Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Hatred of Holmes

There has been so much talk about the Constitution that I have had trouble selecting one subject, but there was a recent flurry of posts that calls out for comment. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer gave a graceful interview to La Revue des deux Mondes, an honored journal that was in days of yore closely followed here in New England. Justice Breyer spoke about Proust and other authors who meant a great deal to him, and in answer to a question, quoted Justice Holmes,who also in his day read and admired French literature. Breyer's interview was published (in English) in The New York Review of Books, which is more or less the American equivalent of the French journal. This prompted an extraordinary outpouring of bile from a right-wing newspaper, the New York Post

In Rupert Murdock's Post, columnist Kyle Smith condemned Breyer for quoting Holmes. Breyer had repeated an anecdote about Holmes mildly chiding his brethren for holding that Broadway theaters was not sufficiently suffused with the public interest to justify government support or regulation. Kyle Smith then worked up a head of steam condemning Breyer, not only for quoting Holmes, but for giving an interview in French, for reading Proust, and for speaking of his own method of interpreting legal texts, which differs from Justice Scalia's. Smith garbles and misunderstands the interview, but the point is evidently to express hatred for these honored, cosmopolitan men, who have the temerity to be citizens of the United States.