Americans boil in 'age of rage,' courtesy U.S. Supreme Court

(Photo by Joe Kovacs)
(Photo by Joe Kovacs)

America is in the “age of rage” because of several recent Supreme Court decisions that, citing the Constitution, have decided disputes in favor of the conservative ideology, according to constitutional expert and George Washington Law School professor Jonathan Turley.

And it’s producing some dangerous rhetoric.

Turley explains in an online column that the “age of rage” has resulted in a startling rise in threats to Supreme Court justices.

Many commenters were “muted” when suspect Nicholas John Roske was arrested and accused of trying to murder Justice Brett Kavanaugh, he pointed out.

“One group went ahead with a campaign to offer a bounty for any information of a conservative justice’s location in public – with an added payment if there is time for a mob to find them at the location,” he said.

Yet, he explained, Vox writer Ian Millhiser went ahead and prepared and publicized a “prewritten obituary” for Justice Samuel Alito, a key vote on multiple issues for conservatives, and “there seemed no concern” how it “might fuel the fatal obsession of someone like Roske in our society.”

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito

Millhiser later deleted his social media promotion of “prewritten” obituary, in which he charged, “Justice Samuel Alito, who died on XXXX, was not devoid of any positive traits. He was a skilled attorney and a highly effective advocate for conservative causes…Had he spent his career as a litigator, he would almost certainly be remembered as one of the Republican Party’s leading Supreme Court practitioners…The problem is that Justice Alito was, indeed, one of the Republican Party’s leading Supreme Court advocates — but he embraced this role while he was a sitting justice.”

Turley explained, “The prewritten obituary clearly would delight those with a fatal fetish or unhinged fantasy of changing the court through violent acts. Roske wrote on social media before his alleged attempted murder that ‘I could get at least one, which would change the votes for decades to come, and I am shooting for 3 all of the major decisions for the past 10 years have been along party lines so if there are more liberal than conservative judges, they will have the power.'”

He charged that the comments reflect “a sense of license to engage in the most reckless rhetoric with regard to the conservative justices. Law professors like Berkeley Dean Erwin Chemerinksy have called the justices ‘partisan hacks’ while others have supported targeting the individual justices at their home. Georgetown Law Professor Josh Chafetz declared that ‘when the mob is right, some (but not all!) more aggressive tactics are justified.’ Most recently, the dean and chancellor of University of California Hastings College of the Law David Faigman questioned the legitimacy of the court after the ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.”

When such “anticipatory obituaries” are being publicized, Turley warned, “it is time from some self-reflection in the media.”

He said, “For Mark Twain, it was merely a problem that ‘the reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.’ For Samuel Alito, it seems that reports of his anticipatory death are greatly celebrated. That says a great deal of where we are and what we are becoming.”

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