There is a great editorial in the Columbus Dispatch by Jay Amrose about the abuse of the legal system by Michael E. Mann and his legal actions to try to stifle debate. More on that below, but first, the history of Mann in the context of debate.
Michael Mann once famously said that ‘robust debate’ was a good thing in science:
Also from Dr. Mann’s Twitter feed, he declares that ‘robust debate’ is only good when it’s not with a “denier” scientist or on a network he doesn’t like.
And Mann himself is no stranger to libelous speech in the context of “honest debate”, as the climategate emails show: (bold mine)
From: “Michael E. Mann” <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: Fw: Rutherford et al. 
X-UEA-MailScanner-Information: Please contact the ISP for more information
X-UEA-MailScanner: Found to be clean X-UEA-MailScanner-SpamScore: s
Phil, I would immediately delete anything you receive from this fraud. You’ve probably seen now the paper by Wahl and Ammann which independently exposes McIntyre and McKitrick for what it is–pure crap. Of course, we’ve already done this on “RealClimate”, but Wahl and Ammann is peer-reviewed and independent of us. I’ve attached it in case you haven’t seen (please don’t pass it along to others yet). It should be in press shortly. Meanwhile, I would NOT RESPOND to this guy. As you know, only bad things can come of that. The last thing this guy cares about is honest debate–he is funded by the same people as Singer, Michaels, etc… Other than this distraction, I hope you’re enjoying the holidays too… talk to you soon, mike
Jay Ambrose at the Columbus dispatch writes of the latest episode from “robust debate” Mann:
[Libel] is hard to prove, which is how the court wanted it. In the written decision, Justice William J. Brennan observed, first, that error is inevitable in broad-based argumentation, and then, employing eloquence, made it clear we don’t want the fear of courtroom retaliation to rob us of the kind of public debate we need: “uninhibited, robust and wide open.”
Now come those who would render it a meek whisper. Supported by errant judges, Michael Mann, a climate scientist, is pursuing a libel suit with targets including Mark Steyn, an unbelievably talented and thoughtful writer, and National Review, a terrific magazine.
Mann is well-known for his “hockey stick” graph maintaining that temperatures on this earth were roughly level for eons and then shot up dramatically because of greenhouse gas emissions. Although his graph came in for some lambasting criticism, a significant number of researchers have agreed with his results, even if some questioned aspects of his methodology. He himself has been fiercely antagonistic toward scientists on different pages, referring to the exceptional Judith Curry of the Georgia Institute of Technology as a “serial climate misinformer.”
You would think someone dishing it out that way could take it, but a chief thrust of the Mann suit is that Steyn, in a blog for National Review, used the word fraudulent to describe some of Mann’s work. There are lots of researchers backing Mann up, one judge says, as if that legitimizes the suit. There are also researchers who seriously question his work, and the law says the suit can go on only if Steyn was in doubt. Why would anyone assume he was?
There is a ton more here there’s not space to explore, but the short of it is that a vital principle has as much as been ignored and what’s at risk is conceivable ruination of a superb journalist, the demise of a fine magazine and a major deterrence to uninhibited, wide-open speech. Even if Mann should lose the suit, the expensive defense process is itself punishment, as Steyn has written.
Read it all here, and props to Jay Ambrose for making himself the next target of the wrath of Mann.
Let us hope that Steyn prevails, and that his victory comes with a nice big fat legal bill that the loser (Mann) has to pay. Though, I doubt that Mann himself will be financially damaged, as he has the full backing of the Climate Science Legal
Offense Defense Fund.
If that gets tapped out, he can always ask Tom Steyer for money.