Defaming for Beginners
by Mark Steyn
March 17, 2014
A heartfelt thank you to everyone who's helped support my legal pushback against a lavishly funded campaign by fake Nobel Laureate Michael E Mann to put his shoddy science beyond criticism. I'm very grateful to those who've bought our Steyn vs the Stick products
, our new SteynOnline gift certificates
, my free-speech book Lights Out
or one of our many other products
. We have had generous supporters from across the globe, from some of the most populous nations on earth (India, Indonesia) and from some of the smallest imperial pinpricks (the Falkland Islands and the Cook Islands).
There are some developments in the case that I hope to be at liberty to discuss in the days ahead. In the meantime, how about a little Mann-related linkage? Dr Mann himself links approvingly to this characteristically somnolent piece from The Columbia Journalism Review
: Strange Bedfellows: Climate Change Deniers, Newspapers Partner In A FOIA Fight
The bedfellows are only "strange" if you think the press should have no principled position, which seems an odd view for a self-aggrandizing guild bible like the CJR to take. The reason NPR, The Washington Post et al are opposing Mann in Virginia is because they grasp that were he to prevail it would not merely be a victory for him but a massive defeat for freedom of information that would more or less gut the law in that state. Likewise, were he to prevail in my own case, it would be the biggest setback for the First Amendment in three decades (since Hustler vs Falwell). But you gotta love assistant editor Alexis Sobel Fitts and the fact-checking ethics bores at The Columbia Journalism Review
, who seem reluctant to check anything:But in recent years Mann has become known for his public battles against climate change-denial interest groups seeking opportunities to discredit his research. When the National Review called him "the Jerry Sandusky of climate science" he took them to court for defamation.
Er, no. It was Rand Simberg at CEI who called Mann "the Jerry Sandusky of climate science". National Review
merely quoted his words, much like The Columbia Journalism Review
did. So maybe Mann should sue you guys, too. Or maybe you could try looking it up next time. The alleged "defamatory publication" is only 270 words long. The distinctive CJR style of sludge-like pomposity requires a certain basic competence to be tenable.
In not unrelated news, it turns out that large slabs of American journalism are being written by robots. Has someone checked in the back to see whether Alexis Sobel Fitts' battery needs charging?
Cory Franklin, who is so non-robotic that the Harrison Ford role in The Fugitive
was partially based on him, provides a somewhat more reliable overview of the case so far
: Mann subsequently went on the offensive by suing Simberg, Steyn, CEI and National Review for defamation. When the defendants tried to have the lawsuit dismissed by claiming they had a First Amendment right to criticize Mann publicly, a Washington superior court judge allowed the suit to go forward. The judge wrote, 'accusing a scientist of conducting his research fraudulently, manipulating his data to achieve a predetermined or political outcome, or purposefully distorting the scientific truth are factual allegations. They go to the heart of scientific integrity. They can be proven true or false. If false, they are defamatory. If made with actual malice, they are actionable.'
So Mann's lawsuit now proceeds and unless a settlement is reached, pre-trial discovery will make public both the critics' motivations and the details of Mann's research. (In a related development, Steyn launched a countersuit against Mann accusing him of violation of freedom of speech).
But by pursuing a lawsuit, Michael Mann is wrong. As are the judge and prestigious scientists who support him.
Mr Franklin is speaking in both a philosophical sense and a practical one, as the inept jurist Natalia Combs Greene (now gone from the case) never gave the slightest indication that her courtroom was competent to adjudicate the hockey stick.
American law is complicated, especially for us poor little foreigners, for whom the leisurely procedural torture of US "justice" would count as cruel and unusual punishment in most other systems. So I was interested to read this lawyer boiling down the legal issues to the essence. First, defamation law:Read more ...