Opinion by Timothy P. Carney
Memory is unreliable. When hundreds of people have the same false memory, that is called “the Mandela effect,” named after a reported phenomenon in which masses had come to “remember” that Nelson Mandela had died in prison.
The mass false-memory of today is that Supreme Court Justices Amy Coney Barrett, Brett Kavanaugh, and Neil Gorsuch all pledged in their confirmation hearings to uphold Roe v. Wade. This would make them lying liars who lie if they do end up overturning Roe, as suggested by the leaked opinion by Samuel Alito
I went on the public radio show Left, Right, and Center earlier this month, and was repeatedly confronted with this false memory. The host, Jessica Yellin, asked the liberal guest Jill Filipovic, “What’s the point of the confirmation process if Supreme Court justices can now basically lie about their judicial views?”
Filipovic answered, “It is not surprising to pro-choice folks who were saying at the time, ‘Brett Kavanaugh is lying, Neil Gorsuch is lying when they say they will uphold Roe’.” Filipovic said that through this supposed lie, “people’s trust in this institution” will be destroyed.
I challenged the two hosts to come up with a direct quote they were calling a lie. Neither of my pro-Roe, anti-Kavanaugh, anti-Gorsuch, anti-Barrett interlocutors could point to such a statement by any of those justices at their confirmation hearings. That’s because none of those justices said what they are remembered to have said.
Yet this false memory has planted itself in the minds of an awful lot of people, it seems.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer apparently had the same delusion. “Several of these conservative Justices, who are in no way accountable to the American people, have lied to the U.S. Senate,” the two said in a statement.
This became a mantra in the liberal media, lefty twitter, and the Democratic Party.
But it’s utterly false. When the left-wing Guardian newspaper tried to find the “lies” all the liberals remember so clearly, the closest it came up with was these:
During his 2017 confirmation hearings, Gorsuch said: “Casey is settled law in the sense that it is a decision of the US supreme court.” When Kavanaugh appeared before the Senate judiciary committee in 2018, he similarly described Roe as “important precedent of the supreme court that has been reaffirmed many times”, and he defined Casey as “precedent on precedent” because it upheld Roe.
What the justices all promised was to weigh precedent when ruling. True to that very limited promise, they weighed Roe and Casey. According to the draft opinion that leaked recently, they all found those precedents to be so poor in their reasoning and their connection to the Constitution that they agreed that the arguments against them outweighed the only argument for them, which was that they were precedent. An egregiously wrong precedent, after all, doesn’t need to stand — thank goodness, or we’d still be living under Plessy v. Ferguson.
Sadly, egregiously false memories about what people said are becoming a form of dogma on the Left.