Judging Jackson: Confirmation in the Age of Conspiracy Theories, Lies, and Technology

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson

A recent report from the January 6th commission shows Ginny Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, was communicating with President Trump’s Chief of Staff to illegally (and seditiously) stop the certification of the 2020 presidential election.

The report illustrates that extremism, guided by conspiratorial thinking, existed at the highest levels of government. Unfortunately, that’s still the case today.  The ideas and conspiracy theories that Ginny Thomas referenced to prod Mark Meadows to turn against his country are readily available to anyone with internet access.

Lies and conspiracy theories are nothing new. But social media amplifies them and accelerates how they’re spread. So, to combat this, one must be committed to countering the lies with truth and facts. But, unfortunately, and with few exceptions, Republican politicians have done the exact opposite. They’re embracing the lies and conspiracy theories, not because they believe them but because it’s politically advantageous. In fact, embracing lies and spreading conspiracy theories is now a political strategy of the Republican party. And we’re seeing the effect before our very eyes.

The political proliferation of lies and conspiracy theories is like a constricting snake around the throat of our democracy – choking off reason, rationality, accountability, and integrity.

The lies and conspiracy theories are woven in fear, fake patriotism, and culture war issues such as transgenderism and critical race theory.

I feel sorry for people caught up in conspiracy theories, many of whom are so desperate to be part of something worth fighting for they disregard facts and evidence. But I have nothing but contempt for politicians who look to capitalize on the misguided and misinformed. And that’s what a lot of Republican congressmen and senators are doing.

Republicans clearly understand the connection between technology, lying, and generating support from voters. We saw this on display at Judge Jackson’s confirmation hearing.

Senators Cruz, Hawley, Blackburn, and Graham cherry-picked snippets from Judge Jackson’s court cases and decisions and painted an un-nuanced and inaccurate caricature. That caricature became twitter-sphere fodder for their party’s base and kindling for their political campaigns.

We all saw Senator Cruz checking his Twitter feed after questioning Judge Jackson about racist babies and pornography.

The hearing illuminated a disturbing trend, where politicians are not simply repeating lies and conspiracy theories but are ginning up their own lies and false narratives, which end up on websites and social media accounts, and, inevitably, into the hearts and minds of their constituency.

Since the end of the confirmation hearing, we’ve seen a disturbing uptick in political attacks against Judge Jackson, labeling her as a sympathizer of Nazis and pedophiles. So perhaps we’re witnessing the birth of a fresh new conspiracy theory about Judge Jackson?

I would not be surprised.

And finally, Kudos to Judge Jackson for her grace under pressure. 

Had Lindsey Graham asked me to rate my religiosity on a scale of one to ten (as if religion has anything to do with being a sound jurist), I would have said, “Zero. And fuck you for asking the question.” 

Judge Jackson is supremely qualified. She has the intellect, experience, and temperament to be a justice on the United States Supreme Court.

Today let’s celebrate her success. 

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