Antonin Scalia is so crazy, he believes the Washington Post is "shrilly liberal"
Jumping off of Michael Garvey's post, below, about the devil's popping up in the zeitgeist: I was frustrated at the response to Scalia's interview among progressives, because so many people took the trollbait ("The devil! What a nut!") and overlooked the portions of the interview that were, in my opinion, more revealing and alarming.
Dahlia Lithwick, writing at Slate, got the takeaway right, it seemed to me: "The Scalia interview reveals his remarkable isolation from anyone who doesn’t agree with him."
She pointed out how Justice Scalia turned the answer about the devil back on his interviewer, Jennifer Senior, attacking her for being out-of-touch and elitist: "You’re looking at me as though I’m weird. My God! Are you so out of touch with most of America, most of which believes in the Devil?... You travel in circles that are so, so removed from mainstream America that you are appalled that anybody would believe in the Devil!"
He brought the subject up (interrupting a question about his drafting process, as Senior tells it) to give himself the opportunity to say just that. As has been demonstrated before -- and as he more or less explains in this interview -- Scalia thinks trolling liberals is an important part of his job. It worked on Senior: "It wasn’t your belief that surprised me," she explains after being chastised by the allegedly offended justice, "so much as how boldly you expressed it." Yep, that's how trolling works. And it worked on a lot of other people who grabbed that quote and ran with it -- that loony Scalia!
Believing in the devil is not crazy. Using misunderstood religious beliefs and teachings to goad your liberal interlocutors into sneering at your simplemindedness, so that you can then posture as a persecuted man of the people, is kind of obnoxious, but it isn't crazy. This, though, is pretty crazy:
We used to get the Washington Post, but it just … went too far for me. I couldn’t handle it anymore.
What tipped you over the edge?
It was the treatment of almost any conservative issue. It was slanted and often nasty. And, you know, why should I get upset every morning? I don’t think I’m the only one. I think they lost subscriptions partly because they became so shrilly, shrilly liberal.
The Washington Post is shrilly liberal. The paper that publishes -- this is a partial list, off the top of my head -- George Will, Charles Krauthammer, Marc Thiessen, Kathleen Parker, and Richard Cohen (who evidently thinks he is a liberal). The home of Broderism. The paper that is so reflexively centrist that its response to the GOP-manufactured government shutdown was to cry a pox on both houses and lament the lack of adult leadership on both sides. (See James Fallows's exasperated reaction here.) That Washington Post is shrilly, shrilly liberal?
I don't get the impression that Scalia was trolling there. I think he may really think he has a point. Conor Friedersdorf thought this was a significant exchange because it revealed Scalia to be much too ideologically thin-skinned. But he missed (or intentionally declined to pass judgment on) this larger point: the Washington Post is actually not that liberal. If you think the Washington Post is too "shrilly liberal" to be stomached, you have an alarmingly skewed perspective on the state of political discourse in the United States today. Good thing Supreme Court justices have complete job security!
About the Author
Mollie Wilson O'Reilly is an editor at large and columnist at Commonweal.