Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Dotted with pigeon droppings of extreme bias

I didn't wake up this morning thinking it should be "Critical of the New York Times" day, but it feels like that is what has happened. Ann Althouse has some thoughts on a politically (philosophically, racially? it gets hard to tell) motivated attack on Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas on the most tenuous of possible grounds.
The Times' Adam Liptak wrote, in paragraph 2, that "opinions contain language from briefs submitted to the court at unusually high rates." And then way down in paragraph 15:
Over the years, the average rate of nearly identical language between a party's brief and the majority opinion was 9.6 percent. Justice Thomas's rate was 11.3 percent. Justice Sonia Sotomayor's was 11 percent, and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's 10.5 percent.
So, obviously, there is absolutely nothing special about Thomas's use of language that's also in the briefs.

And, I would add, the use of the same language isn't even a problem, because briefs and court opinions are always studded with quotes from old cases and the kind of stock word clusters that make up legal doctrine and shouldn't be paraphrased. I'm surprised the shared language is as low as 11%. I'd guess that any judge that does us readers the service of keeping it concise would have a higher percentage, because there'd be less filler and verbosity to dilute the necessary language.
The commentary to her post is solidly on side.

I liked this comment which describes my admiration of the New York Times' scope of reporting on important issues which is balanced by my outrage at their tendency to misreport or to allow their prejudices to color their reporting.
Scott said...
The New York Times is like a vast picnic in Central Park, resplendent with food of every kind -- and dotted with pigeon droppings of extreme bias.

That's why I like the Washington Post better. The spread isn't so sumptuous, and the menu is a bit tendentious, but the quality of what they serve is consistently better.

9/2/15, 8:39 AM

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