“Jeg frygter for vores land”

There’s been a lot of Danish coverage of President Trump’s nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, and I obviously haven’t seen or read it all. But from what I have seen, the coverage isn’t surprising.

We can start with a DR piece that’s pretty representative of the genre: Trumps kandidat til Højesteret deler amerikanerne: ‘Jeg frygter for vores land.’

It’s representative because it contains most of the common building blocks used in any American establishment media piece on the nomination:

  1. It acknowledges that she’s a woman, just like Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
  2. It suggests or implies (incorrectly) that she would work to have abortions outlawed.
  3. It suggests or implies that as a judge who “supports” the second Amendment she’s politically opposed to gun control (it’s the second amendment in the Bill of Rights: if a justice doesn’t “support” it, they really don’t belong in the judiciary).
  4. It suggests there is something sinister about her religion (which she shares with some 2.4 billion earthlings and 71% of her fellow Americans).
  5. It gets a random leftist to explain how Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination represents the beginning of the end of the world.
  6. It gets a random religious extremist off the street to say extreme things that can be pinned to ACB by association.
  7. It calls her opinions controversial without acknowledging that every SCOTUS justice’s opinions on every controversial subject are considered controversial by roughly half the country. (To conservative Americans, RBG’s opinions were controversial. To liberal Americans, ACB’s opinions are controversial. So what?)
  8. It points out that the Republicans urging her immediate approval by the Senate were making the opposite argument about Merrick Garland’s election year nomination by then-president in Obama back in 2016, without pointing out that the Democrats too have flipped their positions.
  9. It insinuates that if her nomination is approved and she becomes a justice, and if the 2020 election should be close enough require Supreme Court intervention, then she would decide any question relating to the election in favor of Trump. (This is interesting because to believe this, you actually also have to believe that all laws will favor a Joe Biden victory and that ACB will ignore those laws to support Trump, both of which beliefs seem a little weird.)

The best I can say about the DR piece is that, unlike a lot of American stories in this genre, it doesn’t imply that there’s anything wrong with her and her husband having adopted two black children from Haiti.

TV2’s entry in this genre version of the “Who is ACB?” genre is headlined with a lie: “Hendes tro inspirerede tv-serien ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ – nu er hun på vej til at blive højesteretsdommer i USA.”

Margaret Atwood herself, the author of The Handmaid’s Tale, has said on the record that her book was not based on the religious group to which ACB belongs. I don’t even like linking to the TV2 article, because it’s basically a big hit piece on Barrett’s religion, and the article is as tasteless as it is irrelevant.

An honest look at Barrett’s life as she has lived it, and the opinions she has written, is hard to line up with the wild fears being stirred up about her religion.

In trying to learn more about her myself, I was struck by a portion of a transcript from an event where she spoke and did a Q&A at Hillsdale College last year. I can’t find that transcript, or the article with the excerpt, but I’ve found a video of the event. I’ve queued it up to the section I found interesting here (if my queueing didn’t work, just go to the 20 minute mark.) Watch from about 20:00 to about 21:10

She makes an incredibly important point that I don’t see, hear, or read from many other people. Her point is that it isn’t just people of faith who have strongly held moral values: we all do.

In fact, it’s kind of weird the way we all seem to assume that “people of faith” have these strong moral values we need to be worried about while people of no faith don’t.

Do you know any people without moral or ethical values?

I’ve never been a member of any organized religion in my life, but I certainly have values I feel strongly about. So does every other agnostic and atheist I’ve ever known. I’d be willing to bet you do, as well, whatever your religious beliefs. It’s actually hard to imagine a human being without any moral or ethical values at all… and frankly, the most passionately religious zealot out there doesn’t scare me half as much as the prospect of someone with no moral or ethical values at all. Because the former is just someone whose morality I might disagree with: the latter is the clinical definition of a psychopath.

But we never hear anyone questioning whether agnostic or atheist jurists would be willing to put aside their most strongly held moral beliefs when applying the law (or whether a clinical psychopath is really someone we want sitting on a bench).

ACB isn’t saying it’s wrong to be concerned about whether a judge can put their religious beliefs aside when deciding a case: on the contrary, she’s saying of course we should be concerned. But she’s saying we should have that concern about every judge, not merely the religious ones. And for what it’s worth, which probably isn’t much, from what I’ve seen of her record and her statements it seems to me that she herself is very good at this.

At some point (although not, I think, in the segment I’ve recommended above) she says something along the lines of, “Whether you’re Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or atheist isn’t the issue: the issue is whether you’re able to separate your own morality and politics from your interpretation of the law.”

She conveys a very strong sense that this is something she believes one must be able to do as a judge, and that it’s something she herself strives to do.

Just the sort of batshit crazy nonsense you’d expect from one of those snake-handling right-wing religious nutjobs!