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Robert Bork, controversial judge and modern meme, dies at 84 alongside his video privacy law

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judge Robert Bork
judge Robert Bork

Robert Bork, a controversial judge best known for his failed Supreme Court bid that led to the creation of a meme in his name, has died at 84, the AP reports. Bork was a former Yale University antitrust and constitutional law professor, federal judge, and solicitor general who was nominated in 1987 to a Supreme Court seat, but was rejected after vicious partisan debate — a spat that led to "bork" being used as a verb to describe someone, especially a political figure, being obstructed through defamation or vilification.

At one point during his Supreme Court nomination process, Bork's video rental history leaked to the press, leading to the Video Privacy Protection Act of 1988 which prohibits "video tape service providers" from disclosing rental information outside of customary business practices. Coincidentally, the US House of Representatives yesterday passed a bill that would overturn the 1988 law at the behest of Netflix, which wants the ability to share customers' television and movie viewing histories on sites like Facebook.

Bork could be remembered most famously for his name

As The Washington Post reports, Bork was a conservative icon who was "sharply confrontational," and yet, possessed "great charm, compassion, and intellect." After losing a Supreme Court seat, Bork went on to work as a senior fellow at a conservative think tank, consulted for Netscape during Microsoft's big antitrust case in the 1990s, served as a professor of law, and most recently, worked as a legal advisor for Mitt Romney's presidential campaign. While his impact on conservative thought and antitrust law was profound, Bork will perhaps be most famously remembered for his name, which will live on as an unfortunate but increasingly salient meme in a hyper-partisan government.

Bork (verb): To defame or vilify (a person) systematically, esp. in the mass media, usually with the aim of preventing his or her appointment to public office; to obstruct or thwart (a person) in this way.

Oxford English Dictionary (US political slang)