Law in Popular Culture

The RBG experiment: Would Twitter conspiracy theorists admit Ginsburg was alive?

  • Print.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Conspiracy theorists had a field day when Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg missed oral arguments in January as she recovered from surgery for lung cancer.

Some proclaimed Ginsburg was in a medically induced coma. Others said she had died but it was being hidden from the American people.

SCOTUSblog decided to find out whether the conspiracy theorists would admit reality when confronted with news of Ginsburg’s return to the bench in February.

SCOTUSblog tracked 82 Twitter accounts with more than 10,000 followers that had tweeted claims, questions or insinuations about Ginsburg’s incapacity or death.

Only 10 of the 82 Twitter users acknowledged in tweets that Ginsburg had returned to the court. One of them was actor James Woods, who had initially called for information on Ginsburg’s “viability.”

SCOTUSblog sent direct messages to 41 of the other Twitter users asking them to update their followers.

The result, summarized in this SCOTUSblog post:

• Only two of those contacted posted updates about Ginsburg’s return, while a third insisted she had already retweeted articles acknowledging that fact. SCOTUSblog was unable to find the retweets.

• Two Twitter users contacted by SCOTUSblog insisted Ginsburg was dead or probably dead. “Nope, that’s a body double if ever there was one,” one of them said. Three others responded by blocking SCOTUSblog.

• Ten Twitters users demanded additional proof of Ginsburg’s health from SCOTUSblog. One tweeted a screenshot of his response. “Going to need to see photographic or video proof of her from the bench before I do something like that. OH RIGHT. SCOTUS doesn’t allow cameras. How convenient.”

• One Twitter user contacted by SCOTUSblog didn’t respond directly, but posted a screenshot of the blog’s request for a Ginsburg update. “Someone @scotusblog has a lotta nerve,” the Twitter user said.

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.