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Anatomy of a rumor
March 4, 2010 4:58 PM   Subscribe

Chief Justice Roberts is not resigning. But here's why you might have heard that he was.
posted by Chocolate Pickle (49 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Is that seriously what goes on at law school? "Clever" professors recycling wisdom previously only know to REO Speedwagon fans and 7 year olds with styrofoam cups?
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 5:04 PM on March 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think this might have set a new speed record for propagation of a rumor. Within minutes of when that professor told his lie to his class, the rumor was literally coast to coast.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 5:04 PM on March 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Man, something similar happened a few months back. I told some of my students that Michael Jackson had died and five minutes later there were like 250 facebook status updates and tweets that said "Mr. Michaels just found out Michael Jackson died. Christ, what a dork."
posted by Joey Michaels at 5:07 PM on March 4, 2010 [10 favorites]


Boy, "wildfire internet rumor" sure sounds a lot sexier than "crappy journalism", doesn't it?
posted by mhoye at 5:08 PM on March 4, 2010 [6 favorites]


This source noted that JGR would sooner die — literally — than give Obama the chance to appoint his successor.

That's just the sort of impartiality I can appreciate from a Supreme Court Justice. Bravo.
posted by Brak at 5:09 PM on March 4, 2010 [9 favorites]


So Radar received a tip about the Chief Justice resigning from a random law student and decided to just run with it ten minutes later? I know it's not a bastion of journalistic integrity, but really?
posted by Pontius Pilate at 5:12 PM on March 4, 2010


This source noted that JGR would sooner die -- literally -- than give Obama the chance to appoint his successor.

Not to be morbid, but wouldn't that produce the same result?
posted by rokusan at 5:13 PM on March 4, 2010 [6 favorites]


Gullible bunch of dupes really don't belong in law school, do they?
posted by contessa at 5:13 PM on March 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


If Roberts ever resigns, it'll be to spend more time with the corpses buried under his deck.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 5:14 PM on March 4, 2010 [6 favorites]


The downfall of Radar has been pretty depressing. A couple of years ago it was a smart, well-designed digest of politics and culture; see, for instance, this article about the aftermath of YouTube stardom they put out back in 2007, or the 31 times one of its articles featured in a Mefi post. But they folded in 2008, got bought out by supermarket tabloid publisher American Media, and have since been converted into a shitty TMZ wannabe -- one with lamer scoops and a layout that looks like strawberry vomit.
posted by Rhaomi at 5:17 PM on March 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


Stupid law students. Poseurs to the cognoscenti.
posted by Xoebe at 5:19 PM on March 4, 2010


Now it's rumored-newsfilter?
posted by Pantengliopoli at 5:20 PM on March 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Roberts Does Not Resign" is right up there as a FPP with "Generalissimo Francisco Franco Is Still Dead...."
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:28 PM on March 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


But one can always hope, right? I mean, just that initial surge of joy kind of made my day.
posted by Ghidorah at 5:30 PM on March 4, 2010


"I think this might have set a new speed record for propagation of a rumor. Within minutes of when that professor told his lie to his class, the rumor was literally coast to coast."

There's probably a correlation between the speed with which a rumor spreads and the number of people who want it to be true. So there must be a whole lot of people out there who can't wait for Roberts to be gone.
posted by Kevin Street at 5:32 PM on March 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


At first I didn't see the "not" in this FPP and got all excited.
posted by brundlefly at 5:33 PM on March 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think something similar may have happened with this rumor I keep getting e-mailed about how I can get a b1gg3r p3n1s in 30 days w0w sh3 is amaz3d by 1ts s1z3
posted by Greg Nog at 5:33 PM on March 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


How can you be wasting your time with rumors like this when one of the greatest American writers, Stephen King, just died this morning in Maine?

wait, this isn't slashdot?
posted by qvantamon at 5:33 PM on March 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


I heard that the Battleship Yamato has been refloated, and they're going to turn it into a space ship.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 5:36 PM on March 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


.
posted by codswallop at 5:37 PM on March 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


from link: “This source noted that JGR would sooner die — literally — than give Obama the chance to appoint his successor.”

Brak: “That's just the sort of impartiality I can appreciate from a Supreme Court Justice. Bravo.”

Well, that's sort of a twisted view of things. It's common for justices to hold on in order to avoid handing the nomination to a president even if they're liberal (*cough* GINSBERG *cough*.) And is impartiality even a good thing in a Supreme Court Chief Justice?

I mean, I hate Roberts as much as the next guy – I think he's not a good chief justice at all, and I think it's unfortunate that he's in that position right now – but to dislike him for having strong opinions seems to be rather missing the point. I would think that the problem isn't that he has strong opinions, but that those strong opinions are wrong.
posted by koeselitz at 5:47 PM on March 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


For God's sake, it wasn't a rumor! Look (from a Georgetown Law Student):

Today’s class was partially on the validity of informants not explaining their sources. [Professor Tague] started off class at around 9 am EST by telling us not to tell anyone, but that we might find it interesting that tomorrow, Roberts would be announcing his retirement for health concerns. He refused to tell anyone how he knew. Then, at around 9:30, he let everyone in on the joke.

In other words it was part of an object lesson on the reliability of informants, nobody started a rumor that Roberts was resigning, it was part of an in-class lesson. If law students were paying attention rather than fucking around on the interwebs it never would have left the classroom.

This stupidity is reminiscent of the Boston LiteBrite terrorist "hoax" that wasn't actually a hoax.
posted by r_nebblesworthII at 5:58 PM on March 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


When I was a third year, some hearings on the Joint House Senate 9/11 Committee were in full swing. I was taking a class with the guy who was the acting executive director and lead investigative counsel of that committee and when the former NSC anti-terror guy Richard Clarke got up and basically said Bush was asleep at the wheel, Bill Frist said "he didn't testify that way in the closed hearings," the prof took great glee in informing us that in point of fact, that's exactly how Clarke testified in closed committee. Within 15 seconds I had informed Josh Marshall off the record that the prof had said that. Josh thanked me 5 seconds later.

This of course was true, unlike the Roberts story.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:12 PM on March 4, 2010 [4 favorites]


in related news: WOLF! WOLF!
posted by Primofex at 6:12 PM on March 4, 2010


here's why you might have heard that he was.

Because Ann Althouse was drunk again?
posted by octobersurprise at 6:19 PM on March 4, 2010


r_nebblesworthII: “For God's sake, it wasn't a rumor! ... it was part of an object lesson on the reliability of informants, nobody started a rumor that Roberts was resigning, it was part of an in-class lesson. If law students were paying attention rather than fucking around on the interwebs it never would have left the classroom.”

Er... I don't really understand. You seem to be using a new, interesting definition of the word "rumor" that I am not aware of. Law Professor X tells 'lie' as part of classroom demonstration about the unreliability of second-hand reports; students think that lie is true, and spread that around on the internet; this 'report' becomes more and more common, and spreads until it's picked up by several more significant internet news outlets. Right?

I always thought a 'rumor' was 'a report, usually with no given source, that is spread by word of mouth.' It can be true or false, and it can be started for any number of reasons; the only thing that makes it a 'rumor' is that it's spread by people talking freely about it, usually quite vaguely. As such, it would seem that this is a textbook case of a rumor. Isn't it?

I have a feeling what you mean is that this wasn't a hoax. Nobody intentionally spread this around to mislead people, it's true. But intention doesn't seem to have anything to do with whether it's a rumor or not.
posted by koeselitz at 6:19 PM on March 4, 2010 [4 favorites]


Because Ann Althouse was drunk again?
posted by octobersurprise at 6:19 PM on March 4


lmao remember when Althouse said all of this?

"Then, when she goes to meet Clinton, she wears a tight knit top that draws attention to her breasts and stands right in front of him and positions herself to make her breasts as obvious as possible?"

"It's obvious that you're bending over backwards -- figuratively and literally -- to keep the attention on your breasts."

"Jessica should have worn a beret. Blue dress would have been good too."

"Jessica's breasts are definitely a distraction…"

"… Jessica looks like Paula Jones (check her profile photo: she does)…"

"Look closely at that picture and try to adopt the posture Jessica's in. I did. It's not natural…"
posted by Optimus Chyme at 6:27 PM on March 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


You know that guy has a serious kink or two. No one is that straight edge in public unless he's into getting tied up and whipped by deaf-mute hermaphrodites (or something) behind closed doors.

Eventually, we will find out. Never trust a smug, self-righteous prick.
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:29 PM on March 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Never trust anyone who isn't getting into some serious kink or two on their own time.
posted by Babblesort at 6:48 PM on March 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Never trust a smug, self-righteous prick.

Never trust him to what? Have a life outside of work?
posted by Pollomacho at 7:20 PM on March 4, 2010


I have a feeling what you mean is that this wasn't a hoax. Nobody intentionally spread this around to mislead people, it's true. But intention doesn't seem to have anything to do with whether it's a rumor or not.


This rumor that I don't know the difference between a rumor and a hoax is a vile lie!
posted by r_nebblesworthII at 7:26 PM on March 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


remember when Althouse said all of this?

Ha. Ha. More like:

"Look closhely at th't picture and try to adopt the posh'ture Jeshsheca's in! Ish not natural … !"
posted by octobersurprise at 7:39 PM on March 4, 2010


I think this might have set a new speed record for propagation of a rumor. Within minutes of when that professor told his lie to his class, the rumor was literally coast to coast.

It's the miracle of twitter.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:41 PM on March 4, 2010


But they folded in 2008, got bought out by supermarket tabloid publisher American Media, and have since been converted into a shitty TMZ wannabe -- one with lamer scoops and a layout that looks like strawberry vomit.

You get what you pay for.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:43 PM on March 4, 2010


I would think that the problem isn't that he has strong opinions, but that those strong opinions are wrong.

As you might have noticed, it is no longer fashionable to consider a person to be wrong. All opinions are equal. It's called Fair and Balanced, don'tchaknow?
posted by five fresh fish at 7:56 PM on March 4, 2010


Today’s class was partially on the validity of informants not explaining their sources. [Professor Tague] started off class at around 9 am EST by telling us not to tell anyone, but that we might find it interesting that tomorrow, Roberts would be announcing his retirement for health concerns. He refused to tell anyone how he knew. Then, at around 9:30, he let everyone in on the joke.
In other words it was part of an object lesson on the reliability of informants, nobody started a rumor that Roberts was resigning, it was part of an in-class lesson. If law students were paying attention rather than fucking around on the interwebs it never would have left the classroom.


Between instant messaging, green screen backlots, and the idiocy of competitive for-profit media and for-political-means media and for-marketing media, it has never been more true:

Trust nothing that you hear and only half of what you see.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:04 PM on March 4, 2010


I can't believe that you people mindlessly swallow the rumour that Chief Justice Roberts is not resigning based on one internet link by a guy who calls himself "Chocolate Pickle".
posted by the quidnunc kid at 8:27 PM on March 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


But has a chocolate pickle ever lied to you?
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 8:57 PM on March 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


This source noted that JGR would sooner die — literally — than give Obama the chance to appoint his successor.

If only Sandra Day O'Connor had felt that way about George Bush.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:06 PM on March 4, 2010


If only Sandra Day O'Connor had felt that way about George Bush.

But she always wanted to retire under a Republican.

"John O'Connor said his wife was upset because they wanted to retire to Arizona, and a Gore win meant they'd have to wait another four years."

But lucky for her, she got to decide who would be President! ...
posted by wildcrdj at 10:28 PM on March 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


I wonder how or if this sort of rumor, timed properly, could influence an election?
posted by sundri at 10:31 PM on March 4, 2010


Never trust a smug, self-righteous prick.

Move the hell over, "Everyone needs a hug."!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:34 PM on March 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


And is impartiality even a good thing in a Supreme Court Chief Justice?

I'm going to go with "Yes" on this one.

I want robot judges who adhere to the Constitution without pushing things in any direction, please. (And as a bonus, we could get many more cases through by just adding more bandwidth.)
posted by rokusan at 3:21 AM on March 5, 2010


I want robot judges who adhere to the Constitution without pushing things in any direction, please

Is YOUR constitutional court flip-flopping to the whims of fallible, human judges, who seek to stain the holy corpus of jurisprudence with their strange biases and idiosyncratic penchants? Then purchase NOW the Justicator 3000 - the electronic judicial officer that can process over 4,000 cases per hour with 100% impartiality and 99.99% less obiter dicta!

Court records reveal THESE amazing testimonials!

"I agree completely with the brief but accurate judgment of the Justiciator 3000 that the criminal abortion statutes in question 'do not compute'."
Roe v Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973) per Douglas J.

"11010100011111111100001001111111000100010000000000000000001001000010000
00101010010001001000010111111001001000100010010001111110001010010000100
001010110000100000000000000111011100010111101011, as it was stated by the Justiciator 3000, and we cannot add to that statement of the law save to note its sagicity".
Mabo v QLD (No 2) (1992) 175 CLR 1 per Mason CJ and McHugh J

"My Lords, I have had an opportunity of considering the opinion prepared by my noble and learned friend the Justiciator 3000, which I have already read. The reasoning of that opinion and the conclusions reached therein accord in every respect with my own views, and by utilising the plug on its left flank I have just recharged my ipod. My Lords, you can't beat that shit."
Donoghue v Stevenson [1932] AC 562 per Lord Tomlin.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 5:04 AM on March 5, 2010 [6 favorites]


lmao remember when Althouse said all of this?

"Then, when she goes to meet Clinton, she wears a tight knit top that draws attention to her breasts and stands right in front of him and positions herself to make her breasts as obvious as possible?"

"It's obvious that you're bending over backwards -- figuratively and literally -- to keep the attention on your breasts."

"Jessica should have worn a beret. Blue dress would have been good too."

"Jessica's breasts are definitely a distraction…"

"… Jessica looks like Paula Jones (check her profile photo: she does)…"

"Look closely at that picture and try to adopt the posture Jessica's in. I did. It's not natural…"


Ann is a huge hypocrite who spent her youth flaunting her own figure and looks. She hasn't aged well.
posted by caddis at 8:16 AM on March 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


So there must be a whole lot of people out there who can't wait for Roberts to be gone.

Wait on. He'll be there till he's a stiff and they carry him out in a coffin like they did Rehnquist. Rehnquist was 80 when he croaked. Roberts is 55. Smartest decision GWB/his puppetmasters ever made. A giant middle finger for generations to come.
posted by blucevalo at 8:46 AM on March 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


More seriously, SCOTUSblog had a detailed post last week arguing that Stevens would retire this year, Ginsburg would not (despite rumors to the contrary), and that U.S. Solicitor General Elena Kagan is the likely front-runner to replace Stevens.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 9:31 AM on March 5, 2010


Oh, Georgetown Law was a fun place to be yesterday.

The thing is, professors do this sort of thing all the time. Professor Tague has been doing this for years of 1L classes. And he always makes a point that this news doesn't leave the room. That warning comes up in law school kind of a lot, and is something that, you know, lawyers should be expected to respect and comply with.

So here we got a jackass kid sending this to Radar during class, and nobody bothering to check out whether it was actually true before running with it. Tague (accidentally) made his point rather well, I think.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:36 AM on March 5, 2010


> Well, that's sort of a twisted view of things. It's common for justices to hold on in order to avoid handing the nomination to a president even if they're liberal (*cough* GINSBERG *cough*.) And is impartiality even a good thing in a Supreme Court Chief Justice?

Sorry, my one-line response suggested a more general and sweeping critique than I actually meant to offer. So let me elaborate.

Consider the (paraphrased) language, "I would sooner die than let Obama choose my successor to the Supreme Court." Now, presuming this statement was made with more of a modicum of seriousness, as opposed to e.g. a tongue-in-cheek double-entendre in acknowledgment of the rules governing the position—and I suppose a case could be made for the latter, but we'll discount this under the premise that judges aren't the joking sort—one would have to infer that I have significant reservations about Obama choosing a successor to my role.

The cause for these reservations can basically be boiled down into two categories:Presumably, I am aware that Barack Obama holds a doctorate in law from Harvard Law School, served as a law professor at the University of Chicago, and practiced law in Chicago. These facts, along with his service in the U.S. Congress and as the President of the United States, can probably eliminate the first category, at least to a level where I wouldn't feel the need to claim death over him making the succession decision.

That leaves the second category. The problem is, the second category is entirely steeped in conflicts in political ideology. And while having strong opinions about interpretation of the law in its various forms is most likely a trait one would like to see in a Supreme Court Justice, bringing my political ideologies to bear on my position as a Supreme Court Justice seems to be anathema to anyone who cares about the direction and role of the courts.

Moreover, I would argue that such a statement transcends a mere desire to retire while a certain party is in power. "I would rather die" evokes such a strong contempt for the current sitting administration as to make one wonder how someone could help but allow such ideological differences make their way into his decisions on the bench.

My belief is that he couldn't. And so, whatever his political/philosophical bent, I believe that makes him unqualified to serve on the High Court.
posted by Brak at 12:41 PM on March 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


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