September 24, 2007

Supreme Court cartoon robots with flashing eyes.

Beldar slams the big NYT Magazine piece about Justice Stevens, written by Jeffrey Rosen. (All the Supreme Court psychodramatists are named Jeffrey.)
Yellow journalists masquerading as legal scholars like The Jeffrey Rosen do their very best to persuade us that the Justices view each other in terms like "back-stabbers." In truth, you'll find, for example, Justice Scalia and his wife joining Justice Ginsberg and her husband at the opera several times a year because they like and respect each other despite their very different judicial viewpoints.
As Beldar notes, the kind of people who make it all the way to the Supreme Court are -- of necessity -- extraordinarily mature and highly self-regulated. So why do they come across as such hyper-dramatic characters in popular journalism?
Read Rosen's whole interview with Stevens. Look hard for personal insults toward other Justices that come from Stevens' lips. There aren't any. Instead, you get things like Rosen reporting that Stevens' "eyes [were] flashing" as he talked about Bush v. Gore.

Wow, really? His eyes were flashing? Way cool: John Paul Stevens as Optimus Prime! Pew-pew-pew! That, plus gossip and innuendo, is what Rosen has to peddle.
Yeah, eyes don't actually flash... and it would be spooky as hell if they did. Nor do eyebrows dance (as Jeffrey Toobin perceives looking at Justice Scalia).

And even if eyes flashed and eyebrows danced, it wouldn't necessarily signify what the Jeffreys tell you it signifies.

30 comments:

rhhardin said...

Mind-reading is a recurring philosophical problem. It comes up in accounting for language.

(Its other formulation is as the problem of prophesy.)

Eye flashing is one account of the origin of language. After that point, magic wands were no longer needed.

I think it was in Rousseau. One man met another and was frightened by an expression of fright.

David said...

I'm not sure Anita Hill thinks Justice Thomas is "extraordinarily mature and highly self-regulated."

John said...

I brought this up in the other post but it is worth mentioning again; there are huge areas of the law that are not political hot button issues where justices normally at odds in the high profile cases might agree. I will defer to those who practice the area to say, but I wouldn't be surprised if Ginsburg and Scalia agreed with each other about large areas of anti-trust law or federal procedure. The justices don't vote in the same blocks all the time. Beyond the high profile cases there are 100s of nuts and bolts cases in every area of federal law that the justices decide that get little attention from the media. In those cases the voting blocks are not so convienently liberal versus conservative. The media never reports that.

rcocean said...

I'm not sure Anita Hill thinks Justice Thomas is "extraordinarily mature and highly self-regulated.

Anita Hill thinks Thomas is a right-wing Uncle Tom whose betrayed the black race. But she probably likes him because he made her rich and got her out of Oklahoma.

BTW, if the woman been honest and told everyone in 1991 that she a liberal democrat and a lesbian, we wouldn't have had that "high-tech Lynching".

halojones-fan said...

If John Stevens is Optimus Prime, then does that make George Bush into Megatron? 'cause that would be totally radical!

PS pew pew!

Pogo said...

Actually, my eyes flash and my eyebrows actually dance, but my wife no longer permits me to do this because it scares the neighbors, and our cat.

(You might say my face is a maniac, maniac, I sure know; and it's dancing like it's never danced before.)

Roger said...

What kind of book would sell if it featured scholarly analyses of the legal issues coupled with 9 people who generally get along very well with each other--like, no conflict? Geez, how pedestrian.

David said...

Toobin's book reminds us that Hill did not come forward voluntarily, but that people in whom she confided gave her name to the judiciary committee, who in turn subpoenaed her. It suggests her testimony was not motivated by ideology, though the differences surely exist. This fact has been lost by history, due to the personal attacks on Hill, herself.

And how mature is it to decry preferences and then play the race card the moment your nomination is in trouble? And then to seethe about it years later. At least Scalia has fun with his critics.

Notwithstanding his inability to comport himself as a member of civilized society, Justice Thomas also clearly lied when he said he had not formed an opinion on Roe V. Wade. And furthermore, his substantive views are definitely outside of the legal mainstream, which at least his more intellectually honest critics treat as a feature.

oldirishpig said...

So why do they come across as such hyper-dramatic characters in popular journalism?

It used to be called "fiction" but it's what passes for journalism these days.

AllenS said...

Oftentimes when I type, my fingers dance across the keyboard like I was tiptoeing through the tullips.

Roger said...

"Notwithstanding his inability to comport himself as a member of civilized society...his substantive views are definitely outside of the legal mainstream, which at least his more intellectually honest critics treat as a feature."

Wow--just wow! Given much to hyperbolic speculation, David? I guess its clear you aren't the charter member of the Justice Thomas fan club; but, for those of us who arent quite so clear on assertions, could you provide some documentary proof? Key word: proof

David said...

He sexually harassed his subordinate, and he doesn't believe the establishment clause applies to the states. Check. Mate.

Roger said...

David: you clearly fail to understand the difference between assertion and argumentation. As HD would say: "is that the best cheese you got?" Because you clearly have not provided any proof, and I don't regard your opinions as remotely approaching proof. Try again

lee david said...

David, just what kind of ass are you trying to portray yourself as, and what kind of fools do you take us for? A further undocumented assertion does not a proof make, much less a checkmate. You are going to have to do a little better if you are going to convince anyone that your blind rage is justified.

Palladian said...

"He sexually harassed his subordinate"

Well, you can do that and still be a beloved President, so what's your problem?

Craig said...

"extraordinarily mature and highly self-regulated."

That picture of one of Scalia on the front page of the Boston Herald (a right wing rag owned by Murdoch even) was hardly what one would call mature and highly regulated.

It would be easier if this independent site just had a huge post: liberals bad conservatives good and call it a day.

Mortimer Brezny said...

Dostoevsky often used "her eyes shone" or "his eyes flashed". So it's not like Rosen is stealing from bad material. Everytime Dosteoevsky needs to end a scene that has no natural end, someone's eyes flash and s/he stomps out of the room.

Jessica said...

I think Rosen has stumbled upon a huge discovery: that Justice Stevens is the final Cylon...

Trooper York said...

you wear those eyes that never blink
you always were the missing link
you paint your mouth, you let me know
you really are the only show

(The Cars)

Ralph said...

Notwithstanding his inability to comport himself as a member of civilized society
I can't think of any lyrics that say, "Mind the nudge-nudge, wink-wink racism, there."
I'll bet there's a lot more drama and animosity between the law clerks than between the justices--they're stuck with each other.

Trooper York said...

In '65 tension was running high, at my high-school
There was a lot of fights between the black and white
There was nothing you could do
Two cars at a light on a Saturday night, in the back seat there was a gun
Words were passed, in a shotgun blast
Troubled times had come, to my hometown
My hometown
My hometown
My hometown
(Bruce)

knoxwhirled said...

Well, you can do that and still be a beloved President, so what's your problem?

words right outa my mouth

Ralph said...

It must have been when you were kissing me.
(Meatloaf)

EnigmatiCore said...

You declared you would be three inches taller
You only became what we made you.
Thought you were chasing a destiny calling
You only earned what we gave you.
You fell and cried as our people were starving,
Now you know that we blame you.
You tried to walk on the trail we were carving,
Now you know that we framed you.

I'm the guy in the sky
Flying high Flashing eyes
No surprise I told lies
I'm the punk in the gutter
I'm the new president
But I grew and I bent
Don't you know? don't it show?
I'm the punk with the stutter.
My my my my my mmmm my my my.

Trooper York said...

Ooh my little pretty one, pretty one.
When you gonna give me some time, Sharona?
Ooh you make my motor run, my motor run.
Gun it comin' off the line Sharona
Never gonna stop, give it up.
Such a dirty mind. Always get it up for the touch
of the younger kind. My my my i yi woo. M M M My Sharona...

Come a little closer huh, ah will ya huh.
Close enough to look in my eyes, Sharona.
Keeping it a mystery gets to me
Running down the length of my thighs, Sharona
Never gonna stop, give it up. Such a dirty mind.
Always get it up for the touch
of the younger kind. My my my i yi woo. M M M My Sharona...

When you gonna give it to me, give it to me.
It is just a matter of time Sharona
Is it just destiny, destiny?
Or is it just a game in my mind, Sharona?
Never gonna stop, give it up.
Such a dirty mind. Always get it up for the touch
of the younger kind. My my my i yi woo. M M M My Sharona...

(The Knack)

ricpic said...

I would assume Justice Breyer's anointed air might irritate, say, Justice Scalia.

Palladian said...

Not to encourage the posting of quotations, but I couldn't resist posting part of the poem that I thought of when I read the "flashing eyes" line:

"And all should cry, Beware ! Beware !
His flashing eyes, his floating hair !
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread,
For he on honey-dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise."

Wow, that doesn't sound like the Justice Stevens I know!

Ralph said...

You've never seen him on opium.
I'm not sure which one of you should take it, however.

vnjagvet said...

Ann's review of Toobin's NY Sun today was an exercise in critics self-restraint.

She was actually quite fair and kind IMHO.

Not nearly as scathing as Toobin deserves for turning SCOTUS into the subject of a series of expanded supermarket tabloid articles.

blake said...

"My eyes are not glistening with the ghosts of my past!"

--Harry Potter to Rita Skeeter (journalist)