September 30, 2007
The Low-Tech Lynching of Clarence Thomas

As Justice Clarence Thomas flogs his million-dollar memoir, sound bites from his 1991 nomination hearings have been surfacing in the news — fragrant bubbles from the swamps of George Herbert Walker Bush’s administration.

The saddest of these golden oldies was the justice’s anguished cry that the hearings were “a high-tech lynching for uppity blacks.” Is it even remotely possible that Justice Thomas actually imagines himself to be an uppity black? Can he be unaware that he was the least uppity black that Poppy Bush had been able to find in all the land?

Of course it’s possible, and of course Thomas is unaware of it. All of us lie to ourselves, and most of us lie to others. But only a few of us get the chance to lie to the Senate Judiciary Committee under oath. Clarence Thomas is one of them. The Pubic Hair Test proves it.

Fans of political theater will recall that Professor Anita Hill had charged her former boss at the Department of Education with a pattern of sexual harassment which included showing her a Coke can with a pubic hair stuck to it.

But Judge Thomas swore, no doubt truthfully insofar as the truth is vouchsafed unto him, that he had never in his life done such an ungentlemanly thing.

How could we, the millions of spectators at this morality play, have known what to think? Was it the stern federal judge who was telling the truth, or was it the demure law professor?

Only the Pubic Hair Test could settle the question:

Could Professor Hill could have made up a story so peculiar? In other words, was there anything in the accuser’s much-investigated background to suggest that she was a pathological liar? Did she suffer from hallucinations? Was she “creative?” Perhaps even an aspiring novelist?

And if she were such a fabulist, as the Republicans pretended to think, would the Coke can invention do more damage to her enemy than any other lie she might have dreamed up?

No to the first question. Professor Hill seemed depressingly literal and humorless. It was hard to imagine her engaged in a flight of fancy. (The only suggestion to the contrary came from a young black man who seemed principally interested in reciting his resume on national TV.)

And no to the second question, too. The tale of the pubic hair and the Coke can was so meaningless and bizarre that it could not have been an invention. If Professor Hill wanted to destroy the nominee with lies, she was certainly smart enough to have stuck to such old standbys as indecent exposure, groping, and dirty pictures.

The Pubic Hair Test therefore indicated with zero probability of error that this particular woman could not and would not have invented this particular senseless, incomprehensible story.

God knows whose pubic hair that was, or how it got on that Coke can, or what message the future Supreme Court justice thought it conveyed, or what made him imagine that his weird brandishing of it might be seductive — but the incident plainly happened pretty much the way Professor Hill said it did.

And Uncle Thomas had been lynched long, long before the Senate Judiciary Committee ever heard of him. He had slung the rope over a branch at an early age, poor man, and then hoisted himself all the way up to the Supreme Court.


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at September 30, 2007 09:50 PM
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Perhaps my memory is faulty, but didn't supporters of Thomas use this exact argument (albeit in reverse) to "prove" that Professor Hill was lying?

I believe some one dug up a line from a novel that was similar and all the conservative talking heads were suddenly making this bizarre syllogism : A) she claims Thomas said this to her; B) somebody somewhere had used a similar phrase before; therefore .:C) Hill is an obvious liar... and insane... and a rabid partisan... probably a slut too.

Posted by: Merkin on October 1, 2007 2:16 AM

I believed Hill because she was a reluctant witness. She didn't call the committee and offer her testimony; a friend she told years ago about her Thomas tribulations told somebody else, etc., and she was tracked back and eventually convinced to testify.

And I've distrusted prosecutors ever since I saw Arlen Specter ask her the same question, with a word or two different, over and over, as he tried to trick her into a contradiction he could proclaim as perjury.

Posted by: Joyful Alternative on October 1, 2007 7:09 AM

The most offensive thing is the use of the term "lynching." Black men who were lynched wound up dead, often after lengthy and grotesque torture.

The result of the attempted "lynching" of Clarence Thomas, had it been successful, would have been to return him to a lifetime position on the second most important court in the land.

Posted by: on October 1, 2007 11:10 PM

I watched quite a bit of the Thomas hearings, and for the life of me I couldn't figure out what could have been the point of a pubic hair on a Coke can. Whether Thomas put it there, or Anita Hill made up the story, it was bizarre to say the least.

But what I remember best about those hearings was the absolute fury of the Republicans on the committee, Hatch and Specter in particular. Not being especially interested in politics in those days I don't think I'd ever even heard of either one of them, but I've never forgotten how ugly they were to Hill, and I've never seen either of them on television since that time without feeling utter contempt.

I agree with you on the origin of the pubic hair, and it's kind of scary to know that a man who could and would think up that kind of insulting act sits on our Supreme Court. Of course, most things that are happening these days are sort of scary.

Posted by: Cranky Daze on October 2, 2007 12:08 AM

Too bad the "high-tech lynching" wasn't a real one -- that was a line he got from Bush 41's nasties adviser, Roger Ailes ("You know those white liberals won't be able to challenge you if you make it a race thing").

What kind of lynching finishes with you going back to an $80,000-a-year job-for-life (with continuing raises) if you lose?

I said it then and I said it now --

"It's not a lynching, you dumb fuck paranoid asshole -- IT'S A JOB INTERVIEW!"

And here he is again, the Supreme Court Justice in the Woodpile jumping up to go over the story and slander Anita Hill all over again, this time with lies that have already been proven to be such.

Why can't he just confine himself to being a "me, too" ignoramus with a posh job?

Oh, right -- that "offer he couldn't refuse" from Rupert Murdoch in 2003 -- the $1.5 million "royalty advance."

I guess he HAD to write a book to try to prove the money wasn't just a bribe for his reacharound vote on Supreme Court cases involving his Sugar Daddy whose involvement with Fox News and Ailes is surely only coincidental. Right?

Posted by: Saintperle on October 2, 2007 2:49 PM
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