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Denise Howell is a seasoned appellate and intellectual property litigator based in Los Angeles. Denise writes one of the first and most popular law-related blogs, Bag and Baggage, coined the term "blawg" and helped pioneer podcasting for lawyers. Microcontent obsessed since 2001, she is frequently quoted in the media on legal issues involving intellectual property and technology law. "Sound Policy" is Denise's show at IT Conversations, and it's also what she hopes results from the briefs she submits to court. Email Denise at

Dennis Kennedy is a computer lawyer and legal technology expert based in St. Louis, Missouri. An award-winning author, a frequent speaker and a widely-read blogger, he has more than 300 publications on legal, technology and Internet topics, many of which are collected in his e-books. Dennis has been described as someone who knows almost every rock song in existence and, more importantly, how they apply to technology and law. Email Dennis at his gmail address.

Tom Mighell is Senior Counsel and Litigation Technology Support Coordinator at Cowles & Thompson in Dallas. He has published the Internet Legal Research Weekly newsletter since 2000 and blogged about the Internet and legal technology at Inter Alia since August of 2002. With Tom's singing, Ernie on guitar and Dennis' encylopedic knowledge of rock music, we may have the beginnings of a good band, if this whole blog thing doesn't work out. Email Tom at

Marty Schwimmer left a partnership in the largest trademark practice in the world and founded Schwimmer Mitchell, a full-service IP micro-boutique in Westchester County, New York, where he represents owners of famous and not yet famous trademarks. He founded The Trademark Blog, the first IP law blog and the one with the most pictures. He is the first to come in and the last to leave in his firm. Email Marty at

Ernest Svenson practices law with a mid-sized law firm in New Orleans, specializing in business-related lawsuits. Most of his practice takes place in federal court, especially the Eastern District. He is best known for his weblog Ernie the Attorney, which he started as an experiment. Like many experiments it got out of control. Nevertheless, he continues to practice law and, occasionally, to seek enlightenment. Email Ernest at
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July 22, 2005

Anatomy of A Rumor, Links Intact For Now

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Posted by Marty Schwimmer

Wikipedia's bio of John Roberts indicated that he went to an all-male boarding school, and was on the wrestling team.

Manhattan Offender, which appears to be a small personal blog, points this out, along with the fact that he took French and sang in the choir, and jokes that he might be gay. At least it is my conjecture that in this context, it was intended as an ironic remark, and that readers of a Manhattan gossip blog will perceive it as such.

Wonkette cites the Manhattan Offender joke and adds that Roberts must be a flame-thrower because he edited the school paper, The Torch. To add to the joke, she cited a NY Times piece entitled 'Court Nominee's Life Is Rooted in Faith and Respect for Law' for the bit that Roberts had played 'Peppermint Patty' in a high school play.

Ann Althouse a law professor, reads Wonkette's piece, notes that she had come to the same 'conclusion' that Wonkette did, and therefore she concludes that the NY Times had intentionally placed the bits about Peppermint Patty (and a photo of Roberts in a 'all-male wedding photograph' (as in photo of the groomsmen)) to plant the notion that Roberts was closeted.

Charmaine Yoest, an author and policy consultant, cites Manhattan Offender, Wonkette and Althouse's posts for the proposition that the 'left' has begun a whisper campaign against Roberts. She suggests that the left are homophobic.

Powerline , a high-profile conservative blog, in a piece entitled 'They Were Already Beneath Contempt,' cites Yost for the proposition that the 'Democrats' are hinting that Roberts is gay. He also adds that the Democrats were in favor of slavery.

Gordon Allport, in the 'The Psychology of Rumor' describes the manner in which rumors are transmitted (I'm using Malcolm Gladwell's summary of Allport from his book 'The Tipping Point'): The story is leveled - details essential for understanding (such as the fact that Wonkette is a humorist) are removed. The story is sharpened - the source of the 'facts' are no longer Wikipedia and the NY Times but 'the left' and 'Democrats.' The story is assimilated - the story is changed to make sense to those spreading the rumor.

The Democrats are spreading a scandalous rumor about the innocent nominee for their own purposes - that story will make more sense than the story that someone made a not particularly funny joke about Roberts being on the wrestling team. At least it will make more sense to those who will link to the Powerline without checking the links back to Manhattan Offender and Wonkette.

Comments (7) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Provocations | Supreme Court


1. Manhattan Offender on July 22, 2005 10:42 AM writes...

I don't know you. But I love you. I'm getting so much conservative hate-mail and hate speech comments that I'm taking time from my real work just to squelch the most odious of them. I may just turn the comments off and disable my e-mail link until this blows over.

I think it would be interesting to study what the left and right consider 'funny'. There seems to be a void of irony on the right.

But your entry above captures the crux of this. Thank you.

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2. Evan on July 22, 2005 1:37 PM writes...

Marty: Great post--keep the links intact!

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3. vbspurs on July 22, 2005 2:26 PM writes...

Note, Ann Althouse recently deleted a post within her thread because it went too far in speculation.

There's a lesson in this somewhere -- that in all societies, rumours suddenly become facts before you know, because people are willing to repeat them.

But the truly ethical put their foot down.

As for irony and the keen sense of humour displayed by the left, I have still yet to figure out why formerly funny comics like Janeane Garofalo become oh-so-unfunny when they turn political.

Maybe it's the nose ring-to-humour ratio.


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4. Hylton on July 25, 2005 4:39 PM writes...


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5. Charmaine Yoest on July 25, 2005 10:41 PM writes...

Marty: Interesting post. Can't get the trackback to go through. Here's my response.

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6. Victoria on July 26, 2005 3:53 AM writes...

I think it would be interesting to study what the left and right consider 'funny'. There seems to be a void of irony on the right.

I dare any liberal, gay, straight or bi-curious, to come up with a sense of irony as accute as my of blogpost today.

I await Janeane Garofalo's pithy riposte.


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7. xdcdx on July 26, 2005 6:38 PM writes...

the right is so clueless. MO's post is akin to a gay guy calling his straight male friend gay because he happens to be wearing a sarah maclaughlin t-shirt. Wonkette notes this as well as the fact that the male friend also used to figure skate. This is called teasing. But teasing seems to be enough for the idiots at powerline (with their homoerotic nom de plumes - more teasing) to label this joke a homophobic smear campaign orchestrated by the loony left.

and whats even funnier is i first heard about the rumor that roberts is gay from a right-wing blog before i stumbled upon this post via MO.

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