One of the hurdles Michael Mann has to overcome in his lawsuit against NRO/Steyn is the tenet that public figures are expected to have a higher level of tolerance when it comes to ridicule, satire, and defamation. For that reason, because I myself am a public figure in the climate debate, I’d have little success in prosecuting a defamation claim over an article that says I have sex with farm animals (see “corrections” at bottom of linked article).
After Mann’s libel case against the National Review Online and Mark Steyn was filed, he’s recently been whining that he’s a “reluctant public figure“, perhaps to somehow shift the lawsuit in his favor.
Now, thanks to an opinion piece by Mann in the Guardian, he’s pretty much blown his own argument out of the water while managing to make a ridiculous and easily falsifiable claim about typewriter technology in an analogy on “path dependency”.
Here, Mann uses his familiarity with what “the science tells us” to effect change in public and political policy, going even so far as to challenge president Obama:
If the president won’t protect us, who is he protecting?
That challenge pretty much places him in the realm of public debate, and being a “public figure”, even if he claims it was reluctant or involuntary:
A person can become an “involuntary public figure” as the result of publicity, even though that person did not want or invite the public attention. For example, people accused of high profile crimes may be unable to pursue actions for defamation even after their innocence is established…
Source: Aaron Larson: Defamation, Libel and Slander Law. Expertlaw.com, August 2003
Mann often claims he’s been “cleared” of any wrongdoing related to his world famous “hockey stick” in later investigations. So, like “people accused of high profile crimes may be unable to pursue actions for defamation even after their innocence is established” he may be unable to make any viable defamation argument after his hockey stick became a sensation not only for the initial press, but the questions and ridicule that followed.
As a humorous aside, Mann really doesn’t know what he’s talking about with this analogy in the same Guardian article, bold mine:
A classic example is the “qwerty” keyboard layout. Even though this layout may not be the most efficient, it was the first one, and so it became the standard.
The omniscient Dr. Mann, who often positions himself as an expert in everything, botched this example badly. The QWERTY keyboard was not the first keyboard layout, and it was designed on purpose to be inefficient, to prevent a mechanical jam that frustrated early experienced typists:
The first model constructed by Sholes used a piano-like keyboard with two rows of characters arranged alphabetically as follows:
- 3 5 7 9 N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
2 4 6 8 . A B C D E F G H I J K L M
The construction of the “Type Writer” had two flaws that made the product susceptible to jams. Firstly, characters were mounted on metal arms or typebars, which would clash and jam if neighboring arms were pressed at the same time or in rapid succession. Secondly, its printing point was located beneath the paper carriage, invisible to the operator, a so-called “up-stroke” design. Consequently, jams were especially serious, because the typist could only discover the mishap by raising the carriage to inspect what he had typed. The solution was to place commonly used letter-pairs (like “th” or “st”) so that their typebars were not neighboring, avoiding jams. Contrary to popular belief, the QWERTY layout was not designed to slow the typist down, but rather to speed up typing by preventing jams.
- Rehr, Darryl, Why QWERTY was Invented
- http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/221/was-the-qwerty-keyboard-purposely-designed-to-slow-typists “…at least one study indicates that placing commonly used keys far apart, as with the QWERTY, actually speeds typing, since you frequently alternate hands”
- US 79868, Sholes, C. Latham; Carlos Glidden & Samuel W. Soule, “Improvement in Type-writing Machines”, patent issued July 14, 1868
A few seconds with Google and Wikipedia as I did to verify what I believed I knew, would have helped him avoid this silly blunder, but he comes across almost always so
full sure of himself, he probably thought he didn’t need to.
h/t to Barry Woods for the Guardian link