UPDATES below – some confusion afoot by differing newspaper versions has been discovered. The print version appears to be online.
Letters to the editor are one of the oldest free speech venues for public opinion in the United States. They go back to the times of the revolutionary war. The Chicago Tribune aptly calls Letters to the Editor “Voice of the people“.
This morning my interest in a letter to the editor was piqued when I read at Tom Nelson’s website, this headline: Remember when it was really important to leave Michael Mann alone to concentrate on his climate hoax research? Now he’s got time to write a rant for the Vail Daily
Dr. Michael Mann’s letter to the editor, a response to a previous letter by Dr. Martin Hertzberg, at the Vail Daily is online here. Excerpts:
It’s hard to imagine anyone packing more lies and distortions into a single commentary. Mr. Hertzberg uses libelous language in characterizing the so-called “hockey stick” — work of my own published more than a decade ago showing that recent warming is unusual over at least the past 1,000 years — as “fraudulent,” and claiming that it “it was fabricated from carefully selected tree-ring measurements with a phony computer program.”
Mr. Hertzberg then continues the smear by lying again about my work, claiming that “when those same tree-ring data actually showed a decline in temperature for the past several decades, Mann and his co-authors simply ‘hid the decline’ by grafting direct measurements (inadequately corrected for the urban heat island and other effects) to his flat tree-ring line.”
So I wanted to see what got Dr. Mann into such a tizzy, because sentences like the ones quoted in the paragraphs above are all over the Internet, especially after Climategate broke. I wanted to see the full context in Dr. Hertzberg’s letter.
So I Googled the offending phrase Dr. Mann cites, and got this result:
Imagine my shock when I discovered that the Google link goes nowhere. Dr. Hertzberg’s letter has been deleted from the newspaper.
Dr. Hertzberg’s letter appeared on Friday, September 30th, and Dr. Mann’s letter appeared the next day, quite a turnaround:
One wonders if the address given for Dr. Mann is a typo, or a geographic misrepresentation to help get the letter published. Either way, the Vail Daily editor looks pretty darn sloppy since this appears in the last line of Dr. Mann’s letter:
Michael E. Mann is a professor in the Department of Meterology at Penn State University and director of Penn State Earth System Science Center.
Dr. Hertzberg does in fact live near Vail, in Copper Mountain, CO. and he would presumably be served by the newspaper of record for that area, which is why the letter appeared in that newspaper. As far as we know, Dr. Mann does not live in Vail or nearby.
Letter to the Editor
Before you use the online form below to submit a letter or guest column to the editor, please read the guidelines below.
The decision to print any submission is completely at the discretion of the Vail Daily editor. Letters and columns must include the author’s name, hometown, affiliation (if any) and phone number (for verification of authorship only). Form letters and letters considered libelous, obscene or in bad taste will not be printed. Anonymous letters will not be printed. The Vail Daily reserves the right to edit all letters. Because of space constraints, please limit your letters to 500 words. Thank you/kudos letters are limited to 150 words and letters containing long lists of names will not be printed.
So, apparently, the letter from Dr. Hertzberg passed the newspaper’s tests for “letters considered libelous, obscene or in bad taste” and was in fact printed, but when Dr. Mann sends a rebuttal, all of the sudden Dr. Hertzberg’s letter no longer passes those tests? I suspect that maybe Dr. Mann may have offered some legalese in some form to go with that letter, and the editor caved to censorship demands rather than upholding free speech.
The Wikipedia definition for freedom of speech:
Freedom of speech is the freedom to speak freely without censorship. The term freedom of expression is sometimes used synonymously, but includes any act of seeking, receiving and imparting information or ideas, regardless of the medium used. In practice, the right to freedom of speech is not absolute in any country and the right is commonly subject to limitations, such as on libel, slander, obscenity, incitement to commit a crime, etc.
It may be possible that libel was committed by Dr. Hertzberg (whose credential Dr. Mann doesn’t even acknowledge in his rebuttal letter), but without the original letter from Dr. Hertzberg, how would any independent observer be able to judge?
And, in choosing the headline for the rebuttal: Vail Valley Voices: Global warming denier’s claims are falsehoods did the Vail Daily in turn libel Dr. Hertzberg by labeling him a “global warming denier”?
Clearly then, this is a matter best settled by the courts.
I encourage Dr. Mann to file a lawsuit, so that we can finally get complete discovery (something not done by the “independent reviews” Dr. Mann cites frequently) and find out once and for all if Dr. Mann’s work holds up when all of the data, math, methods, and correspondence are laid bare for scrutiny.
Likewise, Dr. Hertzberg may have a court case for denial of free speech, along with libel by the use of “global warming denier”.
The questions of “who libeled who?”, and “was free speech denied?”, can only be answered in a court of law.
UPDATE: As we all know from vast experience, the Internet has a memory. I’ve discovered what appears to be Dr. Hertzberg’s letter to the editor on a website called “pastebin” which you can see and read here. Dr. Hertzberg’s letter was apparently a response to a previous letter, five days earlier:
Since I am a long-time denier of human-caused global warming and have been described as an “inaccurate” and “irresponsible” “fool” by Scott Glasser’s commentary in Monday’s Vail Daily, I feel compelled to respond.
Since Dr. Hertzberg describes himself as a “doubter” (in the original I saw) it seems the bias of the Vail Daily editor in choosing “denier” for the headline was in fact an editorial decision.
I wonder how long the letter will exist on “pastebin”.
UPDATE#2: It appears that at the same time as I was writing this essay, the Vail Daily decided to reinstate the letter from Dr. Hertzberg. Note the out of sequence date at time for the title:
From this page: http://www.vaildaily.com/SECTION/&profile=1065
Before I made this story I did quite a bit of checking, and the removal was also noted by other websites, for example:
Rabbet Run: Ethon flew in from Colorado with news from one of the bunnies. It appears that the Vail Valley Daily had published a now defunct letter from one Dr. Martin Hertzberg, who appears to live thereabouts. The article which, as the saying goes is no longer to be found, must have been a doozy,
And I looked for it myself by searching the Vail Daily website. I could not find it. For example, it does not show up in search:
UPDATE3: The plot thickens. It appears the restored version on Vail Daily here:
Is missing some key sentences found in the version on pastebin here:
The name of Dr. Mann has been scrubbed from the letter as are the sentences Dr. Mann objected to in his rebuttal letter.
There’s no mention of this edit in the restored version of the letter. It is still dated Sept 30th. Perhaps Dr. Hertzberg was told to revise it?
Now he claims he’s a “denier” where before he says doubter? Strange things going on.
UPDATE4: Larry (Hotrod) points out in comments that the original print version is still archived by the newspaper here.
UPDATE5: It appears we are witnessing the real time editing of this article in online archives. The original with the phrases Dr. Mannobjected to are disappearing from the main web page and archives and are being replaced with edited versions.