Patterico's Pontifications

7/2/2003

MORE LYING THROUGH QUOTATION OUT OF CONTEXT

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 10:43 pm

Antonin Scalia is the latest victim of the new rage: lying about conservatives through selective quotation (see the post immediately below). First, his actual quote, from his dissent in the recent Lawrence decision concerning the Texas anti-sodomy law:

Let me be clear that I have nothing against homosexuals, or any other group, promoting their agenda through normal democratic means. . . . But persuading one’s fellow citizens is one thing, and imposing one’s views in absence of democratic majority will is something else. I would no more require a State to criminalize homosexual acts — or, for that matter, display any moral disapprobation of them — than I would forbid it to do so.” (My emphasis.)

Now for the fun part: watching the first sentence of the quote above (the one I put in bold) get chopped at the first comma, which distorts it into a “some of my best friends are black” line — you know, like the bigots say. How does this happen? Through the magic of press laziness and/or bias. Read these various reports characterizing the quote from his dissent:

The AP got the ball rolling with this story, which says: “‘The court has taken sides in the culture war,’ Scalia said, adding that he has ‘nothing against homosexuals.'”

Continuing its proud tradition of laziness and inaccuracy, the New York Times weighed in with this story which said: “Justice Antonin Scalia wrote the dissent and took the unusual step of reading it aloud from the bench this morning, saying ‘the court has largely signed on to the so-called homosexual agenda,’ while adding that he personally has ‘nothing against homosexuals.'”

John W. Porter of the Portland Press Herald still thinks it’s okay to trust news organizations like the New York Times. He wrote a whole editorial based on phony reports like the one from the New York Times. This also means that Porter wrote a whole editorial about Scalia’s opinion, without bothering to read the opinion. This led him to make the following asinine comments:

“What sets the issue off so well is what he adds just a few paragraphs later. ‘Let me be clear that I have nothing against homosexuals,’ he says.

“Really?

“The only thing missing is a tag line saying, ‘Some of my best friends are gay.’

“I REMEMBER THAT ‘I’ve got nothing against’ argument. I heard it from racist parents in my neighborhood growing up who would expound on the evils of interracial dating and integration. ‘I’ve got nothing against the blacks’ was the standard disclaimer, meant to excuse the evil in the argument.”

And so on.

Porter is not the only editorial writer who fell for it, by a longshot. Albany’s paper the Times Union said in their editorial: “The far more troubling holdout is Justice Antonin Scalia. His insistence that he personally has ‘nothing against homosexuals’ is to merge the humor of the Jerry Seinfeld TV show with the seriousness of jurisprudence.”

And here is a quote from an editorial in The Buffalo News: “Then, incredibly, Scalia had the nerve to say, ‘Let me be clear that I have nothing against homosexuals.’ You almost expected the next line to say, ‘Some of my best friends are homosexuals.'”

Incredibly, the editorial writer had the nerve to write an editorial for thousands of people, about an opinion that he (or she) had not even read.

This confirms what I have suspected for years: 99% or more of the people who criticize Scalia never bother to actually read one of his opinions. They simply rely on news articles with selective, out-of-context quotations — probably written by journalists who haven’t read the opinions themselves. Thus does our most brilliant Justice acquire the reputation of being a wild reactionary.

By now, having read that so many fine news organizations quoted Scalia this way, you are probably doubting whether I quoted him accurately above. How could these fine news outlets be wrong and Patterico be right? I say to you: be unlike a journalist — read the actual opinion for yourself. You can do so here.


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