The Volokh Conspiracy

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WaPo Removes Claim That Justice Thomas's "Rulings Often Resemble the Thinking of White Conservatives."

"A previous version of this story imprecisely referred to Justice Clarence Thomas’s opinions as often reflecting the thinking of White conservatives, rather than conservatives broadly. That reference has been removed."

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Yesterday, two reporters of the Washington Post actually wrote that Justice Thomas is a "Black justice whose rulings often resemble the thinking of White conservatives." No this barb did not appear in the opinion section. It appeared in the news section.

Today, the Post noted a retraction. Or is it a "clarification"? After #MaskGate I have no idea how journalism works anymore.

CLARIFICATION
A previous version of this story imprecisely referred to Justice Clarence Thomas's opinions as often reflecting the thinking of White conservatives, rather than conservatives broadly. That reference has been removed.

Now, the passage reads:

Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.), a friend and ally of Clyburn's for over 30 years, said even Clyburn's critics respect his political instincts and his connection with a valuable but often disappointed subset of Democratic voters.

"Nobody that I'm aware of feels that opposing Clyburn's nomination would be the wise thing to do," he said. "If you know that a person has been vetted by Jim Clyburn, you know that person won't go to the court and end up being a Clarence Thomas," referring to the Black conservative justice.

I appreciate the "clarification," but this story is still problematic. Why is it relevant to this story that Thomas is Black? The reason why is that Thompson called Thomas an Oreo. The initial version of the story dutifully reported that statement as fact. Now, the Post merely alludes to the implication. This sort of casual racism against conservatives is embedded so deeply in progressive culture. WaPo reporters and editors simply treat these barbs as fact.

For posterity, the original is preserved here:

NEXT: Knives Out For Judge Childs From #TeamKruger

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  1. An example of why I cancelled my WaPo subscription. It does not know how to separate news reporting from opinion writing.

    1. What source do you now rely on that you think does a better job on that score?

      1. So many from which a vestigial clinger may choose . . . NewsMax, Instapundit, Fox, Stormfront, FreeRepublic, One America, Breitbart, Volokh Conspiracy, Prager, Bannon's War Room, the Crusader, Free Beacon, Washington Times . . .

        1. What an aßhole you are Artie. That is why you know about clingers

          1. Watch it, Don Nico. Prof. Volokh (claims he) has civility standards around here.

      2. BBC comes to mind. AP is at least not so overt in their bias.

        1. Foreign news sources are often the only place you can find a relatively objective take on what's going on in the US, just because they don't really 'have a dog in the fight'.

          1. Yeah, I am a regular reader of Times of Israel, Jerusalem Post, Arutz Sheva, and NHK.

            1. Sorry, but Arutz Sheva could hardly be more biased if it tried.

              1. The important thing isn't that it meet some Platonic standard of being unbiased. It's that it not have the same bias as your other sources.

                1. I agree that a diversity of viewpoints is key to getting anything like an accurate picture. But that doesn't mean blindly weighing all sources equally. You have to discriminate between the ones that at least try to hit it up the middle and those that consider bias a feature, not a bug.

          2. Foreign news sources are not object, but their biases skew differently than local ones. If you are used to (and tired of) the same old dichotomies, new fresh dichotomies are quite a break.

        2. BBC comes to mind

          As a source that does not stir bucketfuls of opinion into their news stories !!??

          You jest. But they are a bit subtler than CNN. If you're used to CNN then you might miss the BBC's softer cleverer soap. They're excellent at story management - ie timing the story and keeping those bits of the story that are bad for their "chums" out of the headlines, even if they are briefly glossed over in the body of the story. They understand that most people skim the headines, and very few read down to the bottom.

          A standard technique you can look for is when, say, a politico is caught in bed with a camel. If the politico is on the right (say Ted Cruz) the headline will say :

          REPUBLICAN SENATOR TED CRUZ IN BIZARRE CAMEL SEX VIDEO

          and the story will be up in seconds

          But if it's, say, Chuck Schumer, the headline will ....

          (a) be much smaller and not on the front page
          (b) not identify the party of the Senator
          (c) appear a couple of days later,
          (d) not mention camels or sex in the headline, and
          (e) lead not with the story, but with the denial; thus

          NEW YORK SENATOR "PARTISAN INNUENDO" DENIAL

          85% will not bother to read on after such a boring headline.

          1. not identify the party of the Senator

            Lee,

            Fox is notorious for putting (D) next to the name of Republican politicians caught in scandals.

            1. That's new to me. Got a few examples you can share with us?

            2. Ditto CNN vicely versally.

              I am not going to die in a ditch defending Fox's impartiality and journalistic standards. But I am going to giggle at the notion that the BBC's news is other than marinated in lefty dogma.

      3. My crazy uncle has a firmer less partisan grip on reality.

      4. The NYT is better and NHK is much better

      5. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/ushome/index.html

        The Mail will copy anyone's story, without checking any facts, and without adding their opinion. Easily the most open source available.

        Filled with facts. Filled with nonsense. You decide which is which.

      6. I use a smorgasboard of many sources. But among them is Al Jazeera, which does a pretty good job.

      7. I get my news from a wide variety of news sources in order to avoid the one sided echo chamber, including CNN, MSNBC, NPR, ABC. One souce I never get news from is Fox.

        I do my best to get as much news from source documents.
        That being said, the conservative sources tend to be much more balance and accurate. CNN and NPR are especially bad about misrepresenting the facts.

      8. QA, I am reposting something I said (replying to you!) in another comment-thread:

        Today it isn't just a matter of partisanship. We get two radically different pictures of the world, depending on what we read / watch / listen to. If I feel that one side shows me the truth, while the other is just plain lying to me, I will stop paying attention to the latter.

        So, it isn't a question of which news source "separates news reporting from opinion writing." It's a question of which news source is less likely to tell me outright lies.

    2. It's a pity, too, ten years ago they were my go-to for hard news. Now they're just a bad joke. They seem incapable of being embarrassed.

    3. As long as writing and editing is done by humans, no news source will be bias-free. All reports from every source should be taken with a modicum of skepticism. And some sources are so shamelessly programmatically biased that only a committed partisan would take anything they say seriously (Breitbart, The Federalist, Jacobin...). My test for deciding a source's general reliability is whether it practices journalistic self-criticism and correction in an effort to keep its biases to an unavoidable minimum. The Post is far from perfect, and its left lean is undeniable, but it passes that test.

      1. This is too rational and sane Leo, please do better next time.

        1. Oh, you can count on it.

  2. "Why is it relevant to this story that Thomas is Black? "

    Because the current President promised to nominate a Black woman and a flurry of criticism over affirmative action (of which Thomas was very likely a beneficiary regarding his nomination) followed?

    1. That was not WaPo's point, their point is that Clyborn won't transition to a white man on the court, like Clarence Thomas is in their view. They could care less about affirmative action and the racial discrimination. Also, there is a difference between "very likely a beneficiary of affirmative action" and an explicit racial requirement to even have a consideration for nomination.

      1. " Also, there is a difference between "very likely a beneficiary of affirmative action" and an explicit racial requirement to even have a consideration for nomination. "

        Perhaps, from the disaffected perspective of an obsolete conservative (or faux libertarian) bigot.

        1. Of course it is different for "obsolete conservative (or faux libertarian) bigots". And everyone else for that matter. Cause like, objectively, they are not the same thing.

      2. "their point is that Clyborn won't transition to a white man on the court, like Clarence Thomas is in their view"

        I think the point is that if Clyburn vetted the nominee they won't turn out to be a conservative.

        " there is a difference between "very likely a beneficiary of affirmative action" and an explicit racial requirement to even have a consideration for nomination."

        Yeah, transparency.

        1. "I think the point is that if Clyburn vetted the nominee they won't turn out to be a conservative."

          Partially, but their point is also, racial essentialist, that is why they used the words white conservative. For them it is unacceptable for a black man to be conservative, that is why they racialize it.

          "Yeah, transparency."

          Either that or you assume racism without proof and excuse it when there so clearly is.

  3. Why is it relevant to this story that Thomas is Black?

    "Fresh fish sold here."

    1. Because that's why he was picked over other, eminently more qualified white conservatives. I don't have a problem with this. Justice Thomas does.

  4. I'm so confused! Is Thomas insufficiently black, or not?

    1. Thomas is racially black, but not judicially black.

      1. TwelveInchPianist
        February.17.2022 at 1:51 pm
        Flag Comment Mute User
        "Thomas is racially black, but not judicially black."

        Thomas is judicially correct the vast majority of the time.

    2. For them he is, I guess they just do not want to be caught saying it so explicitly. But even with the changed language their point remains the same.

    3. Not the right kind of Black. He doesn’t pull his forelock and say “Yes, Massa. Thank you, Massa.” to the Democrats

  5. " After #MaskGate I have no idea how journalism works anymore. "

    That qualification is unnecessary (poor writing indicating lack of an editor).

    Prof. Blackman's lack of understanding of journalism has been unaffected by #MaskGate.

  6. Why are Black and White capitalized now?

    1. Because distinguishing between Black and White is so important, as it determines where you rank on the intersectionality ladder.

    2. Wapo announced stylistic guidelines where they started capitalizing them. The AP, in contrast, says that they will capitalize black but not white.

      But they don't capitalize white in "white supremacy".

      1. George Floyd, Confederate symbols, we're going to capitalize the word black now.

        Got it.

      2. It is in the nature of house style guides to be arbitrary. There is no "right" answer, only the "house" answer. Arguing with a house style guide is like arguing the merits of driving on the left or the right. And, unlike traffic regulations, nobody's business outside of the "house."

        1. "Be careful out there, honey, the news says there's a maniac driving on the wrong side of the road."

          "I know, but it's not just one maniac, it's hundreds of them!"

        2. There's arbitrary consistent, and arbitrary inconsistent. Capitalizing or not capitalizing "black" and "white", but the same whichever you do, is an arbitrary choice. It's not a statement, just setting a consistent practice.

          Capitalizing one but not the other is arbitrary AND inconsistent. It is absolutely a statement of values, and the AP doesn't pretend otherwise. They seem to view it as choosing sides between white supremacists, (Who else would think "white" would be capitalized?) and an oppressed minority.

          Keep that in mind when reading AP stories: They're not trying to be objective, they've rejected that. They're playing for one side, and think they ought to be.

          1. House style doesn't have to be consistent; it has to be followed consistently. There's a difference. And it remains nobody's business except the house and its writers.

            1. "House style doesn't have to be consistent; it has to be followed consistently."

              That doesn't mean you aren't allowed to notice that it isn't consistent.

              "And it remains nobody's business except the house and its writers."

              Potential readers. You forgot them.

              AP claims to think that capitalizing 'black' is respectful, capitalizing 'white' is a sign of white supremacy.

              Now, I thought the old rule was that colors weren't capitalized, ethnicities were, because ethnicities were proper names; "Italian", for instance. That was an ideologically neutral stance.

              The AP's stance on black and white isn't neutral, it's announcing sides. They're literally telling whites that capitalizing "white" would be white supremacy!

              Well, screw them. That's all I can say to that.

              1. LOL who cares about this de minimis nonsense.

              2. That doesn't mean you aren't allowed to notice that it isn't consistent.

                True, you're "allowed" to notice it, talk about it, obsess about it, and get your knickers in a twist about it.

                The rest of us are allowed to point and laugh.

        3. "It is in the nature of house style guides to be arbitrary. There is no "right" answer, only the "house" answer."

          Certainly true. Ironically, the 'house' in both cases doesn't believe it's being arbitrary. They believe their capitalization is the correct practice.

        4. Actually, there is a right answer: capitalization indicates that the word refers to a specific person, place, or thing.

          “African-American” and “Caucasian” are capitalized because Africa, America, and the Caucasus are specific places; “black” and “white” are colors.

          1. That's a perfectly fine rule, and you'd be well within your rights to insist upon it in your own publications. But it isn't "right," it's just yours.

  7. I have a hard time believing there isn't something more interesting or consequential to blog about. This is even more of a nothing burger than the mask nonsense.

    1. And yet, here you are, apparently reading and clearly bothering commenting on the post?

      1. In general, I've found it quite difficult to judge how interesting or consequential a post is without reading it.

  8. The Washington Post cannot be fairly characterized as other an uninhibited progressive propaganda pump. For proof it is not necessary to look beyond the remarks of its cluelress victims here.

    1. The best part about the Post is trying to give their commentariat strokes and heart attacks by disproving their wild assertions.

    2. Look at the bright side, WJack -- there are plenty of sources that are an apt fit for a disaffected, bigoted, half-educated, ready-for-replacement clingers as they await replacement by their betters in modern, improving America.

    3. I'm starkly amazed at the lengths they go to, though.

      They've got this project where they set out to catalogue every one of Trump's "lies". Over 30K!

      But if you look at them, most of them are just expressions of opinion, that the WaPo happens to disagree with. Not matters of fact at all.

      Probably the most glaring, he promised to renegotiate NAFTA. They've got that down as a "lie". Excuse me, didn't NAFTA get renegotiated? Am I imagining that? Yet, they've got it listed as a "lie".

    4. Your conservative virtue signaling needs moar passive voice.

  9. Thinking like a white person—I will vape instead of smoking menthol cigarettes. Thinking like a white person—I will buy the craft beer instead of the 40 of malt liquor.

    1. There was a whole blog (and a couple books) on Stuff White People Like.

      1. The most recent South Park delved into the real estate circus going on and it made light of college educated whites. And it also came to the conclusion I did that most Americans would be happy in any city and people shouldn’t be focusing on a few cities and ruining them by making them unaffordable.

    1. There is where I netted out as well. It was overt racism and it is wrong.

  10. I think the revised statement accurately reflects the point that I think Clyburn was making. He's saying that his preferred nominee won't end up being conservative and is specifically referencing Justice Thomas because Thomas is black. I think Clyburn's comments reflect the Left's unhealthy fixation on race but the story is just reporting that. That said, anyone reading this WaPo article knows full well who Clarence Thomas is, his political/judicial leanings and his race so it's a pretty useless clarification on Clyburn's comment.

    1. Do you think the Republican Party's fixation on race (as vividly demonstrated by the degree to which the white, male nature of Republican judicial nominees and elected officials defy the odds) and the Volokh Conspiracy's fixation on race (this White, male blog is The Official Blog Of White Male Grievance) are healthy, KeithK?

    2. The writers realized that Rep. Thompson's comment is blatantly race-essentialist in a way that is gratuitously and personally nasty towards Justice Thomas. I think they tried to soften that statement with their coda, but the mask slipped. After a brouhaha, an editor finally paid attention and put the mask back in place.

  11. I wonder if any of these WaPo reporters have ever met or spoken with Justice Thomas. They seem to just have a narrative they want to support and to heck with searching for facts. I've spoken with Justice Thomas several times. He seems to form his own opinions based on the Constitution without taking into consideration the race of the people involved or whether he is also agreeing with "white conservatives".

    1. He seems to form his...opinions based on the Constitution without taking into consideration the race of the people involved...

      Unacceptable to "progressives" and "liberals" (of any color).

  12. They actually capitalized the word "White", which surely goes against their style guide.

  13. I don't think Thompson was calling anyone an "oreo" as you claim, just lamenting the Justice he most disagrees with. It'd be like a Republican citing Sotomayor or earlier RBG.

    But anyway thanks for your original post on this topic Josh, glad to see you can still get results!

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