Scalia Wants Those Kids off his Lawn

Or, at least, that was my basic reaction to this from the Daily Mail:   Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia believes society is eroding because women use the ‘F-word’ and thinks Facebook is ‘strange’.

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Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. al-Ameda says:

    Scalia also volunteered that, as a devout Catholic, he believes in the Devil at that the Devil is still at work in the world.
    He said the Devil doesn’t possess people like he is depicted as doing in the Gospels – he’s ‘smarter’ now.
    ‘What he’s doing now is getting people not to believe in him or in God. He’s much more successful that way,’ he said.

    So, he believes in the devil, yet basically he finds social media to be incomprehensible?

    Actually, most of Scalia’s complaints about contemporary American culture come as no surprise to me, they seem to me to be common among people his age and generation.

  2. Gustopher says:

    Im pretty sure the downfall of our society can be traced back to the advice “be yourself” — it turned out that many people were a-holes and really should have been striving to be someone else.

  3. michael reynolds says:

    The great conservative “intellectual” thinks the devil is real and getting smarter.

    Good grief.

  4. Kari Q says:

    He’s an example of someone who stayed on the court for too long. I understand the benefits of justices having lifetime tenure, but sometimes I think maybe we should change it to 20 years. That’s still plenty long enough to stay on the court.

  5. @al-Ameda:

    Actually, most of Scalia’s complaints about contemporary American culture come as no surprise to me, they seem to me to be common among people his age and generation.

    Yeah, that was pretty much the inspiration for my headline.

    @Kari Q: Agreed. Lifetime is too long. 20 years and/or mandatory retirement at X age (75 is common worldwide) is needed.

  6. CSK says:

    I can’t say I disagree with him about Facebook.

  7. Franklin says:

    To be fair, this article didn’t come across as professional journalism. It sounds like somebody chatted with him while sitting outside a pool and decided to make an article about it. I disagree with the guy as much as anybody else, but he sounded liquored up.

  8. sam says:


    “they seem to me to be common among people his age and generation”

    I do not resemble that remark.

  9. James Joyner says:

    Amusingly, this is a two-year-old news report on an older interview in New York magazine. But, yeah, dude’s getting old.

  10. KM says:

    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.

    I really don’t understand this obsession with women and swearing. I get told on a regular basis I’d be more “ladylike” and “lovely” if I’d stop using my creative sentence enhancers. I cheerfully reply I’d be happy to insult them in a polysyllable lexicon of their choosing couched in iambic pentameter but am being gracious enough to speak on their level. After all, true manners dictate speaking the host’s language if one can and thankfully Idiot is easy to pick up. 🙂

  11. michael reynolds says:

    @James Joyner:

    I’m getting old my own self and I share the tendency to want to dismiss anything new as unnecessary or absurd or even dangerous. But I have teenagers at home, and I write for teenagers, so I slap myself down when I feel the urge to be the cranky old man.

    Truth is social media has a very interesting effect. For my daughter the social butterfly, school drama is just part of a continuous conversation that starts when she wakes up and begins texting, and ends when we tell her to put down the iPad and say good night to the faces crowding her screen. It recreates the milieu of the old village or small town in that a consensus can develop that her boyfriend is in fact a douche – something her brother and I have both said but with no noticeable effect.

    The funny thing is that if Scalia (or any grumpy old man) actually took the time to observe, they’d see something rather small-c conservative happening. This is community. It’s not exactly like people chatting at a diner, or gathering around the pot-bellied stove down at the hardware store, or in Scalia’s day getting together to burn a witch, but it’s a pretty good replacement.

    It’s kids talking to each other. Are we really upset that kids are talking to each other?

  12. KM says:

    @michael reynolds:

    It’s kids talking to each other. Are we really upset that kids are talking to each other?

    I think part of the problem is that it’s redefining what a community *IS*. Before your loyalties and sense of community was defined on the clan level – that is, the people immediately surrounding you. This tends to be your family, friends and other like-minded individuals….. because the outsiders and those who didn’t fit the mold tended to be ejected from the community, sometimes with extreme prejudice. Birds of a feather flock together, after all and the occasional odd duck remained an isolated anomaly. That’s the way society worked for the longest time – if you were a member of a sub-culture (gay, anti-monarchist, communist, Trekkie, etc) you have limited options for reaching like-minded people. There was always the sense of isolation, of the world out to get you. You were alone.

    So here comes the internet. And suddenly, there’s more of you! In Japan, in Bahrain, in the town you live!! Who you are is no longer tied to where you were born or live but now things like belief sets, ideologies, even favorite TV shows or sports teams define your chosen communities. My people are scattered across the globe but I am not alone for they are button click away. To someone older, who’s world have always been the tangible reach of their physical plane, the idea of being actual friends with someone you’ve never met in person is ludicrous. That you’d prefer to talk to the interesting person online instead of the boring twit sitting next to you is considered rude. That being at a family function full of strangers you see and talk to once a year is somehow supposed to be more entertaining and fulfilling then learning about something going on elsewhere in the world.

    In short, they can’t control who the kids think is their peer group anymore. That’s never a good thing to the elders of society, especially now that it can cross borders (religious, social, political, ideological) that they want to maintain.

  13. michael reynolds says:


    Yep, that’s exactly it. What Scalia (and most old farts) lack is a realistic sense of their own failings. They assume that however they did it is necessarily the best way to do it. I think the way the kids are doing it is better – I mean, teenagers tend to feel isolated and that isolation sometimes leads to bad places. Nowadays you’re never isolated unless you choose to be. There’s always someone to talk to, 24/7.

    I’ve seen kids online who were thinking suicide mention it on Twitter, and be deluged with people urging them to get help, to talk to someone they trusted, to not give up, etc… Maybe those kids didn’t have a parent they felt they could talk to. If that moment comes for one of my kids I hope to hell they Tweet it and find people to talk them down.

    I’ve had kids reach out to me on Twitter who really didn’t need much more than to have someone talk to them. I used to think it was kind of silly that anyone would care if I replied or favorited a Tweet, and then I was re-tweeted by Gordon Ramsay and picked up a shout-out from Stephen King, and I of course went all fanboy. I’m a grown man and I still get a rush off King tweeting the last sentence of one of my books.

  14. @michael reynolds:

    I’m increasingly convinced there needs to be some maximum age after which the news is not allowed to interview you, because everyone seems to have this “crazy old guy” switch that flips on one day and they start ranting about stupid stuff. There’s a number of people who I formerly respected that have ruined my opinion of them via this effect.

  15. Ben Wolf says:

    @KM: I rather enjoy hearing women use filthy language.

  16. Tyrell says:

    @KM: There are those of us who grew up in a time when manners and decency mattered and were expected. You could walk down a street and not hear a bunch of vile language. Now we have become caloused to the shocking language that we hear in public places today. A while back I was at a sports event at a local school and could plainly and clearly overhear some teens using language that would shock a sailor. I finally stepped up and reminded them that there were children and ladies sitting close within earshot and we it would be appreciated that they refrain refrain from that kind of talk. They agreed. At no time did I hollar, yell, or lose self control, or show disrespect. As we left, two adults came up and thanked me. Have we become so immune to crude, vulgar, trashy behavior that we are no longer shocked ? Have all standards of decency been dropped ? What does this say for our society ? And this is not some “free speech” issue. A few months ago I sat down to watch some musical awards program. About thirty minutes in, I had to change the channel it was so bad: half clothed entertainers in dancing that could only be described as obscene. Shocking and disgraceful !! What has happened to our society ? Is there no shame anymore ? It is accepted, people won’t say any thing, someone might get mad. It sounds similar to the situations that brought the fall of ancient Rome. Society is eroding, no question about it. It is so sad.

  17. michael reynolds says:


    First off, so-called dirty words are not the same thing as shouting or abuse. The whole concept of curse words is nonsense. Words are not magic, they’re tools, and they can only be understood in context. Allow me to demonstrate using the word “fat.”

    1) There’s a lot of fat in that pastrami.
    2) You are a fat, ugly pig.

    Fat in one context is a simple statement of nutritional fact. In the other context it is cruel. And as I’ve often said, I can do a lot more damage with a “clean” word like “fat” or “ugly”or “stupid” than I can with a so-called curse word like, fwck. Society is just beginning to recognize this and that’s why you hear more of Carlin’s Seven Dirty Words. However you’ll hear a lot less “f@ggot” because that word, while not obscene, is generally used to hurt.

    So in reality society is far more civil today than it used to be.

    Is there no shame anymore?

    There’s still shame, it’s just not as tied to nonsense like sex.

  18. @Tyrell: doesn’t every generation more or less make these claims?

  19. Grewgills says:

    Standards change. I’m much happier dealing with people using words and mannerisms that were considered vulgar when I was a child than I would be if we went back to treating women and pretty much every minority they way they were treated when I was a child.

  20. Grewgills says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    The children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise.

    Socrates ~400BC

  21. KM says:

    @Steven L. Taylor @Gregwills:
    The Pace of Modern Life

    Plays in theatres at the present time present spectacles and deal openly with situations which no person would have dared to mention in general society forty years ago… The current representations of nude men and women in the daily journals and the illustrated magazines would have excluded such periodicals from all respectable families two decades ago… Those who have been divorced … forty and fifty years ago lost at once and irrevocably their standing in society, while to-day they continue in all their social relationships, hardly changed…
    Editorial, The Watchman, Boston 1908

    Ca plus change.

  22. gVOR08 says:


    …it would be appreciated that they refrain refrain from that kind of talk. They agreed.

    Sounds like a pretty decent bunch of kids.

  23. KM says:


    there were children and ladies sitting close within earshot

    And? I don’t know of any woman so weak hearing an F-bomb will ruin her health, nor any children like that either. If anything, it would merely offend and as we are told so very often lately – if it offends you, then move. If it’s about honor and “respect”, perhaps that would be better served by asking the lady in question her opinion rather then making a paternalistic assumption on your part, yes? Maybe they already heard and didn’t give a damn.

    Did you know a child’s first word is often a swear? They repeat it mindlessly, headless of it’s content or meaning, solely because they heard someone says it….. and because the reaction they get from adults is funny. Do you think a toddler is cursing you out or is it just a word? The syllables don’t matter, intent does. Remove the internal ugliness that causes four simple letters to become offensive and the offense goes away. We don’t want to expose children to the hate, not necessarily the vocabulary.

  24. grumpy realist says:

    @Tyrell: Dude, I’d love to fossilize you in amber and stuff you in a museum glass case. You’re a treasure. You think that there are times when people didn’t swear in public? Ha!

  25. grumpy realist says:

    @michael reynolds: I’ve always considering large amounts of cursing (you know, when every other word is a swear word) to be the indicator of someone with no imagination. As one character in a book once said: “I can call someone a “leering cockroach” and be far more effective than Mr. ______ with his stables chatter.”

    If I want to insult someone, I’m going to call him “having the brains of a lobotomized clam.”

  26. @Grewgills: @KM: Exactly what I was getting at.

  27. Lynn Eggers says:

    @KM: I don’t know of any woman so weak hearing an F-bomb will ruin her health, nor any children like that either. If anything, it would merely offend and as we are told so very often lately – if it offends you, then move.”

    I grow very tired of hearing people shouting on their phones when I’m on the bus or train. It’s only slightly worse when they’re swearing. I must say, though, that it’s more the volume than the content.

    A few years ago, I was on the bus when a woman sitting near me took a phone call. For the next 10 minutes, she shouted a variety of expletives into the phone while her friend tried to hush her.

    Finally her friend said, “Be quiet! There’s an elderly lady here,” gesturing to me.