Too Much Free Time

by Mike Masnick


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Supreme Court Justices Discuss Twitter

from the twitting dept

It does't look like we'll be seeing much Tweeting-from-the-bench on the Supreme Court any time soon, but the Hillicon Valley blog highlights an amusing moment at a recent House Judiciary subcommittee meeting, attended by two Supreme Court Justices -- Antonin Scalia and Stephen Breyer in which they're asked if they plan on using Twitter any time soon. Scalia says he doesn't even know anything about it -- and notes that his wife refers to him as "Mr. Clueless." Reassuring to know that of a Supreme Court Justice. Breyer, however, seems to indicate a realization that Twitter, as a communication platform, really could be quite powerful.
Subcommittee Chair Steve Cohen: Have either of y'all ever consider tweeting or twitting?

Justice Scalia: I don't even know what it is. To tell you the truth, I have heard it talked about. But, you know, my wife calls me Mr. Clueless -- I don't know about tweeting.

Justice Breyer: Well, I have no personal experience with that. I don't even know how it works. But, remember when we had that disturbance in Iran? My son said, 'Go look at this.' And oh, my goodness. I mean, there were some Twitters, I called them, there were people there with photographs as it went on. And I sat there for two hours absolutely hypnotized. And I thought, 'My goodness, this is now, for better or for worse, I think maybe for many respects for better, in that instance certainly, it's not the same world. It's instant and people react instantly... and there we are. It's quite a difference there and it's not something that's going to go away.
You can watch the exchange below:

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 May 2010 @ 2:26am

    Scalia says he doesn't even know anything about it -- and notes that his wife refers to him as "Mr. Clueless." Reassuring to know that of a Supreme Court Justice.

    Glad your wife thinks you're infallible.

    While it's certainly tempting to make fun of a couple Supreme Court justices for not being intimately familiar with Twitter, I am sure that there are many things of equally great importance that they are intimately familiar with, which I am not.

    As a technologist, it's easy to fall into the trap of thinking that the latest technology fads like Twitter and Facebook are the most important things in the world, and that something like the Commerce Clause's effect on treaty negotiations is absolutely useless.

    I am sure, however, that if I were in the hotseat, and somebody asked me about the Commerce Clause (or the latest development in genetics, or Justin Bieber, for that matter), I would appear equally foolish to the devotees of these things.

    Aw fuck it, why be reasonable when you can have so much fun piling on. JUDGES ARE DUMB AND MOSTLY USELESS AMIRITE?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 25 May 2010 @ 3:23am

      Re:

      While it's certainly tempting to make fun of a couple Supreme Court justices for not being intimately familiar with Twitter, I am sure that there are many things of equally great importance that they are intimately familiar with, which I am not.

      Forgive me for potentially not being clear... I wasn't making fun of them. I actually found the whole thing to be entertaining and slightly endearing, which is why I brought it up. It wasn't at all an attempt to mock them. Apologies if that's what you thought I meant.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Hephaestus (profile), 25 May 2010 @ 3:41am

      Re:

      "I am sure, however, that if I were in the hotseat, and somebody asked me about the Commerce Clause (or the latest development in genetics, or Justin Bieber, for that matter), I would appear equally foolish to the devotees of these things."

      In genetics the big things now are epigenomics and the protien folding problem, the commerce clause allows the federal government to regulate trade between states and nations, Justin who???? I could google or wikipedia him but I get what you are saying, out side the narrow specialties we all focus on, we are all clueless for the most part.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Hulser (profile), 25 May 2010 @ 6:57am

      Re:

      Aw fuck it, why be reasonable when you can have so much fun piling on. JUDGES ARE DUMB AND MOSTLY USELESS AMIRITE?

      I think you've missed the point. It's not that someone didn't know a narrowly defined fact in some specialty field other than their own. It's that he didn't know what Twitter was in spite of the fact that it has been so overhyped it has been discussed in almost every form of media imaginable. You'd have to practically be living under a rock not to know what Twitter is by now.

      You would expect that any judge, and especially a supreme court judge, would be a relatively well rounded person. Not living in some ivory tower secluded from the unwashed masses and their petty interests. No, they don't have to know every pop culture reference, but it just shows how out of touch someone is in general if they don't know what something is when that something is as ubiquitous as Twitter.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 May 2010 @ 5:02am

    Not me. I know everything.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 May 2010 @ 6:10am

    Good for the justice. We should not have government or court agencies using private services like Youtube, Facebook, Twitter to push a message, period. I find this equivalent to only using Microsoft Word to file legal documents.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 25 May 2010 @ 6:18am

      Re:

      What is with all the crazies... Or are the troll's Markov Algorithms just broken.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 25 May 2010 @ 6:34am

        Re: Re:

        He just can't stand the fact that when public officials speak on outlets other than mainstream media the mainstream media doesn't get to have a 95 year monopoly on the content and unfairly benefit. He can't stand the fact that mainstream media outlets now must actually compete with other outlets instead of having everything unfairly handed to them. He can't stand the fact that mainstream media is losing control over their ability to control what information the public gets from public officials and that they're losing their ability to cherry pick the words of a public official and take them out of context. It's understandable.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 25 May 2010 @ 6:26am

      Re:

      What the heck? So you want them to only use a monopolized mainstream media venue, a venue where they will claim copy protection privileges on the content and obtain a 95 year monopoly? No thanks, I would much rather them use facebook, Youtube, Twitter. In fact, they should not be using mainsteram media for anything, they are elected and should be serving the people and giving mainstream media the unfair advantage of having a monopoly on the public official opinion distribution is not in the public interest.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 25 May 2010 @ 6:27am

        Re: Re:

        on public official opinion distribution *

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 25 May 2010 @ 6:29am

        Re: Re:

        There is one exception though, if the public official insists that any content that benefits from that public official or that contains that public official in it should be released under some CC license or some other similar license. Then it would be OK for a public official to speak on mainstream media. Otherwise, it's unacceptable, at least not when it comes to policy issues.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Hulser (profile), 25 May 2010 @ 7:24am

      Re:

      We should not have government or court agencies using private services like Youtube, Facebook, Twitter to push a message, period.

      Who said anything about using Twitter? The point is that he didn't even know what Twitter was, not that he didn't use it himself. Technology isn't just for techies any more. Judges are often are called upon to make judgements that relate to technology. They should have a basic understanding of modern technology and you don't have to actually use some technology in order to have this understanding of it.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    NullOp, 25 May 2010 @ 7:16am

    Twitter

    Those old guys and gals don't have the juice to discuss Twitter or much else technical. The law is something you can 'feel' about, tech is not!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Techno-dude, 25 May 2010 @ 11:56am

    Justices

    Not understanding technology is fine... unless you are making judgements that affect citizen's right based on that technology.

    Things like bloggers being considered journalists, privacy rights of internet users, etc.

    If you don't understand the technology, how would you make an informed decision on how the constitution would apply to the technology?

    In a country who main export is technology and IP, if you don't understand either... you shouldn't be standing in judgement on anything concerning them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Pickle Monger (profile), 25 May 2010 @ 12:23pm

    Decorum much?

    Just throwing this out there... any chance Congressional Representatives could stop adressing Supreme Court Justices as "y'all"?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      CrushU, 25 May 2010 @ 2:25pm

      Re: Decorum much?

      Well, he is a Congressman from Tennessee... That speech pattern is perfectly normal for him. :)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Pickle Monger (profile), 25 May 2010 @ 4:32pm

        Re: Re: Decorum much?

        I'm sure it is. And, personally, I tend to finish my sentences with "eh" (stupid habit, really...). But I make a conscious decision to leave those things off my vocabulary on formal occasions.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ikonoclasm (profile), 26 May 2010 @ 10:38am

    Fascinating

    Am I the only one really impressed with Beyer's incredibly insightful comment on the nature of technology in bridging the barrier between reality as it happens and when we learn of it? I know most of us don't consider Twitter a particularly revolutionary technology, but you have to admit, after the Iranian protests, there was a lot of commentary from considerably more tech-minded people expressing a similar opinion to that of the Justice. I agree with Mike; the story is rather endearing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Kingsley Tagbo, 27 May 2010 @ 4:13am

    Why not social media?

    The White House already supports all the main social media sites on their front page, so it's obviously encouraged by the government already. If Obama and the First Lady use Facebook and Twitter, why wouldn't Supreme Court Justices? It's the same as being interviewed on 60 Minutes, or any other prime team news TV show. Facebook and Twitter provide much more bite sized snippets of information about particular government officials, but these services shouldn't be disapproved due to popularity. They are the most widely used, widely developed Internet services where anyone can find or share valuable information. If the government is very involved with TV, there's no reason to avoid making use of the Internet.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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