October 20, 2006

"If I thought that cameras in the Supreme Court would really educate the people, I would be all for it."

"But I think it would miseducate and misinform," said Justice Scalia -- in the same speech as I linked in the previous post:
"Most of the time the court is dealing with "bankruptcy code, the internal revenue code, [the labor law] ERISA -- stuff only a lawyer would love. Nobody's going to be watching that gavel-to-gavel except a few C-SPAN junkies," he said.

"For every one of them, there will be 100,000 people who will see maybe 15 second take-out on the network news, which I guarantee you will be uncharacteristic of what the Supreme Court does."
If this principle were seriously believed, you'd have to be in favor of suppressing all the news.

17 comments:

Michael said...

"If this principle were seriously believed, you'd have to be in favor of suppressing all the news."

Quite a temptation from the technocrat's standpoint, particularly with the media that we have now :)

Michael E. Lopez said...

I have frequently found myself wondering if perhaps "news coverage" does more harm than good now that it is a world/national level phenomenon. It takes all the exceptions from the entire world and puts them in your neighborhood. A local newspaper that covers one murder every two years paints an accurate picture of the living environment. A worldwide television network that covers tragedies resulting in hundreds of deaths every day doesn't give the sense of perspective in which those occur.

So.... maybe. Not definitely, but maybe.

Fenrisulven said...

I'm in favor of removing media from Congress.

JohnF said...

I think Scalia's point is well taken. Very few institutions can both be open in some fashion and still protect themselves from the media's soundbite-itis, a disease that purposely revels in distortion, and misleading viewers, either to some political advantage or for ratings.

The Supreme Court still has that option, and it is wise to protect itself.

The public proceedings remain, er, public, so nothing is being hidden by blocking cameras. All that's being blocked is opportunistic "reporting."

Revenant said...

I don't see what the value would be in putting the Supreme Court oral arguments on TV, given what a small part of the Court's workings that represents.

In regular trials you get to see all the evidence being presented, the witness's testimony, et al. With the Supreme Court you'd get a few minutes of lawyers making speeches and no coverage of the hours of textual legal analysis that make up the *real* work. What's the point? It won't help people decide if the court is doing the right thing or not.

Adam said...

Yeah, wow, half of the CBS Evening News is taken with Katie Couric running down the top twenty Congressional quips of the day.

Whatever, Nino. This is nonsense.

PWS said...

I think Scalia's comment is ridiculous. His statement is elitist and anti-democratic. Institutions in a democratic government generally flourish by being transparent (there are notable exceptions). Since the oral arguments are already public, the Court should be more transparent. People are miseducated because many lack access and understanding about the court's workings. Keeping the Court off of TV keeps people ignorant. Plus, when he says "misinform and miseducate" who is he talking about? Is this everyone? The assumption is that it's only certain people he doesn't trust with the information--the rabble, the groundlings. Maybe we should bring back the requirement that you have to read to be able to vote. (I'm surprised Scalia is against televising oral arguments because all he seems to like to do at oral argument is make wisecracks and try to draw attention to himself by attempting to be funny. Maybe he'd have to stop doing that because average Joe wouldn't get his humor, but might think Scalia was acting like a jackass.)

Simon said...

Well, as I said in the other thread, if anyone thinks that Scalia is wrong about cameras, and how that footage will be used see this youtube clipand its accompanying description ("Justice Scalia publicly admits his (and other so-called "conservatives") intentions of removing freedom from American society," which of course, completely misses and misrepresents Scalia's point).

PWS - I could spend a great deal of time explaining why your position is wrong, but it really isn't worth the time, so with Ann's indulgence, allow me to condense the point to - do fuck off. Ignorance is not a point of view.

jinnmabe said...

Simon, your link doesn't seem to link what you think it links.

Revenant said...

Since the oral arguments are already public, the Court should be more transparent.

If the oral arguments are already public, the Court *is* transparent.

Besides, television is about as transparent as a funhouse mirror -- what you think you're seeing is seldom a clear depiction of reality.

PWS said...

Well, Simon, like Scalia, you're too busy (or don't care or ???) to enlighten me other than with vulgarity--so I guess that proves my point. What's been achieved by your position? All the people who think they're right (and in power) just sort of stick together without sharing *why* they're so sure they're right?

If you think my post is advocating that ignorance is a point of view then I assumed too much. Ignorance is not a point of view. But ignorance contributes to an uninfomed citizenry that collectively may make bad decisions because they have too little information. (Plus if ignorance is not a point of view, then why not *enlighten* people by sharing what the Court does. The YouTube editing thing is a total cop out. Satire has gone on for centuries; we're in the digital age; its changing form; that doesn't justify keeping the court in the 19th century.)

Revenant--I agree somewhat, but I think the benefits (of televising oral argument) outweigh the costs.

kettle said...

Scalia Full

Scalia Out of Context

Based on Simon's quote,

"Justice Scalia publicly admits his (and other so-called "conservatives") intentions of removing freedom from American society,"

I think the second link here is to the excerpt, while the first is Part I of a longer portion of the debate, which includes the excerpt.

Frankly, I don't think that even the shorter clip makes it sound as though Scalia is out to eliminate our freedoms. Maybe he is, but he comes off as an intelligent man making a very cogent point. The only thing that really lends itself to a more negative interpretation is the asinine summary by the poster. The longer clip is really worth watching. Scalia makes some really good points.

As an argument against greater media coverage I think this was pretty weak. At the end of the day people who want to believe the stories told by this kind of clipart will persist in their beliefs, often against overwhelming evidence. But that is no reason to deprive the 'happy few' who are interested in looking deeper of the means to do so.

Fenrisulven said...

Again, I disagree. One has only to look to Congress as an example of how a few media camera's can turn a serious forum into a carnival show.

jeff_d said...

There are very good reasons to treat Supreme Court coverage differently. The justices are celebrities and political lightning rods, yet are strictly limited by ethics rules in the extent to which they can defend themselves. They cannot discuss many aspects of the cases in front of them, and are forbidden from even considering others by restrictions the vast majority of the public doesn't understand. The narrow concept of appellate review is poorly understood as it is, and the introduction of sound bites from Supreme Court oral arguments will not improve things.

Moreover, the Justices don't and shouldn't have staffs and press offices fighting the public image battles. So the temptation would be strong--nearly irresistable--to behave at oral argument in a way designed to avoid providing material for the kind of cheap, insipid political attacks that pass for satire on television (think Jon Stewart and his ilk).

I totally disagree that the principle Scalia is relying on would justify muzzling political coverage generally. It is simply a nod to the reality of the Court's role in our system of government. We expect politicians to behave as though their every public utterance is to be seen and judged. We have never expected this of federal judges and we have no right to, as they are deliberately insulated from the political process for the purpose of freeing them from influences that might compromise the integrity of their work product.

If judges or their proxies become players in the mass media political circus, which they surely will if their work is televised, the court's ability to function, and the utility of oral argument will suffer.

Johnny Nucleo said...

I think eventually there will be cameras in there - eventually there will be cameras everywhere, even bathrooms! (well maybe not there) - but I think it's a bad idea.

One thing most Westerners - religious and secular - agree on is the sacredness, at least in theory, of the Western tradition of The Law. I think it's healthy to view the Supreme Court as something sacred.

Of course, in the real world, they are just smart dudes and chicks in robes. But still, they do wear robes. What next, no robes?

Hell, why not just let the people vote on cases by calling a special number? We could call it "Constitutional Idol". Scalia could make funny remarks about how much the lawyers suck. Thomas could say stuff like, "Dog, you were almost there." Ginsberg could be the nice one.

Slac said...

Who cares about the news? C-SPAN is not what it used to be. You can go to their website and watch archived recordings at anytime, pause, rewind, whatever. Blogs can and have linked to them, educating hundreds of thousands of people. Think of how many people listened to the entirety of Ted Stevens' "series of tubes" speech.

Seven Machos said...

Have to agree with Revenant here. All this stuff is public. You can even attend live.

The video medium is unique in its ability to distort. A court case and the resulting opinion are Big Things that take time to understand.

Is Congress a better place or a worse place because of C-Span? Is the rhetoric better or worse? Because it's not like you are seeing genuine argument and negotiation in those "august" chambers.