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The Courts The Media

Michael Mann Defamation Suit Against National Review Writer to Proceed 393

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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  • good (Score:1, Interesting)

    by superwiz ( 655733 ) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @06:28PM (#46075689) Journal
    It's about time the courts had a say about whether splicing 2 times series in the graph that is presented to the general public rises to the level of fraud. He did explain in the content of the paper that the hockey stick figure was not the actual claim, but the cover and the subsequent presentation to the general public made it look the hockey stick graph was supported by data. Is that fraud? That's is not a bad question to ask in a court room.
  • Re:good (Score:3, Interesting)

    by techno-vampire ( 666512 ) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @07:13PM (#46075967) Homepage
    Scientific concern about climate change isn't, of course, a religion. However, there are an awful lot of True Believers who act as though it were. And no, I'm not a member of the Heartland Institute, I'm just a skeptic who accepts the fact that the climate is changing (It's always changing, sometimes getting warmer, sometimes cooler.) but doubts that the main driving force at the presence is anthropogenic because I don't, personally, find the evidence sufficiently persuasive and prefer to think for myself.
  • Climate change... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 26, 2014 @07:19PM (#46076021)

    I've had my view on the whole climate change/global warming thing for a while. First up, I accept that temperatures have risen on average in recent times. The numbers are holding up to scrutiny, although very recent numbers may be suggesting we've hit a plateau, depending who you believe.

    Where there doesn't seem to be a strong consensus is whether it's entirely man-made (I'm awaiting the flames to start on that commment...). We know Earth's climate has gone through cycles (medieval warm period, little ice age etc) before mankind was industrialised; are we sure this isn't happening now?

    However - regardless of whether climate change is man made or natural, there's a hard fact that we're burning up fossil fuels (gas, oil, coal) far faster than it can be created in the ground. They're going to run out at some point, so we need to reduce our usage of them somehow. Add in the pollution argument and surely it would have to be a no-brainer to be trying to cut down our usage of fossil fuels? The exception seems to be those heavily tied in to the oil & gas companies who don't care about what happens 40 or 50 years down the line, they just care about their profits now.

  • Re:good (Score:1, Interesting)

    by taustin ( 171655 ) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @07:32PM (#46076099) Homepage Journal

    Unless you have personally done the research, you also have a cognitive bias to accept one of the largest bodies of modern scientific research. It's only a matter of which side you believe, in the end.

    Both sides act like drunken schoolyard bullies beating up the smaller kids for their lunch money.

  • Re:good (Score:4, Interesting)

    by quantaman ( 517394 ) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @07:46PM (#46076227)

    Isn't just his advocacy site? I've had people point to it before. It's reads like a marketing hype rather than as a scientific discussion.

    Are you looking at the same link I am? Other than using the "Myth #1" style of summarization used by many people (including marketing) if I have a criticism of it's that they write too much like scientists. Their writing is full of caveats, asides, and long winded explainations because the subject is inherently messy. Frankly I think their writing is just too dry and analytical to reach a general audience. Just look at this excerpt from the link in question:

    MYTH #4: Errors in the "Hockey Stick" undermine the conclusion that late 20th century hemispheric warmth is anomalous.


    The second falsehood holds that there are errors in the Mann et al (1998, 1999) analyses, and that these putative errors compromise the “hockey stick” shape of hemispheric surface temperature reconstructions. Such claims seem to be based in part on the misunderstanding or misrepresentation by some individuals of a corrigendum that was published by Mann and colleagues in Nature. This corrigendum simply corrected the descriptions of supplementary information that accompanied the Mann et al article detailing precisely what data were used. As clearly stated in the corrigendum, these corrections have no influence at all on the actual analysis or any of the results shown in Mann et al (1998). Claims that the corrigendum reflects any errors at all in the Mann et al (1998) reconstruction are entirely false. isn't marketing, it's dry scientific writing directed to laypeople, what the AGW community needs is an advocacy site written by non-scientists which is less concerned about the science and more concerned about the debate. fills an essential niche in the debate but it's not the kind of hand wavy tabloidish mass audience style of blog that's needed to counter Watts Up With That?.

  • by rbrander ( 73222 ) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @07:57PM (#46076301) Homepage

    This isn't about whether the (very) widespread claims that current evidence supports 'global warming', it's about whether Mann committed scientific fraud.

    For instance, George Bush's commander really did think of Bush the way a fake letter (put forth by CBS as real) said he did; presumably the faker was frustrated by his inability to get that fact in the news, so he resorted to fraud, no doubt thinking that the real truth made it morally OK. But he still committed fraud, and the news that the secretary who would have typed the letter if it were real, said it was the commander's opinion, even as she debunked the letter was quite lost in the scandal over the fraud.

    So global warming could be real, and Mann still a fraud, or it could be all a huge mistake by thousands of scientists, and Mann NOT a fraud, simply in possession of data that was mistaken or didn't mean what he thought.

    Steyn is no doubt happy about the trial, because it will give him grounds to subpoena great heaps of Mann's work, looking for the same thing that the climategate E-mail thieves looked for: any kind of out-of-context quote they can find that they cam drum up into a "scandal" - a fraudulent one, of course...

  • by Curunir_wolf ( 588405 ) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @08:23PM (#46076449) Homepage Journal

    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.

    It's part of a concerted effort to end free speech of anyone that wants to question the AGW alarmists. It includes Reddit's decision to ban comments on climate change, targeting not just libellous or hateful stuff, but “outspoken opinions”, “potentially controversial” views, and “contrarianism”. In short, critical or eccentric thinking, stuff that doesn’t fit with what the overlords of Reddit consider to be politically proper.

    They've encouraged other news sources to follow suit, and the LA Times has stated that they do not publish anything from skeptics of climate change, but they haven't yet gone so far as to ban them from the on-line comments section.

    That one of the supposedly most free-speechy sections of the World Wide Web can be so upfront in demanding the “positive censorship” of controversial viewpoints is shocking. It shows just how successfully beyond the pale criticism of climate change alarmism has been put, and how even the young, funky overseers of modern, open discussion forums are willing to rein in free speech if they see or hear something that offends their Greenish sensibilities.

    I hope Steyn makes this case a major media showcase. He should subpoena every single document and email and witness that has even a remote possibility to of demonstrating even the appearance of impropriety on Mann's part (that should be an easy task). Maybe he can even get UVA to finally release the Mann documents that were denied exposure through numerous FOIA requests and lawsuits by the Virginia Attorney General's office.

    Transparency and free speech are at stake. We should be willing to tolerate all manner of inconveniences to ensure openness in science and uncensored debate.

  • by haruchai ( 17472 ) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @08:47PM (#46076617)

    I'm not one of those guys. Never thought much of Reagan except that he could fool people but didn't cheer when he was shot.
    As for Buckley, he was smart and had integrity and would be ashamed of the modern American right wing.
    If you know anything about the man, you'll recall that he took pains to exclude the radicals he deemed unworthy.

    The Ayn Rand-lovers, the thinly-disguised white supremacists practising voter suppression, etc - they would have gotten short shrift from him.

  • by haruchai ( 17472 ) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @09:04PM (#46076737)

    For someone who's supposed to be "happy about the trial", he's hiding it well - [] - and prefers it be dismissed.

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

    by Layzej ( 1976930 ) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @09:14PM (#46076813)

    Steyn didn't assert that Mann is a fraud, but rather that Mann "tortured" the data.

    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.

    you can decide for yourself whether this is "torture" or not

    Probably you cannot. Probably the most you can do is concoct conspiracy theories based on code comments. Leaving aside the fact that this code was authored by someone completely unrelated to the Mann temperature reconstructions (but why let facts get in the way of a good conspiracy theory?), it may be worth noting that the code was used in a paper that calls tree rings proxies into question : Trees tell of past climates: but are they speaking less clearly today? []

    So if you want to dismiss the results of the paper that used this code, then you are dismissing work critical of one of the proxies used in Mann's reconstruction.

  • by Layzej ( 1976930 ) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @09:27PM (#46076887)
    Yup. People are getting real tired of bullshit. Turns out you can't call someone a fraud unless he has actually done something fraudulent.
  • Re:good! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Attila Dimedici ( 1036002 ) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @09:43PM (#46076969)
    Actually, it was Pennsylvania State University that found Mann's research to be scientifically accurate, not the University of Pennsylvania (although you were correct that it was the University where he teaches and that receives income from the funding of his climate research. The interesting thing is that the person who put together the group to investigate him was the President of Pennsylvania State University, the same President who put together the group which initially "investigated" the allegations of sexual misconduct against Sandusky (that found no reason to contact the police about those allegations, even though the law clearly required them to do so).
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 26, 2014 @09:47PM (#46076997)

    Contrary evidence? You mean, nobody is allowed to question anything until they have contrary evidence? They aren't allowed to look at your source and see if they agree with methods and assumptions until they have contrary evidence?

    Did someone need contrary evidence when they took the atomic clocks on fast airplanes to see if its time slipped relative to the clock on earth?

    Sorry, but you are wrong.

    Science is as much about poking holes in assumptions and theories as it is about alternate theories. Sunlight is good.

    The global warming crowd hasn't been very open with data and methods. You should condemn that.

  • by Ol Olsoc ( 1175323 ) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @10:35PM (#46077255)


    For the benefit of those without sarcasm-detectors, it's worth emphasizing that it's the job of science, not the courts (or the media) to "rationally and scientifically" prove or disprove scientific phenomena.

    To be sure however, the case of Kitzmiller vs the Dover Area School district, a judge determined what was or was not science. And the verdict came in, ID is not science. It was just a pseudoscience effort to put creationism into classrooms as science.

    What I find a little unsettling is that both Creationism, ID and anti-AGW folks tend to use the same weapons. Cherry picking data, using old data, and one of their favorites, character assassination. Like comparing a respected scientist to a serial child molester.

    And this passes for refuting AGW? That Mark Steyn believes that Mann is the same thing as a child molester? Using arguments like that just underscores the weakness of his position. And his web page is saying that Mann vs Steyn is the Scopes Monkey trial of the 21st century. Umm, sensationalizing much?

    We see so much of this, where scientists are "refuted" by political operatives. Of course, being political operatives, they operate on a field in which they can, the mentioned cherry picking,, the character assassination, etc.

    And yet, the answer is so simple. Reputable scientists hould be turning up research that shows that the amount of so called greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is not causing any warming effect, and why a proven scientific principle is wrong. note: CO2 levels causing heat retention has been proven in grade school science fairs over and over and over.

    And they need to do it outside of journals that have direct relationship to industries that stand to profit by refutation. And not cherry pick peers. And not have editors that are proponents of water dowsing, or work for petroleum institutes. Because that's about all there is so far.

  • Re:good (Score:1, Interesting)

    by The Grim Reefer ( 1162755 ) on Monday January 27, 2014 @12:00AM (#46077629)

    How scientific of them. We have a "moral" obligation? Yes, very scientific.

    Scientist are also human beings with feelings and compassion for their fellow inhabitants of Earth. What's so surprising about them speaking in terms of a "moral" obligation? It may not be their ultimate decision on what constitutes the best moral decision, but they're allowed to have an opinion like anyone else.

    Morality is pretty ambiguous and not something that belongs in this particular debate. Oh, wait. Anyone disagreeing with, or even questioning AWG is "immoral". This is not what I call scientific in any way. Some would say much of the research done on animals is immoral. Or that using the knowledge gained from it is too. I'm not in this camp. But do you see the problem? Once this becomes a discussion about morality, it looses it's scientific merit. It then becomes a religious discussion, nothing more.

    Even if the planet is warming entirely because of man, there is no definitive proof that it will reach worst case.

    Suppose we wait until the proof is, in your eyes, definitive. Methinks it will be too late to do anything.

    Not at all. If you read my post, you would notice that I'm all for developing renewable and nuclear energy. I'm not for knee jerk "the end is nigh, ye must repent and denounce the pagan, fossil burning ways!" hyperbole.

    How do we know it will reach a cataclysmic event(s) if we don't' stop right this very second? I've been hearing that "if we don't fix things right now, we are all doomed" (from one thing or another) for almost my entire life. If that's the case, we're already too late. So if we can't leave our children a non-degraded planet, we must give them a pile of cash? Or who is supposed to get this money?

    Overly simplistic. [] It's not about non-degraded planet vs. cash. It's about changing the path we're on.

    I thought it was about saving the planet for future generations. And if we can't do that, then we must pay our penance in currency. You're telling me it's just about choosing a different path? I agree with you on this, by the way. But I do have a problem with the hell fire and brimstone predictions that are in the article I was talking about.

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

    by TapeCutter ( 624760 ) on Monday January 27, 2014 @03:22AM (#46078427) Journal

    But the climate deniers do seem to have gotten as thick as thieves in the past couple years.

    Much thinner than they were a decade ago, IMO most of those that are left are trolls and astro-turfers who like to get in quick on AGW stories.

    Mann has been character assassinated by "for hire" lobbyists, he has had numerous death threats and has appeared before several political inquisitions. The coal industries effort to discredit Mann and ruin his life is lead in congress by US senator Inhofe. It's about time Mann, Hansen, Schmidt, and others, fought back against political persecution and those who created the army of useful idiots intent on doing them physical harm. They should not have ignored the threat this long, I wish them the best of luck.

  • Re:good (Score:4, Interesting)

    by silentcoder ( 1241496 ) on Monday January 27, 2014 @07:53AM (#46079283)

    >the way that the AGW people have done everything they possibly could to deny that the Medieval Warm or the Little Ice Age happened or that they were anything except "local phenomena."

    And there you went and proved your opponents point about observation bias. In fact, the medieval warming period is well known in climate science circles - and was discovered BY them.
    I was once in a debate about climate change where a denier tried to use the medieval period to prove that climate science is a fake and Michael Mann is a fraud - to prove his point he linked me to a scientific paper about the medieval warming period... and proved he hadn't actually READ the paper because if he had opened it he would have seen, right on the front page, that the lead author was Michael Mann - the very scientist he was trying to discredit by bringing it up wrote most of the research we have on it !
    The medieval warming period doesn't discredit modern climate science - that we know about it at all is a PRODUCT of modern climate science !

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

    by stenvar ( 2789879 ) on Monday January 27, 2014 @08:37AM (#46079427)

    You can try how far "I committed a crime, but nobody ended up getting hurt" will get you when you get dragged into court.

"Yeah, but you're taking the universe out of context."