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Michael Mann Defamation Suit Against National Review Writer to Proceed 393

Posted by timothy
from the look-at-the-numbers-on-these-thin-skin-projections dept.
From Ars Technica comes this update in the defamation case filed by climate researcher Michael Mann against political commentator Mark Steyn of National Review magazine, who rhetorically compared Mann to Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky and accused him of publishing intentionally misleading research results. "The defendants tried to get it dismissed under the District of Columbia's Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP) statute, which attempts to keep people from being silenced by frivolous lawsuits. The judge hearing the case denied the attempt and then promptly retired; Mann next amended his complaint, leading an appeals court to send the whole thing back to a new trial judge. Now the new judge has denied the SLAPP attempt yet again. In a decision released late last week (and hosted by defendant Mark Steyn), the judge recognizes that the comparison to a child molester is part of the "opinions and rhetorical hyperbole" that are protected speech when used against public figures like Mann. However, the accompanying accusations of fraud are not exempt:"
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Michael Mann Defamation Suit Against National Review Writer to Proceed

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  • Re:Steyn is Slime (Score:0, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 26, 2014 @06:29PM (#46075695)

    What a brilliant argument!

    Can I get you 'hit with a massive fine' for being a 'sack of shit' too?

    Michael Mann is a liar. He is a fraudster. He is a 'catastrophic man-made global warming' alarmist. He gets PAID the more he 'alarms' people.

    www.climatedepot.com

    He doesn't want to debate people who disagree with him, they would prove him wrong you see...

  • Re:Steyn is Slime (Score:5, Informative)

    by MightyMartian (840721) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @06:38PM (#46075751) Journal

    Mann isn't a fraud, his observation an have been confirmed and refined, and you and Steyn are cowards incapable of facing the universe as it is. The only difference is at least Steyn is man enough to put his name to his libel.

  • Re:good (Score:2, Informative)

    by wytcld (179112) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @06:41PM (#46075761) Homepage

    The hockey stick has stood the test of time. The facts hold. The data continue to support it. Here's Mann recently [nytimes.com], and discussion [realclimate.org].

    Here are myths about the hockey stick debunked [realclimate.org].

  • Re:good (Score:5, Informative)

    by wytcld (179112) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @06:46PM (#46075787) Homepage

    Because it's an official meme of the Heartland Institute that scientific concern about radical climate change constitutes a "religion."

  • Re:SLAPPed hard (Score:4, Informative)

    by wytcld (179112) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @06:51PM (#46075833) Homepage

    We look forward to your publication of the flaws you have discovered in Dr. Mann's math. Ah, but you can't publish them, because you're just making this stuff up. Or is it because every single reviewer for every scientific journal is a member of a deep conspiracy to undermine the fossil fuel industry because ... well if you have to ask you don't understand how these dark conspiracies work!

    Here's Mann's new book on The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars [amazon.com].

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 26, 2014 @06:52PM (#46075841)

    The statistical technique used is called Principle Component Analysis. Prof. Ian Jolliffe, of the University of Exeter, UK is the acknowledged world expert in this field.

    And he is on record as saying that what Mann has done is 'rubbish'. Mann modified the technique to ensure that graphical analysis would suppress any variation in the bulk of the graph, while driving the final data high - a hockey-stick, in other words. Jolliffe could see no other reason for introducing this modification beyond producing hockey-stick output.

    It is essentially this mathematical trick - this, and pre-selecting datasets, which drew the accusation of fraud. I assume that Jolliffe will be submitting evidence for Steyn's defence...

    What has been done is quite clear. I cannot see the hockey-stick surviving this case, especially with the current warming pause...

  • Re:good (Score:5, Informative)

    by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @06:53PM (#46075843)

    "That should teach others to defile our religion"

    Haha!

    Well, religion or not, one thing it should do is reinforce the principle that you should be careful what you say about people, even online, and regardless of whether you are a journalist. In most cases the libel laws are no different for Joe Shmoe than they are or a syndicated columnist.

    Generally, opinions are fine... as long as they're clearly opinion and not stated as fact. Because even "You're an asshole" is commonly accepted as an opinion, that's probably okay... especially if you make it clear that it's only opinion.

    But "fraud", and other such claims? Usually over the line, unless you can show that it's true.

  • by bigsexyjoe (581721) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @06:58PM (#46075885)

    He is debating Steyn in court about whether he is a fraud. If Steyn can just prove he is a fraud, he wins, if not, he is in a lot of trouble.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 26, 2014 @07:09PM (#46075953)

    Got any links to denier sites that read like scientific discussions? I'd love to see them. Or just one.

    http://climateaudit.org/multiproxy-pdfs/

  • Re:good (Score:5, Informative)

    by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @07:17PM (#46075991)

    In other words you have a cognitive bias that leads you to reject one of the largest bodies of modern scientific research.

    Good!

  • Re:good! (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 26, 2014 @07:19PM (#46076017)

    Fraud has a legal definition, and so does libel. Mann's research has been found to be scientifically accurate and no allegations of fraud have been found worthy of recognition in the academic community. Steyn's writing is purely political, and his assertions of fraud against Mann, being without merit, clearly show that the author's intent is to discredit Mann's presentation. Steyn clearly went beyond reason when he impuned Mann's character by comparing Mann's character to that of a sociopathic child abuser. My hope is that that Steyn and the National Review, it's editorial staff and publisher are all found guilty and whipped within an inch of their dubious credility using the pulpit of the court. They should be bludgeoned with its gavel for the failure to afford their readers a reasonable opinion or the benefit of moderating their overzealous attackdog, and they should be fined within the limits of the law so as to hold their action up in the light of its own outrageousness.

    William F. Buckely went to his grave lamenting the current state of Conservatism and its discourse.

  • Re:Steyn is Slime (Score:3, Informative)

    by JDS13 (1236704) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @07:32PM (#46076101)

    Steyn didn't assert that Mann is a fraud, but rather that Mann "tortured" the data. You may recall that Principal Component Analysis was used on a limited and secretly-adjusted data set to come up with the alarming "hockey stick" chart.

    It's pretty much indisputable that there was significant warming from like 1930-1996, but very little since then in spite of more or less linear increases in CO2 concentrations since like 1850. The anthropogenic component of global warming is poorly understood, and the appropriate interventions even less so. But diverting taxpayer dollars so wealthy people can get a Tesla as their third or fourth auto is probably suboptimal.

    The actual source code is this, from briffa_Sep98_d.pro http://wattsupwiththat.com/200... [wattsupwiththat.com] - you can decide for yourself whether this is "torture" or not, and whether this particular debate should be squelched:

    ;
    ; Apply a VERY ARTIFICAL correction for decline!!
    ;
    yrloc=[1400,findgen(19)*5.+1904]
    valadj=[0.,0.,0.,0.,0.,-0.1,-0.25,-0.3,0.,-0.1,0.3,0.8,1.2,1.7,2.5,2.6,2.6,2.6,2.6,2.6]*0.75 ; fudge factor
    if n_elements(yrloc) ne n_elements(valadj) then message,'Oooops!'

    yearlyadj=interpol(valadj,yrloc,timey)

  • by JDS13 (1236704) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @07:42PM (#46076183)

    Actually, one of the most interesting effects of this trial is that Mann must comply with Steyn's discovery demands, to see whether indeed he "tortured" the data... Mann and others have still refused to disclose the details of their models, saying (astoundingly) that people just wanted to prove them wrong. Trying to prove a model wrong is the usual way of science... So whether you think this is "settled science" or not, you should welcome this open disclosure and wonder why it takes a court proceeding to achieve it.

    As for the notion of "settled science", which presumably means you should stop questioning something - this is a very disturbing concept which in my opinion has no place at all on slashdot, of all one forums. slashdot is one place where people discuss new ways of looking at old ideas - experiments test Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity, studies about whether cutting salt from your diet reduces hypertension, the value of dietary suppliements, and other bits of uncommon knowledge. Almost every interesting post here challenges some "settled" idea.

  • Re:Steyn is Slime (Score:4, Informative)

    by ClickOnThis (137803) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @08:33PM (#46076517) Journal

    The anthropogenic component of global warming is poorly understood, and the appropriate interventions even less so. But diverting taxpayer dollars so wealthy people can get a Tesla as their third or fourth auto is probably suboptimal.

    Straw man. [teslamotors.com]

  • Re:good (Score:4, Informative)

    by LynnwoodRooster (966895) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @08:44PM (#46076587) Journal
    The "hockey stick" agrees closely with the average of IPCC models. Yet none of the models comes close to matching real measurements [drroyspencer.com]. Perhapsthe hockey stick only stands the test of time when compared against other models, not real data...
  • by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @09:08PM (#46076761)

    If Steyn's motive was scientific inquiry and he was conducting the discourse in refereed journals I would agree with you.

    That's not it though. He has no science background and he's into politically motivated demagoguery, court actions and making a public circus of it. His attacks of the judge in the case got his defense team to quit.

    That's generally NOT the path to truth.

  • by Layzej (1976930) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @09:22PM (#46076857)

    Mann and others have still refused to disclose the details of their models

    Complete nonsense! I found it with a two minute google search! http://www.meteo.psu.edu/holoc... [psu.edu]

  • Re:good! (Score:5, Informative)

    by avgjoe62 (558860) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @09:26PM (#46076873)
    While I don't expect you to really be bothered by such things as facts, you might be surprised to learn that the University of Pennsylvania is different and distinct from Pennsylvania State University, the university where Jerry Sandusky committed his crimes.
  • Re:Steyn is Slime (Score:5, Informative)

    by KeensMustard (655606) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @10:01PM (#46077083)

    Steyn didn't assert that Mann is a fraud, but rather that Mann "tortured" the data. You may recall that Principal Component Analysis was used on a limited and secretly-adjusted data set to come up with the alarming "hockey stick" chart.

    I'm not sure about "alarming" - perhaps you've let your fear get the better of you. A good description would be "accurate" since the modelling accurately reflected what happened to the climate in the years succeeding.

    It's pretty much indisputable that there was significant warming from like 1930-1996, but very little since then in spite of more or less linear increases in CO2 concentrations since like 1850.

    And if we do not artificially split the period 1930-2013 into 2 chunks for no reason, we can see a clear interdecadal signal from CO2 induced warming - as predicted by Fourier, Arrhenius etc. If we artificially selected a region, say 1980-1996, we can see a significant warming trend somewhat above the long term trend predicted by GCM models, and then if we selected the period 1996-2013 we can see a definite warming trend, somewhat below the long term trend predict by GCM models. The data is so clear that the climate scientists were able to reduce the uncertainty (per AR5) of long term predictions of CO2 forced warming.

    The actual source code is this, from briffa_Sep98_d.pro http://wattsupwiththat.com/200 [wattsupwiththat.com]... [wattsupwiththat.com] - you can decide for yourself whether this is "torture" or not, and whether this particular debate should be squelched: ; ; Apply a VERY ARTIFICAL correction for decline!! ; yrloc=[1400,findgen(19)*5.+1904] valadj=[0.,0.,0.,0.,0.,-0.1,-0.25,-0.3,0.,-0.1,0.3,0.8,1.2,1.7,2.5,2.6,2.6,2.6,2.6,2.6]*0.75 ; fudge factor if n_elements(yrloc) ne n_elements(valadj) then message,'Oooops!' yearlyadj=interpol(valadj,yrloc,timey)

    Looks pretty innocuous. Perhaps you either (a) Posted the wrong section of the model (b) Misunderstood the meaning of the comment "Apply a very artificial correction for decline" per the quite embarrassing mistakes made by some conspiracy theorists with respect to the word "decline" used in the CRU emails.

  • by Layzej (1976930) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @10:34PM (#46077251)

    It's hard to present contrary evidence if you can't get at and question the models or data.

    Those who can't perform a simple Google search would be hard pressed to debate the science in any meaningful way (and should probably cease spewing BS to score political points). I found the code and data with a two minute search. - http://www.meteo.psu.edu/holoc... [psu.edu]

  • Re:Steyn is Slime (Score:2, Informative)

    by stenvar (2789879) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @10:46PM (#46077319)

    The judge disagrees that there is a distinction. Since the dozens of temperature reconstructions using different methods and different proxies all come up with the same answer it will be difficult to understand how Mann's work could be considered wrong, let alone fraudulent.

    Mann's data can be fraudulent without being wrong. That is, he may have deliberately manipulated the data, even if his results turned out to be correct later.

  • Re: good (Score:4, Informative)

    by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @10:55PM (#46077355)
    I'm not sure that's true. There are three factors. Of which I am aware, that is... IANAL. And of course I'm talking about U.S. Libel laws are different in UK.

    [1] The statement must be of a defamatory nature (likely to cause others to have a lower opinion of the subject or otherwise damaging, as to professional reputation for example). [2] It must be untrue, and [3] the person stating it must know, or reasonably should know, that it is not true.

    I could be wrong, but I don't think intent per se is a requirement. For example, someone could write something damaging about someone else, genuinely believing it to be true, but if they reasonably should have known it was not true, then they can still be guilty of libel. So it's possible to run afoul of the law without intending to tell lies about somebody.
  • Re: good (Score:4, Informative)

    by femtobyte (710429) on Monday January 27, 2014 @12:44AM (#46077853)

    What fields have you applied for grants in? I'm not in climate science, but at least I particle physics, I can assure you that "everyone already knows this, and we're going to get the same results" is not a winning grant proposal or path to career success. If you want funding, you find an issue with lots of uncertainty (or one where you know you can do better than everyone else), and highlight how different your approach will be, with the possibility of finding new results. Trying to upset the consensus is the entire name of the game --- the only limit to doing so is demonstrating that you're competent to do so. Every scientist I know loves the principles of "underdog" experiments, using crazy new ideas that just might work to make new discoveries --- indeed, replication of results in many fields suffers because nobody is interested in just "confirming the consensus." There is no shame in the scientific community (at least the portion I've seen) about challenging the consensus with boundary-pushing work (negative results on well-performed experiments contribute to career success) --- you just have to be competent, rather than a nutjob spouting ignorance (the typical state of climate-change-denying "experts").

  • Re:SLAPPed hard (Score:5, Informative)

    by KeensMustard (655606) on Monday January 27, 2014 @03:19AM (#46078419)

    Is it claimed that Dr. Mann won the Nobel Prize in that book?

    You don't need to read a book to find that out. He did contribute to the winning of a Nobel peace prize. He received a certificate from the IPCC thanking him for his contributions. Various people, desperate people, thought this certificate was the Nobel peace prize, they never asked him, he never claimed it was. They made up a story about him faking the certificate - he didn't fake it, it was real. Much embarrassment was heaped upon Anthony Watts, and other worthies, including our favourite Lord-who-is-not-a-Lord Monkton, for these spurious and quickly debunked claims.

    He never made any claim to have been a Nobel Laureate. He did win a Nobel peace prize, as one of many who shared the prize. He never claimed anything that was false, this was a rumour made up by a number of people who apparently can't read or otherwise lack basic comprehension skills.

  • Re:Steyn is Slime (Score:5, Informative)

    by TapeCutter (624760) on Monday January 27, 2014 @03:53AM (#46078527) Journal

    whether this particular debate should be squelched:

    On the one hand: That particular debate was the subject of a US senate inquisition lead by hostile senators from coal rich states. The national academies stepped in as arbitrator and reviewed the work, they agreed with Mann's methods but criticized some of his certainty levels, these minor criticisms were addressees in a subsequent "hockey stick" paper from Mann (circa 2005) that was published by the national academies in their own journal (Science).

    On the other hand: Anthony Watts is a well known denier with strong links to the same anti-science lobby groups as Steyn, he has never published a single peer-reviewed article or paper. He simply ignores any and all contra-evidence to his claims because he knows that some people will believe him if he repeats the same bald assertions ad-nauseam.

    more or less linear increases in CO2 concentrations since like 1850

    I think you are using an unconventional definition of "liner", probably one invented by Watts. The facts are it took ~250yrs to pump 500 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere, on current consumption trends it will take less than 50yrs to double it.

Facts are stubborn, but statistics are more pliable.

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