that when a quarterback rushes for 1,039 yards (as Vick did in 2006), it is not a good thing. Could the investigation have been helped along by the Falcons, anxious to rid themselves of a big liability?
Let us now consider a movie currently in theaters, The Golden Compass. Don’t worry, I don’t intend to review the film, or poke fun at its loopy fantasy elements. Instead, I call your attention to a major scene—the CGI (computer-generated image) fight between two ice bears, Iorek and Ragnar. Iorek is victorious, and among other things, hits Ragnar so hard his jaw comes off.
Thus, in this PG-13 rated pic, there is an extremely brutal fight between bears, intended to appear realistic. If I compare this to actual dogfighting, the immediate comment is that what Vick did was real, and The Golden Compass is only a movie. But, please withhold judgment for moment.
Had Vick tortured animals on his own, with no audience, he would have entered Jeffrey Dahmer territory, as that sick serial killer started out by killing animals in solitude. But Vick had always intended the dogfights to be watched, and wagered on. Even when he killed under-performing dogs, there was always an audience, since there was testimony.
Many people enjoy watching animals being killed, as there are numerous TV shows that feature this sort of footage. Such people have a prurient interest in animal death, which is satisfied by observation, rather than by actually doing it. How much different would it be to watch a video of one of Vick’s dogfights, or to observe it at ringside?
Now, ask yourself how much different it would be if a skilled artist could create a CGI dogfight, complete with realistic sound effects. While the prurient interest is satisfied without killing real animals, the entire enterprise exists solely to titillate, and hopefully quench the desire. Mark well that absent any prurient interest in animal death, there would be no point in creating the CGI dogfight.
In a high budget film such as The Golden Compass, no expense is spared in the efforts to produce realistic visual effects. Consequently, the fight between Iorek and Ragnar is intended to look as real as possible, and this includes every single brutal frame.
Most people who condemned Vick only did so on the basis of how they felt or imagined the dogfights to appear—an image in their minds, if you will. Images have always driven emotions, and as we develop technology to create better images, emotions can be more readily manipulated. The producers of The Golden Compass surely intended to elicit an emotional reaction with their CGI fight between two bears. But, you protest, the difference between real dogfighting and the movie is the lack of blood.
Maybe not. If we can embrace the notion of a “hate crime,” whereby the motivation behind a killing can somehow make it a more “serious” case of murder, then clearly the emotional component trumps even blood itself, to say nothing of reality.
In the most celebrated hate crime of all, Matthew Shepard was said to have been targeted because he was gay. Never mind, that gay or not, he ended up just as dead. The truth is that he was targeted because of his slight build and weak appearance, simply painting him as an easy victim for a robbery, to be undertaken by perps loaded up on drugs and alcohol. Indeed, no one in law enforcement ever thought it was a hate crime, and follow-up news stories have detailed this.
No matter. The emotions are locked in place, and reality in the Shepard homicide has no bearing. Too bad this is not the only example of a cause created from whole cloth.
As control of our emotions lags behind the ability to create images to manipulate them, the outlook is not pretty.