October 8, 2013

The Supreme Court oral argument today in the federal campaign finance law limiting total contributions an individual may make to various candidates.

Adam Liptak thinks the Court is divided "along familiar ideological lines" and "prepared to strike down" the law:
“By having these limits, you are promoting democratic participation,” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said. “Then the little people will count some.”

Justice Antonin Scalia responded, sarcastically, that he assumed “a law that only prohibits the speech of 2 percent of the country is O.K.”
Scalia responded "sarcastically." Why an adverb for Scalia's statement and not for Ginsburg's? It seems biased not to spread the adverbs around on both sides of the "familiar ideological line." Journalism should be judged by the fairness of the distribution of adverbs.

Help Adam Liptak give adverbial equality to Justice Ginsburg.
  
pollcode.com free polls 

UPDATE: Adam Liptak emails to say: "I meant to signal that he was saying the opposite of what he meant. The quoted words standing alone would mislead the casual reader. It also seemed to me to capture his tone." I know that was the function of the adverb, but it seems to me that the NYT is continually nudging us to view Scalia as mean/nasty... and I was having a little fun with it.

64 comments:

PB Reader said...

It SEEMS biased? That gave me a great laugh!

The New York Times? They're going to have to do a lot of work before we stop assuming they are biased.

Bob Boyd said...

"Then the little people will count some," said Justice Ginsburg,in her familiar, ideologically linear way.

MattL said...

I was looking for naively. Would also have accepted cluelessly. Settled for wistfully.

Carl said...

How about "stupidly?" Or at least "naively?" You left out the major problem with Ginsburg's comment, which is that it assumes without a shred of evidence -- based on sheer Aristotelian "logical" deduction inside her head -- that the intent of the law is 100% proof of its actual consequences. Id est, it was written in order to give "little people" some say, ipso facto it does.

You have to be a lawyer, or otherwise someone who works entirely free of any daily connection to the hard actual world of objective reality to not be wary of the huge gap that often lies between human theories and what actually happens.

Like, I have a theory about why I shouldn't run out of gas today, but whether I do or not has everything to do with the actual gallons in the tank, the actual performance of the engine, et cetera, and won't be influenced the least little bit by my earnest belief that I put enough in the tank last night.

It amazes me sometimes that these folks can make decisions just assuming the actual real-world consequences, or believing that they can deduce them in their heads from some kind of internal Bible, the way medieval monks deduced the fact that the Sun goes around the Earth by pondering Genesis.

Scalia at least has some modest refuge from this grandiosity: he says he doesn't try to even guess the real-world consequences, or the unstated aims of the legislature, he says he just tries to figure out what the words actually say.

Bob said...

she said "wisely"

she said "tellingly"

she said "insightfully"

she said "compassionately"

she said "non-legalistically, but in a way that demonstrated real concern for human beings, which Scalia never does"

or if you like

she said "irrelevantly"

she said "pointlessly"

she said "communistically, in a way intended to promote class warfare"

Larry J said...

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said. “Then the little people will count some.”

I never look at my fellow Americans as "the little people." I wonder about those who look at the vast majority of us as "little people."

raf said...

Why "patronizingly," but "maternally"? Does this reveal an underlying feminine bias in our society?

MathMom said...

“Then the little people will count some.”

The little people will count some what??? Is this a fill-in-the-blank test?

David said...

Scalia can be sarcastic.

But with good reason. Tellingly.

David said...

Ginsburg should recuse herself. She is a very little person. Clear conflict of interest.

BarrySanders20 said...

. . . she said, in a fashion reminiscent of Ghengis Khan.

The Godfather said...

There's no need for a modifier in Ginsburg's statement, because the sentence as read means what she meant. Scalia, on the other hand, did not mean that it would be OK if the law were to infringe the rights of only 2% of the people, so by adding "sarcastically" the writer intended to, and I suppose did for most readers, send that message.

Now if you think that Ginsburg's use of the term "little people" was intended to convey something other than its apparent meaning, then perhaps an adverb would have been required. Or if you are offended by a public official using such a dismissive term in referring to American citizens, you might want to add "patronizingly" -- but that would not be unbiased journalism.

Freeman Hunt said...

Who likes being referred to as one of "the little people?"

David said...

Freeman, not even Justice Ginsburg, who is indeed little.

SteveR said...

Well I want to know how to balance out the media, education and entertainment. "Little people" count all the time, many of them are presented with a biased and unopposed viewpoint.

Jack Wayne said...

Tom Swiftie - "said Ginsberg supremely"

richard mcenroe said...

Has campaign finance reform EVER stopped one candidate from gettding every dollar he or she wanted? Remember Obama's anonymous online credit card donations in both elections?

Broomhandle said...

Disingenuously, I'd say.

EDH said...

Since she was responding to Scalia, I was thinking... coquettishly or seductively.

AJ Lynch said...

Has Liptak or Ginsburg weighed in on the news that Mayor Bloomberg just gave $1 Million to Cory Booker's campaign? Do they approve or disapprove? And what do they think of the in-kind contributions made everyday in print to Dem candidates by the NYT, Wapo, etc?

AJ Lynch said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David-2 said...

Speaking of "patronizing" the "little people" - I passed by a hair salon/beauty products store on the way to lunch today - this isn't as off-topic as it seems - and the following slogan was in big letters on its display window:

Evo: Saving ordinary humans from themselves

My wife and I marveled at how stupid, how patronizing, how inept, this slogan was as a catchphrase for promoting a product or service.

(If you click through and watch the video please tell us about it. I didn't want to distress myself by watching it, since, as an ordinary person, I didn't want to know how I wasn't able to save myself.)

Not only that - but how many people had to be involved to come up with this slogan as a way of selling their product? They all thought it was a good positive thing to do! Remarkable.

AJ Lynch said...

Excellent catch Freeman- "the little people" is incredibly condescending even for an entitled longtime Scotus Justice when she is orating from the bench in the Imperial City.

R. Chatt said...

I would say Ginsberg spoke earnestly, sincerely. Scalia spoke more sarcastically but also ironically because he knows that the top 1-2% of the population are responsible for picking and selecting the political leadership through their financial support and the power of the media and ads.

This discussion of the little people reminds me of that line, if you are in a con game and you don't know who the mark is, you're the mark.

In our society if you don't know who the little people are most likely you are one. Realizing that and accepting it is hard on the ego and not good for a democracy either. What percentage of people even bother to vote let alone follow the issues or know the candidates? Don't the politicians prefer it that way?

At some point the country will officially be designated as an oligarchy. At least we're headed in that direction and Scalia would probably approve.

Levi Starks said...

I long for the good old day when it was the conservatives that were thought of a smug and self-righteous

Sigivald said...

“By having these limits, you are promoting democratic participation,” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said. “Then the little people will count some.”

They already seem to count just fine.

(Turns out votes matter a lot more than dollars, which is why Bloomberg can't buy elections nationwide, despite trying.)

Rocketeer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rocketeer said...

At some point the country will officially be designated as an oligarchy.

The current administration, and his fellow-travelers in the press, are gleefully hastening that day. I sincerely doubt Scalia approves, projection notwithstanding.

Larry J said...

Hey Gingsberg, if you want to count "the little people", do the things necessary to prevent their votes from being negated by voter fraud.

Inga said...

"In our society if you don't know who the little people are most likely you are one. Realizing that and accepting it is hard on the ego and not good for a democracy either."

10/8/13, 2:48 PM

Bingo!

Ginsberg spoke truthfully.

R. Chatt said...

Who can speak about politics better than a "comedian?"
George Carlin: http://youtu.be/A1iXXKmq58g

Rae said...

Little people is such a condescending term for a powerful voting bloc. In aggregate, the poor are far more powerful than the 2 percent at the ballot box. If anything, they should be restricted to voting in every other election to make things fair.

Freder Frederson said...

Why an adverb for Scalia's statement and not for Ginsburg's?

Because Scalia's statement was sarcastic and Ginsburg's wasn't? (Dense people might assume that Scalia actually meant what he said, not the opposite.)

jacksonjay said...

Do little people have appropriate photo ID?

jacksonjay said...

Do little people have appropriate photo ID?

The Godfather said...

The other aspect of the article that struck me is the prediction that the Court will divide along "familiar ideological lines". Thus the outcome of the case is predetermined by ideology, without regard for its merits. Maybe I've missed something, but I've never heard this kind of statement about a case that the liberal side is expected to win.

Lord Ben said...

Adverbs are apparently a bad thing in writing. At least in fiction. I discovered that by following through a month ago or so on one of Althouses posts about writing.

damikesc said...

Godfather, I find that point quite cogent, especially since the liberal wing of the court NEVER rules cases in an "unexpected" manner.

I can't think of the last liberal justice who joined the conservative wing on a single major issue.

We can all think of at least one where a conservative joined the liberals...

Crunchy Frog said...

The adverb I would have chosen - haughtily - was not listed. Went the pretentious route instead.

Terry said...

"Said Justice Ginsberg, hypocritically".
Justice Ginsburg was selected for her post by a notoriously venal president who intends to be the founding patriarch of a political dynasty. Look at who Clinton's daughter married, fer Christ's sake.
Ginsberg has no authority to speak on behalf of the 'little people'.

gadfly said...

You missed "stupidly," so I settled for superciliously.

Bill said...

Godfather is basically right about why the Scalia remark deserves the sarcastic adverb, even by an objective writer.
What Liptak gets wrong, though, is his pinning on Ginsberg the opinion that the restriction is good because it allows the "little people" to count. She says just before that "it has been argued...," and it's her job to pepper counsel with the best arguments of the adversary. It is not in itself an adoption of the argument.
Now, we may know what she feels in her heart, but that doesn't mean Liptak is accurate.
Also, Scalia's sarcastic "response" preceded Ginsburg's little people comment by several transcript pages.
Yes, summarizing these cases is hard, but it's not so much a place for artistic license.

harrogate said...

But Scalia *was* by definition being sarcastic. He obviously does not assume that the law is "O.K."

Ginsberg was stating her support for the law. I guess you could say she made her comment "unsarcastically."

Ann Althouse said...

"Sarcastically" was a typical nudge to think of Scalia as a jerk. True, the adverb helped readers understand how he meant the okay to mean obviously not okay, but we could be aided elsewhere to understand the spirit of a statement, and exactly what was Ginsburg trying to say? What was the difference of opinion? Did Liptak's presentation really help? Readers are expected to know that Ginsburg is sincere and caring, and in fact, I assume that is so. But it irks me that we're fed a steady diet of Scalia's a jerk.

Doug said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Doug said...

Said Ginsburg, seniley (?)

From Inwood said...

"said Ginsburg, 'Leona-Helmsleylike!"

Mark said...

To address the tendentious point that Ginsberg was sincere in her sentiment and therefore no adverb was necessary to illuminate it, the writer could have used a far less prejudicial modifier on Scalia's retort, such as "rhetorically"; rhetorical statements are recognized as sincere tools of argument, whereas sarcastic ones are not.

Saint Croix said...

Who likes being referred to as one of "the little people?"

Harry Blackmun at his confirmation hearing said he wanted to look out for the little people. Kind of ironic as he would go on to write Roe v. Wade

Adults = little people

Unborn babies = do not exist

St. George said...

"Then the little people will count some," Justice Ginsburg said showily as she drilled Justice Scalia with a dainty Glock hidden under her robes.

Deirdre Mundy said...

"Then the little people will count some" she said

enumeratively,

mathematically,

minimalistically

Seriously... this really needs to be a Tom Swifty!

cubanbob said...

Ginsburg embodies the distinction between clever and smart. If money is all that matters a big enough ad budget could sell any piece crap forever. When it comes to elections in the end all that counts is little people one by one casting their votes. Unless it's a Chicagoland election where money buys you votes, alive or dead, one by one. Money wouldn't be that important in politics if government weren't so powerful and bring a crony couldn't make you very rich.
Paging Terry McCaulife and Albert Gore please.

Richard Dolan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Richard Dolan said...

In referring to the 'little people,' a term she used at several points in the argument, Ginsburg sounded eerily like that other grand dame of NY, the late Leona 'Queen of Mean' Helmsley, who famously said that taxes were for the 'little people.' That line really sealed her fate when she was prosecuted for cheating on her taxes. Surely Ginsburg is familiar with that history. Very odd that she would use the same locution.

But, accepting the 'little people' shtick, it now seems that taxes and the First Amendment are for the little people, while the big people get less of both. Many of the biggies would jump at that trade-off if they could get it.

Chuck said...

Ann, I think you missed the Times-ism about the Court "dividing along familiar ideological lines."

That too is a slam against the conservative majority. I don't suppose that the Court merely "dvided along familiar ideological lines" in Windsor v. U.S., did it? Actually, it did. It divided along the familiar ideological lines we saw in Lawrence v. Texas.

cubanbob said...

Richard is it me being to blind to see because I don't see any ZeroCare waivers for the little people.

Chuck now there you go again pointed out inconsistencies.
Speaking of gay marriage, is the marriage rate among guys comparable to hetero's in states that permit SSM?

Lem said...

The correct answer is not in the survey.

Lem said...

The correct answer is...

"Then the little people will count some," said Justice Ginsburg, garagemahally.

Kirk Parker said...

R. Chatt,

" because he knows that the top 1-2% of the population are responsible for picking and selecting the political leadership through their financial support and the power of the media and ads."

Exactly, as the recent Colorado recall elections so clearly demonstrated.













Oh, wait.....

Lonetown said...

You've hit on something. Adverbs are the tell. The irresistible political tic that gives the game away.

Bruce Hayden said...

Scalia responded "sarcastically." Why an adverb for Scalia's statement and not for Ginsburg's? It seems biased not to spread the adverbs around on both sides of the "familiar ideological line." Journalism should be judged by the fairness of the distribution of adverbs.

I think that this is a very good point, and I will keep it in mind in the future when reading potentially politicized articles.

Somewhat similarly, I tend anymore to look at news articles for party designations. So often, it seems, that bad Republican politicians are identified as Republicans, but rarely are bad Democrats identified as Democrats. And, really somewhat similarly when it comes to political debates. Speaker Boehner, the House Majority, etc are almost invariably identified as Republican, while President Obama, Majority Leader Reid, Minority Leader Pelosi, and the Senate majority, are rarely identified as Democrats, esp in the current debate over funding the government, leaving the impression that the House is only being obstructionist because they are Tea Party fearing Republicans, while the Democrats are blameless and lily white in this debate.

Larry J said...

Bruce Hayden said...
Scalia responded "sarcastically." Why an adverb for Scalia's statement and not for Ginsburg's? It seems biased not to spread the adverbs around on both sides of the "familiar ideological line." Journalism should be judged by the fairness of the distribution of adverbs.

I think that this is a very good point, and I will keep it in mind in the future when reading potentially politicized articles.


You can find countless examples of this form of media bias. For example, when the press cites a source, they'll say "from the conservative Heritage Foundation" but almost never say "from the liberal Brookings Foundation." There's a type of cynicism called "guess the party" for news stories about politicians caught in scandal. If the politician is a Republican, it'll always be mentioned in the article. If he's a Democrat, that fact is often omitted.

Freder Frederson said...

But it irks me that we're fed a steady diet of Scalia's a jerk.

Maybe that is because he keeps doing things that make him look like a jerk.

If someone truly is a jerk, are we just supposed to ignore it in the name of civility.

Scott said...

...said Justice Ginsberg, senilely.