Misfit of Science

Last year, we discussed the libel lawsuit acclaimed climate scientist Michael Mann filed against National Review and its “star” columnist Mark Steyn after Steyn baselessly accused Mann of fraud and compared him to a child molester. Republican climate scientist (yes, some actually exist!) Barry Bickmore updates us on the latest bizarre turn in this case:

In previous posts, your humble correspondent has noted that Mark Steyn and the other defendants in the Mann v. National Review et al. libel case are in a somewhat difficult position. The easiest way to get out from under the lawsuit would be to issue a correction with appropriate weasel words added, but that would completely undermine the defendants in the eyes of the people who pay their bills-a bunch of Libertarian conspiracy nuts. Therefore, the defendants have to act like this is some landmark free speech case to keep the money rolling in. Another option is to claim their accusations against Mann were actually true, but that’s a long shot, given that the scientific work the defendants accused Mann of intentionally faking has repeatedly been confirmed by other scientists. I also suggested the defense of “Invincible Ignorance,” meaning that the defendants would claim they did not know their accusations were false, and they are so stupid that no argument could possibly convince them otherwise. In Steyn’s case, at least, I thought this unorthodox strategy might have some tiny chance of succeeding (especially if the jury happens to be packed with Catholic Theologians), because he apparently used to think the Hockey Stick was a climate model that made predictions of the future, rather than a paleotemperature reconstruction. However, such a strategy would run the risk of alienating the rubes who are Steyn’s bread and butter, once again. What to do?

…Steyn has announced that he will be self-publishing a book full of quotations by various scientists about what a twit Michael Mann is, and what a disgraceful mess Mann’s Hockey Stick reconstruction was, and what a load of damage all this has done to the noble cause of Science. The title of the book will be A Disgrace To The Profession: The World’s Scientists, In Their Own Words, On Michael E Mann, His Hockey Stick And Their Damage To Science.…Now, you might think it astonishingly stupid for Steyn, in the midst of his defense against a libel suit by Mann, to publish a book full of quotations attacking Mann and his work, gleaned from a bunch of non-experts and out-of-context comments by experts who actually think the Hockey Stick is pretty accurate. But you would be wrong. First, even if Steyn loses the lawsuit, the rubes might well buy enough copies of the book to cover any eventual legal bills and judgment. Second, Steyn will look like a hero to the rubes no matter what, as long as he never lets on that he might be a teensy bit in the wrong. Third, you never know, some jury might be stupid enough to buy the defense. And finally, a jury might let Steyn off the hook out of pity, inferring that he doesn’t have the intelligence to be considered culpable for his actions.

You have to wonder if conservative economist and carbon-tax advocate Irwin Stelzer is kind of embarrassed that he decided to write one of his anti-pollution articles for a publication that managed to get itself into this fine mess. Some friendly advice for Mr. Stelzer: stick to the Weekly Standard. I mean, what’s the worst thing they’ve ever done? (Well, besides that war…)

UPDATE: More from Greg Laden and Daily Kos.

D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.