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Mann Fights Back Against Denialist Abuse

Posted on 28 July 2012 by dana1981

At Skeptical Science, we prefer to stick to discussions of the scientific literature and body of evidence.  However, for the long time there has been a systematic abuse of climate scientists from climate denialists, and from time to time this reprehensible behavior becomes so widespread that we feel the need to comment on it, for example in the cases of Katharine Hayhoe and Phil Jones.

Most recently, Michael Mann, who himself has a long history being on the receiving end of abusive letters and death threats, as he detailed in his book, has been rather viciously defamed by the Competetive Enterprise Institute (CEI) and National Review.  CEI is a right-wing think tank with a long history of denying the health effects of smoking and human-caused climate change, having received major funding from the tobacco and oil industries (i.e. over $2 million from ExxonMobil, and more recently funding from the Koch Brothers and other groups whose wealth is based in fossil fuels like the Scaife Foundations).

Recently, Ryan Simberg published a post on CEI's blog accusing Mann of

"engaging in data manipulation to keep the blade on his famous hockey-stick graph"

The CEI blog post proceded to compare Mann to Jerry Sandusky, a convicted serial child molester.  This extraordinarily inappropriate and offensive comparison has been removed from the CEI blog, but it remains in a National Review article written by Mark Steyn, which quotes Simberg's post.  We will not reproduce this reprehensible quote here.

Libelous Accusations of Fraud

The accusations of fraud are of course entirely baseless, but stem from the "Mike's Nature trick" email which was made public during the Climategate theft.  "Mike's Nature trick" referred to  the technique of plotting recent instrumental temperature data along with historical reconstructed data.  This places recent global warming trends in the context of temperature changes over longer time scales.  This graph is commonly known as the "hockey stick."

There is of course nothing 'fraudulent' about plotting instrumental temperatures on the same graph as reconstructed temperatures.  Both the instrumental (red) and reconstructed temperature (blue) are clearly labelled in Mann's 1998 Nature article, the follow-up Mann et al. 1999, and the IPCC Third Assessment Report (TAR) (Figure 1).

Hockey Stick

Figure 1: Northern Hemisphere mean temperature anomaly in °C (IPCC TAR).

There has been subsequent scientific debate regarding the statistical methods used in Mann et al. 1999.  It was after all a groundbreaking study - one of the first northern hemisphere millennial temperature reconstructions, so of course subsequent research has resulted in improved methodologies, even by Mann himself in Mann et al. 2008 (Figure 2).


Figure 2: Composite Northern Hemisphere land and land plus ocean temperature reconstructions and estimated 95% confidence intervals. Shown for comparison are published Northern Hemisphere reconstructions (Mann 2008).

However, there is zero evidence that there was any fraudulent behavior whatsoever Mann et. al 1999, and in fact every subsequent millennial northern hemisphere temperature reconstruction has confirmed the general 'hockey stick' shape.  For example, see the summary of subsequent research on the subject in the 2007 IPCC report.

Additionally, every investigation into the Climategate emails found that the scientists whose emails were stolen, including Michael Mann, were not guilty of any wrongdoing.  Quite simply, any accusations of fraud are entirely without merit, and qualify as defamation and libel.

Sandusky Comparison Beyond the Pale

It should go without saying that comparing anyone - particularly an honest scientist - to a convicted serial child molester is simply reprehensible and should be universally condemned.  We would hope that CEI and National Review would acknowledge their writers' blatant lapses in judgment, retract the articles, and issue a profound apology to Mann for their defamation and libel.  As noted above, CEI has taken the small step of removing what they call the "Two inappropriate sentences."

So far National Review has taken no action, and Mann has retained legal counsel who has issued a letter to National Review stating:

"Needless to say, we intend to pursue all appropriate legal remedies on behalf of Dr. Mann...we reiterate our demand that this defamatory article be immediately removed from further publication, and that you issue a retraction of this article and an apology to Dr. Mann."

The letter also used the Skeptical Science Climategate rebuttal to illustrate why the accusations of fraud are entirely baseless and without merit - we are pleased to have been a useful resource in Dr. Mann's endeavors on this matter.

Comments from the Peanut Gallery

Mann's move onto the offensive has generated widespread commentary from the blogosphere.  For the most part there has been a great deal of support, for example on AGU blogs, Climate Crocks, Discover Magazine's Bad Astronomy, and many others, including comments on Mann's Facebook Page.  However, a number of climate denialists have inexplicably sided with CEI and National Review's defamatory attack, for example Andrew Montford and WattsUpWithThat, among others.

Denialists Frothing Up the Abusers

There is a clear connection between the behavior at climate denialist blogs and the abuse directed towards climate scientists.  Denialist blog posts constantly leap from their own flawed scientific analyses to the conclusion that climate scientists must be guilty of fraud, data manipulation, and other immoral behavior.  The letters received by climate scientists contain this same sort of language, with baseless accusations of fraud and data manipulation, followed by abusive language and often death threats.

Climate denialist blogs are also the source of the CEI and National Review accusations of fraud, which soon warped into a denigrating comparison betwen an honest climate scientist and a serial child molester.  Instead of condemning this reprehensible behavior, climate denialist ringleader WattsUpWithThat in particular appears to encourage it.

This sort of behavior must stop, especially if these climate denialists wish to be taken seriously as real 'skeptics'.  It is completely unacceptable that honest climate scientists like Mann, Jones, and Hayhoe - who are just trying to do their jobs and further the collective human understanding of the inner workings of our climate - are being subjected to abusive attacks and death threats as a reward for their efforts. 

We call on all climate 'skeptic' blogs to condemn the defamatory language from CEI and National Review, and the abuse directed towards climate scientists in general, and we wish Dr. Mann well in his efforts to hold National Review liable for its defamation of his character.

For those who wish to support Dr. Mann in this matter, donating to the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund is one option.

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Comments

Comments 1 to 40:

  1. (snip)
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    Moderator Response: TC: Brandon Shollenberger, I draw your attention to the comments policy which states:

    " Some comments, while strictly on topic, may relate to issues discussed in more detail in some other thread. Extended discussion of those points should be carried out in the more appropriate thread, with link backs to reference the discussion as needed. Moderator's directions to move discussion to a more appropriate thread should always be followed."

    It is very evident, that, for example, this thread would be far more appropriate to discussing the specific meaning of "Mike's Nature trick". I find, however, that your focus on such trivial inconsequentialities rather than the campaign of abuse and misinformation about climate scientists speaks volumes about your priorities. Regardless, if you want to discuss "Mike's Nature trick", take it to where it is the main point of the discussion.
  2. And do not forget Peter Wood of the National Association of Scholars (NAS. He jumped on this one as well, with Culture of evasion. Then, a week later, it was reposted at NAS.


    Last year Wood tried false association against {climate science, Mann} last year, with a reply by me and Rob Coleman.

    'How does CHE support open discussion and still maintain civility? Is the blog section an open free-for-all where people may write anything at all, or should it be moderated?

    People should be free to express their opinions, but not all opinions are equal, especially about science. Is it acceptable in CHE to state as fact that cigarettes cause no disease? ...
    Is there a dividing line between legitimate academic controversy and libel? If so, where is that line and who draws it? Academic controversy is not characterized by use of Nazi labels or exhortations that scientists be physically harmed. It is not characterized by baseless, wacky conspiracy theories about worldwide plots by mainstream science. Academic discussions involve data, facts, and justifiable, soundly crafted theories.'

    Hence, issues were raised with CHE, but they didn't get the message or this message.

    By the way Richard Mellon Scaife is one of the main funders of:

    CEI
    GMI (George Marshall Institute)
    NAS
    CFACT (often involving Viscount Monckton)
    Commonwealth Foundation (Pennsylvania) - which among other things ran attack ads against Mann in Penn State student newspaper

    See CCC, pp.93-94: ExxonMobil, Scaife, L&H Bradley ... EM F has since dropped out.
    I didn't know about NAS then, but Scaife & Bradley have been the prime funders for years.

    CEI and GMI were the 2 main thinktanks in recruiting McIntyre and McKitrick and managing the attack on the hockey stick, and setting up the Wegman Report.
    See
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  3. Dr. Mann is fighting back against the many ultra conservative organizations and corporations in the USA. This mainly involves the Koch industries & the varied fossil fuel interests.

    With the Public now beginning to see the link between greenhouse gases and extreme weather (specially after the hellish summer in the US Heartland) The Denial stormtroopers are become excitingly worried. And their first line of attack is against Mann.
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  4. I wish Mann luck but as I understand it if he counts as a "Public Figure" then the bar for proving libel in the US is rather high. He will need to prove that CEI and Nation Review knew that what they were saying was false.
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  5. #3 (newscrusader): This is absolutely true. The extreme weather events in the US have done massive damage to the denialist cause. They lucked out with the cold winters of 2010 and 2011 and got massive public support, as well as support from the MSN (still the case in Northern Europe due to a few weeks of cold temps in the past winter as well as a cool and rainy summer).
    Now, however, it has all turned against the US based deniers. Public support is dropping like a rock and a major fraction of the MSN is all of a sudden very science friendly. CNN even stopped calling them skeptics, and started calling them by their real name.
    This has had a predictable effect: Desperation. It shows.
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  6. I do think it is high time that this practice of wanton accusations of dishonesty - of scientific dishonesty, i.e. of a kind that matters - is challenged and challenged hard.

    (-Snip-)? And will we also see, ( -Snip-)?
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    Moderator Response: [DB] Off-topic & sloganeering snipped. And I'm quite capable of repeating this action as needed. 24/7/365.
  7. In following the instructions given in the moderator's response to my #1, I've posted a comment here which discusses a factual error in that appears in this (and that) post. Interested readers should follow the link.
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  8. At the upcoming AGU conference in San Francisco, Climate Science Legal Defense Fund has convened a formal session along with several workshops in order to educate scientists about their legal rights. When the schedules are set I will let you know. In the meantime one can view the formal session abstract and I hope that you all spread the word so that we can increase the number of submitted abstractss and also make people aware of this valuable program at AGU.
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  9. "We call on all climate 'skeptic' blogs to condemn the defamatory language from CEI and National Review, and the abuse directed towards climate scientists in general..."

    The correct, honest and noble path, something most decent, honest individuals with any level of self-respect for them selves and others would do without question.

    Don't hold your breath waiting for "climate 'skeptic' blogs to condemn the defamatory language from CEI and National Review" you will simply go blue and look like a Smurf.

    The silence of these so called "climate 'skeptic' blogs" and their outright refusal to condemn actions of this type speaks volumes as to their integrity (or lack there of) and to the sort of individuals who frequent these blogs and perpetuate this kind of nonsense.

    Simply put hell will freeze over (and Greenland will melt) before these blogs and associated individuals who frequent them will give any kind of condemnation or apology or admit they were then and are now totally and utterly wrong.
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  10. As a side note, due in large part to the changes in funding laws in the US (Citizens United case, US Supreme Court), Koch Industries alone has put more money into the 2012 presidential race than the total of McCain's 2008 campaign expenditures (from NPR).

    There's a lot of money being applied to denying science, and the attacks on Mann and others are just one part of it.
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  11. Here's yet another data-point that shows how "skeptics" are far more interested in harassing scientists than doing any real work of their own.

    Remember how the CRU was inundated with FOI demands related to the raw station data in its possession? Remember this FOI storm?

    Well, as of today, it's been exactly a year since the CRU released all of the raw data that the "skeptics" had been demanding (and at the risk of violating nondisclosure agreements with supplers).

    So, what has happened in the year since? Do you hear crickets chirping?

    With only one exception that I know of (and that exception's results confirmed the CRU's work), not a single "skeptic" has done a lick of work with the data.

    Listen skeptics -- you've had the CRU's raw data in your hot little hands for a whole year. How about showing us some results? Or at least how about acknowledging that your FOI antics were intended to harass scientists and waste their time, and that you never intended to do any real work with the data?

    And don't even try to use the "scientists didn't disclose their methods/code, so we couldn't replicate their work" excuse. Don't even think about going there. Because on July 30 of last year (3 days after the CRU released all that data), I downloaded the CRU raw data, crunched it, and posted my results right here. Total turn-around time? A few hours.

    In that July 30 post, I made this bold prediction:

    Now, it remains to be seen what (if anything) the deniers who have been demanding access to this complete data-set will actually do with it. Based on what I've seen of their past performance (or lack thereof), I'd be willing to wager that they will produce absolutely nothing meaningful.


    Am I psychic or what?
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  12. I wonder where Mr. Steyn derived his inspiration from and what information on the internet piqued his interest as well as his imagination? Well, coincidentally (not) a certain "auditor" has been trying quite hard (see here, for example) to draw parallels between the tragic Sandusky affair and Dr. Mike Mann. Mr. McIntyre is then happy to let those uninterested with facts and the truth let their imaginations run wild.

    One has to wonder why Dr. Mann's lawyers have not yet sent a similar letter to Mr. McIntyre? Such a letter id long overdue in my opinion. And this OP once again clearly demonstrates why the the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund is (unfortunately) so badly needed.
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  13. caerbannog @11,

    Thanks for that link to your calculations.

    Your honnest expectation (or maybe rhetoric sarcasm) is that deniers act logically. Nope. Your case proves again that in their actions, there is no place for any logic.

    What's the logic in this defamatory nonsense against Mike Mann? What are the motives of this individual called Ryan Simberg and CEI supporting him? I would call it the "final stage of denialism" - an attitude of a man who becomes so obsessed as to be detached from reality. He still has a chance to go back to reality by retraction and appology, otherwise he faces a certain defeat in the court case that would follow.
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  14. Albatross - I'd say the difference is that McIntyre is attacking the Penn State president and inquiry instead of directly criticizing Mann (though I didn't read his whole post, just the quotes at Deep Climate). He's indirectly inferring that Mann did something wrong instead of directly stating it as CEI and National Review did, and not comparing Mann to Sandusky as CEI did (propagated in the NR article quote).

    In short, McIntyre is behaving very Watts-like, throwing chum to his denialist readers without actually coming out and making specific accusations. This follows the behavior discussed in the final section of the post above, with denialist blogs frothing up their readers with these sorts of baseless accusations.

    As long as we're comparing the two investigations, it's worth noting that the Penn State football program brings in $60 million in annual revenue to the college, whereas Mann clearly does not. Thus there is no basis to infer that one coverup is evidence of another, since the underlying motivation of the former does not apply to the latter.

    To cut straight to the point, as noted in the above post, there is zero evidence that Mann did anything wrong. Even if the Penn State inquiry hadn't been 100% thorough, frankly the inquiry should not have been conducted to begin with. The McIntyres and Wattses of the world need to take their tinfoil hats off and stop with the baseless accusations which lead to abuse and death threats towards honest climate scientists. If you want to dispute the science, then do so, but stop attacking the messengers.
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  15. I find the focus on Dr. Mann (and his work from 15 years ago such as in recent comments here, as opposed to the dozen or so similar reconstructions using different data, different methods) to be a rather revealing Rorschach test for deniers - he's achieved an iconic status in 'skeptic' circles, and there seems to be some idea that if only the icon can be tarnished, all that inconvenient data will just go away... - which it won't.

    That entire line of attack simply reveals the paucity of the skeptic arguments. Argument ad hominem rather than discussing the facts, the science.
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  16. KR, see my comment here

    Re: Mann's Law
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  17. #4, my understanding is that Mann's attorney knows libel law very well and doesn't take cases he thinks he can't win. It will be interesting to watch this play out. And how the MSM react.
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  18. What I am interested is whether or not Brandon agrees with Mr. Steyn's article. That is where he initially posted. So far Brandon has not said either way, although one could rightly assume his attempts to obfuscate and his silence on the matter as tacit approval of what Mr. Steyn said.

    I also wonder how Brandon would feel had made similar false accusations against Mr. McIntyre of the same falsehoods in a newspaper?

    I hope that we can receive an unambiguous and unequivocal answer from Brandon.
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  19. I find it ironic that people are saying Mann's efforts are going to invoke the "Streisand effect" given that the "fame" of Mann is due primarily to the Streisand effect - he would probably be little known outside of climate science but for the efforts to trash his name.

    I also think you need a graphic of the hockey stick graph with a big arrow pointing to the blade with the caption "This is the problem," and another arrow pointing to the handle with the caption "this is what we are arguing about." In my mind, we could throw out Mann's entire body of work and it would not change the climate narrative one iota - we are still facing dangerous warming.
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  20. Albatross, there have been no "attempts to obfuscate" anything. I saw a factual error in a post, and I pointed it out. That's all. My views on anything else in the article have nothing to do with whether or not what I took to be a factual error is in fact a factual error. As it happens, I hadn't read the article you're talking about, and I still haven't. I have little interest in op-eds.

    That said, I can give a general view. If the article compares Michael Mann to someone guilty of child molestation, I think that's completely unacceptable. I have no problem with people drawing parallels between how incidents were handled (as in, whether or not investigations were adequate), but it is inexcusable to compare anyone to a child molester.

    I don't know why my views on the subject should matter to anyone, but hopefully that clarifies things.
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    Moderator Response: [DB] It is noted that it is Brandon's perception that there is a "factual error" in an SkS post. Thus far, he has yet to provide convincing evidence to prove his central tenet.
  21. Brandon @20,

    Thanks for your response, although it is unfortunate that your reprehension of Mr. Steyn's slander and falsehoods had to be solicited.

    As for your claim that you have not attempted to obfuscate, I think readers of this thread and the Muller thread will see it very differently.

    As for your claim that the main post contains a factual error, I'm afraid that you have not made a compelling case in that regard, as has also been noted by other commentators. Regardless, for argument's sake even if the main post does contain a factual error, it does not make the actions of Mr. Steyn (which were likely inspired by Mr. McIntyre's musings) or the repeated attacks on scientists by Mr. McIntyre and his ilk any less reprehensible or defensible.

    "but it is inexcusable to compare anyone to a child molester"
    Then I hope you will join me in condemning the following comments and innuendo made at ClimateAudit following a post by Mr. McIntyre (posts which were not moderated):

    "Posted Nov 15, 2011 at 11:35 AM | Permalink | Reply
    A month or so ago, Judy Curry had a thread on a study of Jungian psychological profiles of climate scientists vs other physical scientists, and the results were quite striking. They are indeed, very, very different. It isn’t just your imagination."

    "Posted Nov 15, 2011 at 10:05 AM | Permalink | Reply
    .....Steve, thank you for once more drawing attention to the strange personal properties that can be acquired by some scientists. The one that bothers me most is the departure from the generally accepted “scientific method” in the loose sense. It seems that it is often accompanied by departure from the norms of general social conduct, such as a reticence to conduct an honest inquiry, a dogged defence of inventive methodology that is plausibly flawed and so on to areas seldom discussed."


    Brandon "I have little interest in op-eds."
    I'd strongly suggest that you read Mr. Steyn's article, you might see some familiar accusations thrown around, some of which appear to have originated at ClimateAudit. His article is also critical to the main post.

    So you never read the op-ed by Mr. McIntyre that is demolished by DeepClimate then?
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  22. (snip)

    Either way, this will open the door to further lawsuits going the other way; there was the Rahmsdorf case in Germany already. I do wonder whether people want this door open.

    (snip)
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    Moderator Response: [RH] Moderation complaints snipped.
  23. HS, by 'lawsuits going the other way' I assume you mean climate scientists suing 'skeptics' for defamation. Why would you "wonder whether people want this door open"? I'd say it is long past due.

    The simple fact is that the courts in most countries have strict standards on what sort of 'scientific' is admissible... and virtually the entire body of 'climate skepticism' would not qualify. Basically, climate 'skeptics' are even more at a disadvantage in the legal arena than they are in the scientific... and getting trounced in the court-rooms will make it much harder for them to make progress on 'public opinion' - the one area where the facts being against them isn't a major impediment.
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  24. Disclaimer: I am not a sociologist or a social anthropologist. Therefore the following analysis is at risk of Dunning-Kruger.

    There is something interesting going on. Many of the same blogs which condemned the Heartland unabomber poster, and in some cases also the SkS hack, are posting the Mann slanders, or at least posting material which allows the reader to infer them. How can the skeptic community not have learned from Heartland? What is going on?

    The easy answers are that they are morally deficient, or maybe saw an expediency in condemning one case but not another. I don't believe either of these. Most people don't do things they recognize to be evil.

    I think we are seeing the scapegoat mechanism at work. A community at stress seeks outlets for that stress, frequently through finding a figure to blame: The well known fictional archetype is Emmanuel Goldstein in Orwell's '1984', although there are also obvious historical examples. The scapegoat becomes an archetype, a dehumanised recipient for all of the frustrations of the community.

    This explains why the targeting seems so arbitrary. Why a palaeoclimatologist, when there are much more obvious targets? It was chance, but once established in the role, the myth takes over. It also explains the apparent double standards, condemning some outrages but turning a blind eye to anything concerning Mann.

    If correct, this analysis gives some pointers in responding:
    1. We must not accuse those who are perpetuating this material of evil. To do so represents a failure to understand what is going on, and in doing so shuts down communication. Point the unfounded nature of the accusations and the injustice of the comparison.
    2. We must be vigilant in avoiding casting prominent skeptics in scapegoat roles ourselves. Otherwise we just perpetuate a cycle of rhetorical violence, and the outside observer will rightly conclude that neither side is capable of reasoned discourse. However, the scapegoat mechanism is part of our anthropology: Avoid it involves constant and careful self examination.
    3. Bear in mind that the scapegoat mechanism is a stress relief mechanism. If things get worse, that may well indicate that stresses within the skeptic community are also increasing. (Note: I am studiously avoiding the obvious Gandhi quote here. Persecution can be an result of progress, but should never be mistaken for a measure of progress.)
  25. 0 0
  26. I have tried to transfer money to Climate Science Legal Defense Fund, but it the donation page does not work today.
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  27. Sceptical Wombat @4 - I do not know the law, but it seems unjust if one can be transformed into a public figure only through one's fame from being slandered and libeled.
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  28. 4,26:
    1) Whether Mann is a public figure, a limited public figure or not,

    2) The extra bar for such is *not* that someone knew it was false, but that it was malice or reckless disregard for the truth. Of course, for such, past history can be *extremely* useful in showing malice.

    Google: libel reckless disregard OR libel malice

    3) In any case, Mann's suit against Tim Ball in Canada is being handled by Roger McConchie, who wrote *the* book on Canadian libel law (1000 pages, I own a well-marked copy).

    The National Review complaint is being handled at Cozen O'Connor, by John B. Williams.

    I would suggest that people might want to do 2 things:
    a) Take a look at these lawyers and see if it sounds like they might know what they are doing.

    b) Study up a bit on libel law. See CCC p.184, for a few starting points, for example.
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  29. Thanks John. It is always hard to know where to start when learning a new subject that you have no familiarity with.

    I just found Dr. Mann's facebook page. Already I'm finding it a good resource as he links to new material and articles on climate change that are on sites I either don't frequent often or haven't even heard of.
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  30. Anyone who knows anything about U.S. libel law would know to be skeptical about Sceptical Wombat's statement that being a "public figure," Prof. Mann would have to prove Steyn and the National Review "knew" what they published about him was false.

    Not true. In 1964, the US Supreme Court decision in NY Times vs. Sullivan established the current law regarding "public figures." To win a libel suit in US courts, a public figure like Prof. Mann is required to prove the defendant published or broadcast the defamatory speech with "malice" -- which means either knowing that the speech was false or acting with "reckless disregard as to whether the speech was true or false."

    That's obviously a MUCH lower bar to clear than proving the party deliberately lied -- which usually requires "smoking gun" evidence (ie. email between the defendants bragging how they got away with a real big whopper.)

    Simply showing that the reporter made NO effort to verify the defamatory statement and gave the defamed person no chance to respond, is often enough to allow a public figure to win a libel suit.

    In this case, Prof. Mann should have no trouble clearing the public figure hurdle.
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  31. BTW, the question as to who is a public figure as pertaining to libel law is not always clear.

    Generally speaking, all elected officials and people running for public office are. Movie stars and other celebrities usually are (with certain possible restrictions involving invasion of privacy ie. reporting medications and health records, etc.) And parties involved in any "news event," such as crime victims and criminal suspects. They are at least temporarily "public figures." (A person who served time for robbing a candy store 30 years ago when he was 21 years old is NOT a public figure based on that long-ago event.)

    In addition, people who "thrust themselves into the public limelight" -- those who willingly become a public figure by participating in matters of public concern are public figures.

    So certainly a scientist like Prof. Mann, who is involved in such a vitally important public debate, would be considered a public figure by any US court judge. To win a suit against his defamers, he would need to prove they knowingly lied or acted with reckless disregard as to the falseness of their accusation that Dr. Mann had committed fraud when he published his "hockey-stick deceptions."
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  32. Roger McConchie and John B. Williams have a few things in common. For one, McConchie is at the very top of libel law practice in Canada and Williams is at the top here in the United States.

    Neither one of them would likely "bluff" in PUBLIC. When a good lawyer bluffs, it's done privately. You don't rise to the top of your legal field by inviting a major news organization to humiliate you by calling your bluff and showing everyone you've got nothing but an empty hand.

    When a lawyer of Mr. Williams stature releases a public statement about an threatened law suit, he's NOT bluffing. If he did, he would not be at the top of libel law practice in the U.S. for long.

    Mr. McConchie was NOT bluffing when he demanded a retraction and apology from Tim Ball. When Mr. Williams told the press that he's not bluffing, only a fool would doubt him.
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  33. re: #31
    Yes.
    #27 ended with suggestions to get people to form opinions.

    I've interacted with Cozen O'Connor before, studied Roger's book and then had a 2-hour breakfast with him last year. Hence, from fairly direct experience, I heartily concur with Andrew's opinions in #31.

    However, the blogosphere has a lot of Dunning-Kruger-afflictees who have strong opinions on these affairs, as usual without knowing anything.
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  34. I wish what CBDunkerson opined would be a slam-dunkerson fact. Rules regarding the admission of scientific evidence are not so reassuring -- in the United States it is left up to the trial judge to decide what is credible and admissible scientific evidence.

    (I have to wonder whether judges would allow their legal decisions and competence to be officially judged by a panel of appointed climatologists!)

    Many judges in the U.S. recognize the inadequacy of the court system for decidng matters of scientific debate. Yet, they are often compelled to reach a decision of fact, based on the persuasive powers of hired-gun scientific witnesses. Clearly, courts are not the place to weigh scientific evidence. Rules of evidence in law courts differ greatly from rules of evidence in the court of science.

    The first major investigative news article of my career was about the science fraud Dr. William McBride. McBride was the Australian physician made famous by being the first to report limb malformations occurring in babies born to women taking Thalidomide.

    That brought him fame and fortune, which he used to set up a foundation and go around the world testifying in civil suits against all kinds of drugs -- including drugs like Bendectin that are NOT linked to any increase in birth defects risk.

    In fact, the removal of this anti-nausea drug due to the cost of fighting almost 2000 bogus law suits enabled by the dubious testimony of "experts" like McBride, resulted in many birth defects caused by uncontrolled maternal nausea during pregnancy!

    I wrote about this medical and legal travesty in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1990 ("Key Witness Against Morning Sickness Drug Faces Scientific Fraud Charges" http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=380996).

    I reported how McBride was facing 15 charges of scientific fraud for publishing made-up data -- some of which he hurriedly made up to include in testimony in a U.S. court.

    McBride was found guilty 3 years later and struck off the medical registry.

    What shocked me the most was not his fraud, but that the U.S. Justice Department was not interested in pursuing perjury charges against him despite the compelling evidence he had knowingly provided false testimony and made up data in at least one U.S.court case.

    There appears to be little or no risk for scientists willing to lie under oath about scientific fact or opinion -- at least not in the United States.
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  35. I agree with Brandon that "it is inexcusable to compare anyone to a child molester."

    It's even more inexcusable when the accuser is someone whose teaching career ended after he was arrested and stood trial for sending dozens of obscene messages to a 16-y-o girl, as reported in Brendan Demille's recent HuffPost article, "Affidavits in Michael Mann Libel Suit Reveal Astonishing Facts About Tim Ball Associate John O'Sullivan."

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/brendan-demelle/affidavits-in-michael-man_b_1711581.html
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  36. Andrew, while admissibility is always determined by the judge, my understanding is that the 'Daubert standard' which applies in most US jurisdictions requires that scientific testimony be demonstrably 'valid' through factors such as having gone through peer-reviewed publication, being generally accepted by scientists in the field, having known uncertainty bounds, et cetera. Nearly all of the objections raised by 'skeptics' fail on every requirement.

    The example you raise would have been decades ago and thus was probably under a rather slapdash congressional standard that allowed just about anything or the older Frye standard, which was similar to Daubert, but less strict. Indeed, I believe the Daubert Supreme Court case was about Bendectin and thus your example is part of the very reason the rules changed.

    Also note that once a Daubert ruling has been made it is usually followed by other courts in subsequent cases... and there has already been some litigation on climate change. Those cases included several attempts to bar testimony by climate scientists (e.g. James Hansen in Green Mountain Chrysler Plymouth Dodge Jeep v. Crombie). In every case I'm aware of these attempts have failed... mainstream climate science has been upheld as passing Daubert. However, I haven't been able to find any attempts to bring in climate change 'skepticism' in any of those trials. My best guess is that this is because the parties involved were corporations (rather than 'true believers') who knew that such nonsense would fail a Daubert challenge and didn't want to get the judge annoyed at them by trying.
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  37. Climate litigation is fairly recent.

    For a domain with some useful parallels, study of tobacco litigation can be quite instructive, especially given the wonderful tobacco archives.

    My favorite book on this, highly recommended, is Robert Proctor's Golden Holocaust: Origins of the Cigarette Catastrophe and the Case for Abolition, see reviews.
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  38. @22,23
    The case HS is referring to involved a law suit against Rahmsdorf (SR) by a journalist. SR had pointed out what you may call "bad reporting" (repetition of questionable "skeptic" claims which supposedly let to an earlier retraction by the Sunday Times) by a journalist at a well-respected Frankfurt paper. The "corrections" SR demanded were designed to set the record straight, but the court found he defamed the journalist in his not fact-related choice of words. Not sure the journalist would have had a case in the US; German law gives more leverage to the defamed person, so people usually are much more careful what they say in public.

    A related question: Based on the above explanation and descriptions, I wonder whether it would be successful to challenge Governor Perry for his remarks last fall. The problem is that he did not name anyone, just said "... a substantial number of scientists who have manipulated data ..."
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  39. In line with Michael Mann's comment that Richard Muller has a ways to go to catch up with mainstream climate science, I was interested in George Marshall's (not of George C. Marshall Inst.) Irresistible Story of Richard Muller post. It identifies the Dr. Muller's change of heart as being a cultural transformation, not a scientific one, dispite what Dr. Muller writes. (I don't see a Muller thread, so I'm putting this comment here.)
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  40. Mann responds to Nate Silver at HuffPost. Silver's book The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail -- but Some Don't apparently plays up the uncertainty game. Mann dresses him down but may have managed to avoid burning the bridge. I would like to see what Silver says in response.
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  41. Mann's responses to Silver's climate chapter seemed very reasonable and polite, and entirely valid if Mann's descriptions are correct. I too would like to see Silver's response. It sounds like his climate chapter is all too similar to the Super Freakonomics climate chapter, which was quite poor.
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