Considering the intellectual degeneration of the right over the years, I don’t quite understand why Think Progress runs the “Three Things Conservatives Wrote This Week [In Crayon] That Everyone Should Read” series. However, if there’s one thing that should be read, it’s the words coming from the offices of National Review…and those words are, “Help, Please!”
[National Review columnist Mark] Steyn [is] perhaps best known for his obsession with climate scientist Michael E. Mann, long the target of over-the-top assaults from those who find climate science too pesky for their ideological interests (as Mann noted in his brilliant book The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars.) Steyn’s fixation on Mann resulted in what can quite charitably be described as a “WTF?” blog post on National Review Online that led Mann to file a defamation lawsuit against Steyn, National Review and the right-wing Competitive Enterprise Institute.
National Review expressed confidence that they could defeat Mann in court two years ago, but to paraphrase Bob Dylan, now they don’t talk so loud, and now they don’t seem so proud.
[On August 4 National Review] lodged a document to the court in the District of Columbia to appeal a previous decision not to throw Mann’s case out under Anti-SLAPP laws in the District of Columbia. These laws are designed to allow people to take advocacy positions on matters of public interest.
The filing repeats a series of well-thumbed allegations and criticisms that have been levelled at Mann and his colleagues over the years, while ignoring the conclusions of the investigations into those same accusations…
For example, the filing uses a quote from Professor David Hand taken from a report in The Daily Telegraph newspaper of a 2010 press conference.
The press conference was to announce the conclusions of a review into the illegal hacking and publishing of emails and other files from the University of East Anglia in November 2009.
That’s right, we’re still dredging up “Climategate.”
The court filing quotes Hand as saying that Mann’s technique had “exaggerated the size of the blade at the end of the hockey stick.”
Yet the defendants’ lawyers don’t mention that this statement was later clarified by the same Lord Oxburgh review – the one that concluded there was “no evidence of any deliberate scientific malpractice” in relation to the hacked emails…
The filing recites old criticisms of the statistical techniques and the use of proxy records without mentioning that the US National Research Council conducted a major review into these techniques almost a decade ago, in light of the criticisms being flung at Mann and his contemporaries. This is old territory…
The filing again quotes some of the emails from the “Climategate” hacking to try and create the impression that Mann had acted improperly, without mentioning the conclusions of the three reviews into the affair.
Two of those reviews were commissioned by the University of East Anglia and a third was conducted by a UK Parliamentary Committee. A separate inquiry carried out by Penn State into Mann’s conduct also cleared him of allegations of research misconduct.
Another allegation in the court document is that “the hockey stick is misleading because it splices together two different types of data without highlighting the change [from proxy records to actual temperature observations].”
The roots of this claim were examined by the Independent Climate Change Emails Review and which involved one instance of Mann’s data being presented alongside other research in a chart on the cover of a 1999 World Meteorological Organization report.
Yet in the most high profile representations of Mann’s chart (in Nature, Geophysical Research Letters and the IPCC 2001 report) the colours and the legends beside the charts clearly show which data points refer to proxy records and which refer to temperature observations.
In other words, National Review wants the courts to buy into their right-wing paranoid fantasies about climate science.
Actually, there appears to be another motive for this filing, one that a commenter on an August 4 National Review Online post about the case figured out:
The brief explains the controversy behind the hockey-stick, but nowhere makes the case that it is scientifically “fraudulent,” instead claiming the word was used in a way meant not to imply actual fraud.
The brief supports NR’s desire to dismiss the suit. Despite [National Review editor Rich] Lowry’s stated desire to “embark on a journalistic project” of legal discovery of Mann, the reality is much more timid. NR’s legal team is trying to avoid trial, so all who were hoping to read Lowry’s promised discovery dirt can forget it.
Clearly, Lowry is no longer confident that his magazine can beat Mann. (How can they beat someone with actual facts on their side?) He can’t beat Neil DeGrasse Tyson in the court of public opinion. So who can Lowry beat? Well, considering his 2008 remarks about Sarah Palin, he can always…well, you know.
UPDATE: For something you should really read this week, see Mann’s “Fire and Ice: What I Did On My Summer Vacation.”