Saturday, November 24, 2007

J. Harvie Whilikers!

The Harvard Law Review has a series of articles on the recently decided Parents United school desegregation decision (links to my extensive analysis of the opinions can be found here). One of the articles is by 4th Circuit Judge and Bush Supreme Court short-lister J. Harvie Wilkinson.

I wasn't expecting to agree with Wilkinson, an arch-conservative. But it was worse than I expected, and after a few pages, I found myself thinking "Man, I've lost so much respect for you from this." But that got me thinking about why, when I first picked up the article, I had respect for Wilkinson in the first place.

In a sense, it's an easy question -- Wilkinson is a very prominent judge, and while he is quite right-wing, he hasn't really developed a reputation as wildly extreme. But then again, my only real run-in with Wilkinson is the truly appalling opinion he wrote sanctioning (verging on outright applauding) discrimination against Wiccans in Virginia. I am not exaggerating when I say it is the worst Church/State opinion issued in my lifetime that I've ever read. I have no idea how he got rehabilitated in my head after that catastrophe.

But anyway. I'm not going to go and refute Wilkinson's article, point-by-point. I just don't have the energy. Suffice to say, while the article is really slipshod overall, Wilkinson also manages to specifically hit virtually every button on my "most frustrating elements of racial discourse" list. He describes the plurality opinions as "courageous" (over and over again, actually). He makes huge assertions, critical to his argument, and doesn't back them up with even a perfunctory citation. He doesn't engage with the relevant literature. He straw-mans, hardcore, and dodges his opponents' best arguments entirely. He compares the liberal position to that of Jim Crow southerners (while denying he's doing it in the same breath). I could go on.

It was a spectacularly annoying spectacle, and it made me want to put something through a wall. And while in retrospect, he already lost whatever respect I might have had after the Wicca case, hopefully this article will remind me not to let him sneak back into the good side of my subconscious. Ugh.

No comments: