Originally Posted by jzbm3
Well I've had it both ways on the same car, and my experience differs from what you are saying.
It's likely a trained eye will see the scratches no matter what the condition of the paint, but for the average enthusiast they will appear less visible when orange peel is present.
Trained eye or not, there's no technical explanation for what you're saying. Orange peel texture is like the picture below. With orange peel, swirls follow the curvature of the ridge lines, but there's no masking effect in this instance. Miniscule variances in height of the clear coat have no effect on the appearance of surface defects. If the surface was flat (no orange peel), the scratches would still follow the same pattern, only without the slight variances in height. Either way, there's no masking effect like what you're suggesting.
On the other hand, orange peel DOES have an effect on the way light is refracted against the surface. That's a whole other topic though. The image reflected by the orange peel-laden surface is distorted by the variances in the paint's height, whereas a flat surface evenly reflects light and thus no distortion. Think of a mirror's reflection vs. the reflection of rippling water.