Reader poll – should I sue the pants off Greg Laden?

UPDATES have been added below.

I spent yesterday conferring with lawyers about the smear that Greg Laden made against me (see here) that was compounded by it being reprinted and Tweeted at Climate progress by Joe Romm. I think Romm now realizes that he made a mistake by not checking out Laden’s claims before he printed it. He’s now added an update walking back from his position a bit, adding a link to WUWT and a note for his readers to see how Laden purposely twisted the story. He also needs to make a note about this walkback on Twitter, since his story went out to thousands that way. CP is equally culpable in this by not checking Laden’s claims before publishing.

After review yesterday, it seems that Laden’s actions in his original and follow up story meet the legal tests for “False Light“. 

Generally speaking, a false light claim requires the following:

  1. The defendant published the information widely (i.e., not to just a single person, as in defamation);
  2. the publication identifies the plaintiff;
  3. it places the plaintiff in a “false light” that would be highly offensive to a reasonable person; and
  4. the defendant was at fault in publishing the information.

While False Light is not recognized in Minnesota (where Laden resides) it IS recognized in Washington DC, where National Geographic is headquartered, and according to our research, Nat Geo has assumed editorial control of ScienceBlogs.com where Mr. Laden placed his essay.

The District of Columbia recognizes the tort of “false light.” Plaintiffs can sue for false light when a false and offensive statement is made about them to the public and causes them distress. The specific things a plaintiff must prove are listed below under “Elements of a False Light Claim.”

Note how NatGeo’s yellow box logo is placed prominently in two places on the SB header:

NateGeo_SB

So, with all of Laden’s written false claims saved, with clear and indisputable examples of Laden’s purposeful malice, plus other examples of malice in context, and an establishment of the location editorial control of the blog he published the false claims on, it seems there is enough to move forward.

The question is, should I make an example of him for all us who have suffered non factual smears such as he practices? Just like I did with the original story that Mr. Laden smeared me about, I’m going to put the question up for discussion by the readers.

UPDATE: I’ve been asked privately why I have chosen to elevate this case, where I did not in a far worse case of smear by Climate Progress regular, Mike Roddy, who along with his co-author, when I requested a factual correction to a smear piece, he put in not one, but two suggestions (plus a comment at CP) that I have sex with farm animals.

It stems from this piece Roddy wrote about me, see the “corrections” at the end, which he apparently agrees with:

http://www.webcitation.org/5x0pgZdgl

Scroll all the way to the bottom to see the update.

I discussed this case with counsel yesterday, and we came to the conclusion that while most ‘reasonable people’ would likely not conclude that I’m a practitioner of bestiality due to the context of the story, in the case of Laden’s story, most reasonable people would conclude that Laden’s story as written was accurate, since he went to great lengths to conceal anything in his story that showed the caveats I placed. That’s the actionable distinction with a difference. – Anthony

UPDATE1:  Wow, just wow.

http://storify.com/Kieran_Madden/conversation-with-idebunkforme-gregladen-and-kiera

UPDATE2: Hilarious logic fail, from a comment at Laden’s blog:

‘Kudos to Greg for demonstrating the openness of this blog by allowing the WUWT attack dogs to post their vitriolic bilge. No censorship here, wish the same could be said of Mr Watts and his cronies.

The denialists are committing crimes against humanity, surely it’s time for legislation to close these sites down’.

UPDATE 3: 8AM PST 1/21/13 – Thanks to everyone for all of the helpful input, and for responding to the poll. Using these, I’ve made my decision. Comments are now closed as well as the poll. – Anthony

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Yes, sue. As Instapundit says “hit back twice as hard”. Its the only thing a bully truly understands.

sailboarder

Yup… and I will contribute to you legal fund to do it.

Letsgoviking

Normally I would say take the high road, but “they” won’t, don’t and wouldn’t; therefore I say Sue the pants off him until he’s reduced to wearing napkins!

And that decision should be influenced, if not made, by those responding to poll questions . . . why, exactly?

Scott Basinger

No. Never wrestle with a pig. You both get dirty but the pig likes it.

Kerry

Your already winning this battle Anthony. Skip the huge headaches associated with a lawsuit. Most of the people Greg Laden’s posts might influence will not be pursuaded regardless. Joe Romm, on the other hand, needs to print an outright apology.

Keitho

I voted for legal action. You have a water tight position and when NG comes to make a deal tell them you want a public apology and enough cash to finish your NOAA data project.

Mike

Anthony,
We need to start bringing guns to gunfights.

Ian L. McQueen

If you are suing him personally check if he has enough assets to make it worth your while.
IanM

Sue yes, but leave his pants on.

A C Osborn

I voted for Legal Action, but only if you can afford it.

Latimer Alder

Sue the arse off the creep. And when you win ensure that he has to do a lot of public grovelling as well.

AGW_Skeptic

If you choose to take legal action (not necessarily promoting this), I’ll gladly donate to the “cause”.

Robinson

I’m pro- freedom of speech. I realise that this is different, as it’s a smear, but you should fight him with words, not by legal means. Your blog already does that, and it’s true to say that it’s far more widely read than his.
In general I think the litigation culture is a very bad thing and I don’t think it should be encouraged.

eyesonu

The poll is neat but I’m sure you will make your decision without the results. I’m confident that it will be the right one.

IF you have the time, energy and $$$, the odious hobgoblin should be smitten.

klem

He really messed up. Its a smear no doubt about it. I don’t know, it seems like a pretty low profile website. Maybe an apology from Laden would be ok, but then his followers would call him a ‘denier apologist’ or something. Lol!

Jasper

No. Don’t dirty your hands.

I had considered suing the pants off him, but then thought that the probable recovery wouldn’t begin to be worthwhile to any but the lawyers. I ended up voting for seeking an apology, but won’t hold my breath.
A-holes like this clown need to be slapped down; I just don’t know how to do it without ending up with a Pyrrhic victory.

ShrNfr

Your call Dr. Watts. It will require a lot of time, effort, and other resources from you to pursue a tort. I leave it to you to make the decision about what you do with those.

juanslayton@dslextreme.com

I sued a school district once. Whupped ’em, too. They had to pay court costs and our attorney’s fees–well over $80K. But I don’t kinow as I’d do it again. It took a lot of time, and time is our most valuable natural resource.

John V. Wright

Anthony,
I voted for you to take legal action because of the reputation WUWT has for scientific accuracy, fairmindedness and plain dealing, with supporters and critics alike. Laden has not only deliberately tried to mislead people in order to sully your reputation, he has also attempted to bring into disrepute this fine blog – twice winner of the Best Science Blog Award and the 2912 Bloggies Lifetime Achievement Award. It is offensive to you, to the good name of this blog and to the many fans of the blog around the globe.
Also, it appears – as far as anyone can tell – that Heartland is not going to sue Gleick so it would do everyone’s heart good to see a bit of legal redress going the way of the good guys for once.

exNOAAman

Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs titled his first book “Fourth and One”, the situation where he must decide to punt of to go for a first down.
He says the crowd always wants to go for it. And that is usually not the best decision.
Using his philosophy, I was able to accurately predict the poll results from the crowd.
Coach Gibbs has 3 Super Bowl rings.

O Olson

I voted for a legal action too. Also, regarding the NG, why not demand a full page explanation of what happened with a retraction and apology in the National Geographic magazine itself?

romue

That would be too much honour, don´t take the “Harvard”-boy serious, he´s like a dog barking at the moon.

james griffin

Anthony, Any chance to get in a court and take apart an ignorant AGW believer should be taken. Let a court hear you defend this wonderful website and let this moron choke.
Go for it if you can afford it.

Eliza

Its about time legal action was taken against these cr##ins. It the only thing that will MAKE them change..

Jimbo

I voted for “Take legal action to set an example.” Though I would have preferred “Demand an apology & if he fails then take legal action.”

Chris4692

File suit, I don’t think National Geographic will pay much attention unless you do, but be very willing to settle.
In civil action, you won’t get 0%, you won’t get 100%, and the longer it strings out the more everyone loses. Most of what you can get you can get by settling early.

catweazle666

I’m pretty sure that if the positions were reversed he’d sue you.
So yes, go for it

Mike Fowle

I make my living as a legal costs consultant in the UK. (Different rules, I know) But generally I don’t think it is a good idea to go to law.

RobertInAz

I think going for money is fruitless. I think going for a public apology from National Geographic prominently posted on their Web site for several weeks and their dropping Laden as an author would be sufficient.

Perhaps you need to get Romm to put the update at the top of the article. And then heave Romm at that
Greg, seems unaware of his own actions, so maybe a chat with Science blogs. Might perdusfe them to show Greg the error of his ways. And an apology

Jaye Bass

http://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/01/18/reader-poll-should-i-sue-the-pants-off-greg-laden/#comment-1202038
That’s the strategy. Sue, settle then get an apology and a settlement.

Ged

I agree with Robinson and Jasper.
Don’t sue, Anthony. That would associate your behavior too much with Michael Mann and others. You need to keep your hands clean. Pursue apologies or retractions, such as contact National Geographic about this directly, but don’t go to court by your own initiation. We don’t need any of that.
What we do need, is you continuing to stand tall and taking the moral superior ground over these guys, to show them for what they are.

mnhawk

I’d say you’re already winning, by reducing personal and professional frauds such as Greg Laden to being a, well, a personal and professional fraud.
Says a lot about his low information readership, also. Especially the ones who thinks WUWT is the go to place on Creationism.

Jimbo

By the way Greg Liar Laden has made sure that many of my responses to Warmists on his blog failed to make it past moderation. Funny thing the effect of peer reviewed papers has on these chaps.

KevinM

Please do not.
It is a class issue.
It elevates his position.
Rise above.

Eliza

Antony It seems that nearly 99% of comments on his site (Greg Laden), concerning this matter are favorable to you and highly critical of him. Maybe he is covering himself against defamation action by allowing all the negative comments about his handling of this affair.

Matt

I guess you won already, without going to law / court. Depending on your temper you may go further, entering a suit is easy, being in it time-consuming, boring. Highlighting the facts as they are surely was enough to make an idiot out of him – enough it should be.
Regards from Germany
Matt

Mark Bofill

In evaluating a means to an end, important to understand exactly what ‘end’ or objective is being pursued:
“The question is, should I make an example of him for all us who have suffered non factual smears such as he practices?”
An example to who? I don’t think your critics aren’t going to care. Those who fall for the AGW/CAGW story are generally either uninterested in doing more than cursory research or are on the bandwagon for other reasons. I doubt most of Laden’s small time blogger brothers out there will pay much attention. I’m not sure many of them have the brains to figure out where the legal line is anyway.
I don’t think your regular readers are easily mislead in the first place, so there’s no real issue there.
If you want to swat this particular bug for personal satisfaction, go for it. I’m skeptical that it would accomplish much else, much as I’d LOVE to think otherwise.
Best regards,

I think a suit is a mistake. Such suits are, rightly, very difficult to win in the US. It will be an expensive hassle and before it is over, you will feel more punished than he. By the time an apology comes out, if you get one, everyone will have forgotten what the dispute was even about. Your readers are all rooting you on, but they just want to enjoy the show. They don’t actually have to go through the process. It is a waste of your valuable time that I would rather see spent working climate science rather than the legal process.
Further, it strikes me that he can potentially portray you as a public figure given your blog’s leading position in a political debate and the fact you have done numerous interviews. This will only make it harder for you. Whatever you do, make sure you are consulting a first amendment lawyer and not just any lawyer who really understands how this stuff works. Ken at Popehat writes a lot about this kind of thing and gets involved a lot with bloggers, though usually on the defense side. But that is a good idea – talk to someone who defends these things for an opinion on your chances.
The last, last, last thing we need in a debate that is already politicized to the tenth degree is to start having lawsuits back and forth over minor claims. And while it may well have ticked you off, this is really a minor, minor issue. It is in fact trivial compared to the slings and arrows you often suffer from alarmists. 99% of the time, the best solution to speech that is wrong is more speech, not lawsuits.
Finally — you simply are not going to make him or his allies feel guilty. I know, I have this feeling all the time. I have been wronged, and I want the other side to admit it and feel bad about it. Well they won’t. Even if you win.

Bloke down the pub

I vote for taking the high ground, on the condition that it doesn’t stop me from calling Greg Laden a wanker.

Latitude

Anthony, what high road?
A collective “they” ignore every high road and just keep on keeping on……..
WUWT is a business, just like their business……from a business stand point, a business would sue…..

Roger

I guess that Anthony has no real desire to sue but wants (with some justification) to make Laden worried and spoil his weekend. Hence the poll and this discussion.

No! The only winners will be the lawyers. Unless there is something tangible to gain in the overall fight we are in, it’s not worth it.

mkelly

Why not ask National Geo to remove Mr. Laden from having anything further to do with the blog and explain the reason. You could mention the “false light” issue in your explanation.
His removal would be enough for all I would think.

Glacierman

Their tactics are intentional. Yes sue them. They will not stop as long as they can keep doing it without fear of repurcussions.

elftone

Require a full retraction of his slurs, with a complete, abject and public apology, within a certain time-frame. If he fails so to do, then sue him. In other words, give him a chance to make it right, which will place your behaviour on the higher moral ground.

Kerry says January 18, 2013 at 7:21 am
Your already winning …

Please, it is “you are’ or “you’re” and never “your” in the context used … please, I’m begging …
“Lose the grammar, lose the language” and that.
.