Monday, October 07, 2013

Justice Scalia dishes on the devil, pop culture, and ladies

It's an incredible interview in the New York Magazine and well worth the read.  Here are some highlights:

You’ve described yourself as a fainthearted originalist. But really, how fainthearted?
I described myself as that a long time ago. I repudiate that.
So you’re a stouthearted one.
I try to be. I try to be an honest originalist! I will take the bitter with the sweet! What I used “fainthearted” in reference to was—
Flogging, right?
Flogging. And what I would say now is, yes, if a state enacted a law permitting flogging, it is immensely stupid, but it is not unconstitutional. A lot of stuff that’s stupid is not unconstitutional. I gave a talk once where I said they ought to pass out to all federal judges a stamp, and the stamp says—Whack! [Pounds his fist.]—STUPID BUT ­CONSTITUTIONAL. Whack! [Pounds again.] STUPID BUT ­CONSTITUTIONAL! Whack! ­STUPID BUT ­CONSTITUTIONAL … [Laughs.] And then somebody sent me one.
It was recently reported that the justices don’t communicate with one another by e-mail. Do you go online at all?
Yeah. Sure, I use the Internet.
You’ve got grandkids. Do you feel like the Internet has coarsened our culture at all?
I’m nervous about our civic culture. I’m not sure the Internet is largely the cause of it. It’s certainly the cause of careless writing. People who get used to blurbing things on the Internet are never going to be good writers. And some things I don’t understand about it. For example, I don’t know why anyone would like to be “friended” on the network. I mean, what kind of a narcissistic society is it that ­people want to put out there, This is my life, and this is what I did yesterday? I mean … good grief. Doesn’t that strike you as strange? I think it’s strange.
I’ve gotten used to it.
Well, I am glad that I am not raising kids today. And I’m rather pessimistic that my grandchildren will enjoy the great society that I’ve enjoyed in my lifetime. I really think it’s coarsened. It’s coarsened in so many ways.
Like what?
One of the things that upsets me about modern society is the coarseness of manners. You can’t go to a movie—or watch a television show for that matter—without hearing the constant use of the F-word—including, you know, ladies using it. People that I know don’t talk like that! But if you portray it a lot, the society’s going to become that way. It’s very sad.
And you can’t have a movie or a television show without a nude sex scene, very often having no relation to the plot. I don’t mind it when it is essential to the plot, as it sometimes is. But, my goodness! The society that watches that becomes a coarse society.
Can I ask about your engagement with regular pop culture?
I’m pretty bad on regular pop culture.
I know you watched the show 24. Do you also watch Homeland?
I don’t watch Homeland. I don’t even know what Homeland is. I watched one episode of—what is it? Duck Dynasty?
I don’t watch it regularly, but I’m a hunter. I use duck calls …
Did you just stumble on it by accident?
No! So many people said “Oh, it’s a great show” that I thought I’d better look at it. Have you looked at it?
No. But there are three books on the New York Times’ best-seller list about Duck Dynasty.
Is that right?
Yes. Three. Did you watch The ­Sopranos? Mad Men?
I watched The Sopranos, I saw a couple of episodes of Mad Men. I loved Seinfeld. In fact, I got some CDs of Seinfeld. ­Seinfeld was hilarious. Oh, boy. The Nazi soup kitchen? No soup for you!
You believe in heaven and hell?
Oh, of course I do. Don’t you believe in heaven and hell?
Oh, my.
Does that mean I’m not going?
[Laughing.] Unfortunately not!
Wait, to heaven or hell?
It doesn’t mean you’re not going to hell, just because you don’t believe in it. That’s Catholic doctrine! Everyone is going one place or the other.
But you don’t have to be a Catholic to get into heaven? Or believe in it?
Of course not!
Oh. So you don’t know where I’m going. Thank God.
I don’t know where you’re going. I don’t even know whether Judas Iscariot is in hell. I mean, that’s what the pope meant when he said, “Who am I to judge?” He may have recanted and had severe penance just before he died. Who knows?
Can we talk about your drafting process—
[Leans in, stage-whispers.] I even believe in the Devil.
You do?
Of course! Yeah, he’s a real person. Hey, c’mon, that’s standard Catholic doctrine! Every Catholic believes that.
Every Catholic believes this? There’s a wide variety of Catholics out there …
If you are faithful to Catholic dogma, that is certainly a large part of it.
Have you seen evidence of the Devil lately?
You know, it is curious. In the Gospels, the Devil is doing all sorts of things. He’s making pigs run off cliffs, he’s possessing people and whatnot. And that doesn’t happen very much anymore.
It’s because he’s smart.
So what’s he doing now?
What he’s doing now is getting people not to believe in him or in God. He’s much more successful that way.
That has really painful implications for atheists. Are you sure that’s the ­Devil’s work?
I didn’t say atheists are the Devil’s work.
Well, you’re saying the Devil is ­persuading people to not believe in God. Couldn’t there be other reasons to not believe?
Well, there certainly can be other reasons. But it certainly favors the Devil’s desires. I mean, c’mon, that’s the explanation for why there’s not demonic possession all over the place. That always puzzled me. What happened to the Devil, you know? He used to be all over the place. He used to be all over the New Testament.
What happened to him?
He just got wilier.
He got wilier.
Isn’t it terribly frightening to believe in the Devil?
You’re looking at me as though I’m weird. My God! Are you so out of touch with most of America, most of which believes in the Devil? I mean, Jesus Christ believed in the Devil! It’s in the Gospels! You travel in circles that are so, so removed from mainstream America that you are appalled that anybody would believe in the Devil! Most of mankind has believed in the Devil, for all of history. Many more intelligent people than you or me have believed in the Devil.
I hope you weren’t sensing contempt from me. It wasn’t your belief that surprised me so much as how boldly you expressed it.
I was offended by that. I really was.


Anonymous said...

So many exclamation points.

Anonymous said...

Scalia just needs to shut up. Sitting SCT should not be doing stand up

Anonymous said...

Anyone who has practiced in federal court knows the devil exists.

Anonymous said...

I wish somebody would ask him:

Do you go to Hell if you condemn a man to die for a crime he did not commit?