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Michael E. Mann Sues For Defamation Over Comparison To Jerry Sandusky 371

Posted by Soulskill
from the can't-we-just-talk-like-adults dept.
eldavojohn writes "The global warming debate has left much to be desired in the realm of logic and rationale. One particular researcher, Michael E. Mann, has been repeatedly attacked for his now infamous (and peer reviewed/independently verified) hockey stick graph. It has come to the point where he is now suing for defamation over being compared to convicted serial child molester Jerry Sandusky. Articles hosted by defendants and written by defendant Rand Simberg and defendant Mark Steyn utilize questionable logic for implicating Michael E. Mann alongside Jerry Sandusky with the original piece, concluding, 'Michael Mann, like Joe Paterno, was a rock star in the context of Penn State University, bringing in millions in research funding. The same university president who resigned in the wake of the Sandusky scandal was also the president when Mann was being (whitewashed) investigated. We saw what the university administration was willing to do to cover up heinous crimes, and even let them continue, rather than expose them. Should we suppose, in light of what we now know, they would do any less to hide academic and scientific misconduct, with so much at stake?' Additionally, sentences were stylized to blend the two people together: 'He has molested and tortured data in the service of politicized science that could have dire economic consequences for the nation and planet.' One of the defendants admits to removing 'a sentence or two' of questionable wording. Still, as a public figure, Michael E. Mann has an uphill battle to prove defamation in court."
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Michael E. Mann Sues For Defamation Over Comparison To Jerry Sandusky

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  • It sounds like their argument is that the Penn State administration has a tendency to cover-up embarrassing stuff and protect their own. I would think they would have more a case for defamation than this guy (assuming it's not true, of course). Not that I would expect them to bring it, since at this point they're mostly just hiding in a foxhole somewhere praying that CNN goes away soon.

    Mann himself should probably just accept that this is a downside to climate research (since it's become hopelessly politici

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by MightyMartian (840721)

      At the same time, Steyn has flown awfully close at times to libel, and this comes as close to crossing the line as I've seen. Whether it crosses the line or not will be up to a court to decide, unless Steyn backs downs. My opinion is that while it is an obnoxious, immoral piece of trash piece that shows Steyn and Simberg to be dishonorable disreputable shitbags, it's not truly libelous.

      • by reboot246 (623534)
        It sounds like he's comparing Mann to Paterno, not to Sandusky.
    • by medcalf (68293) on Wednesday October 24, 2012 @04:16PM (#41756525) Homepage
      Also, discovery should be ... interesting.
    • It sounds like their argument is that the Penn State administration has a tendency to cover-up embarrassing stuff and protect their own.

      The Penn State Hershey Medical Center [pennstatehershey.org] brings in over a billion dollars a year in revenue to Penn State. The same university president who resigned in the wake of the Sandusky scandal also presided over said medical center with obvious financial interests that were easily orders of magnitudes higher than the football program. When will we re-investigate all of their malpractice suits? When will we bring their alleged (just now) organ trafficking ring from China to justice? Should we suppose, in light of what we now know, they would do any less to hide treatment and medical misconduct, with so much at stake?

    • by fm6 (162816) on Wednesday October 24, 2012 @05:00PM (#41757129) Homepage Journal

      Anybody who would say what you just said is worse than Hitler. (It's Slashdot, I have to mention Hitler!)

      But seriously? People are inciting to have you killed and you're supposed to say, "Oh well, it's part of the job"? If we let that stand, American science doesn't have much of a future.

  • Since submitting I've found the response by CEI [cei.org], the response by National Review's editor [nationalreview.com] and a PDF of the letter to Mann's lawyers [nationalreview.com] that says:

    Dr. Mann complains about two statements: 1) that as "the man behind the fraudulent climate-change 'hockey-stick' graph," he is "the very ringmaster of the three ring circus" on climate change; and 2) that he "could be said to be the Jerry Sandusky of climate science, except that instead of molesting children, he has molested and tortured data in the service of politicized science that could have dire economic consequences for the nation and planet." Neither of these statements is actionable. Moreover, if Dr. Mann decides to pursue this matter, he and his research would be subjected to a very extensive discovery of materials that he has fought so hard to protect in other proceedings. Such materials would be required for National Review to defend itself.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by riverat1 (1048260)

      You know, I don't think Mann is afraid of discovery at all. As far as I can tell his work has always been honest. The reason he's fought it is that a scientists work should be judged by the science they produce, the published results of their work, not some gotcha quote mining of working papers and communications with peers.

      • The reason he's fought it is that a scientists work should be judged by the science they produce, the published results of their work, not some gotcha quote mining of working papers and communications with peers.

        The reason he fights it is clearer to me. It's the same reason why, if a law enforcement officer showed up at my house and demanded to rifle through all of my blongings looking for anything that might be illegal I would tell him to go pound sand. Not because I'm guilty, not because I hate the police but because he has no right to without a warrant! Furthermore, if 90% of people in our society allowed this and it became expected or, worse yet, legal then you would have effectively forfeited your right to privacy.

        Scientists are human beings that work long hours at their jobs. Demanding the publication of everything is a bit dehumanizing and Mann is correct to fight it lest other scientists find themselves under the same expectations after it has been established as the norm. I think it will be acceptable to release it during the discovery phase of a case like this but it should not be given up lightly.

        This is a clear attempt to intimidate and repress scientists and researchers.

        • by khallow (566160) on Wednesday October 24, 2012 @04:59PM (#41757115)

          It's the same reason why, if a law enforcement officer showed up at my house and demanded to rifle through all of my blongings looking for anything that might be illegal I would tell him to go pound sand. Not because I'm guilty, not because I hate the police but because he has no right to without a warrant!

          Dr. Mann and his university accept public funds from the federal government and that subjects him to FOIA requests. And frankly, I see nothing wrong with examining relevant email communications from Dr. Mann on that basis. If he doesn't like it, then he can always refuse federal funding for his research projects.

          • by HuguesT (84078)

            Emails, even those of federal agents, can only subpoenaed if there is a criminal investigation going on. They are discoverable, but they are not public.

          • by quantaman (517394) on Wednesday October 24, 2012 @05:47PM (#41757833)

            It's the same reason why, if a law enforcement officer showed up at my house and demanded to rifle through all of my blongings looking for anything that might be illegal I would tell him to go pound sand. Not because I'm guilty, not because I hate the police but because he has no right to without a warrant!

            Dr. Mann and his university accept public funds from the federal government and that subjects him to FOIA requests. And frankly, I see nothing wrong with examining relevant email communications from Dr. Mann on that basis. If he doesn't like it, then he can always refuse federal funding for his research projects.

            "If you give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest of men, I will find something in them which will hang him."
            - reportedly said by Cardinal Richelieu

            There's good reason to want to keep your communications private, personal relationships you don't want cross examined in public, small mistakes that could be mischaracterized, or things you can't even imagine. Just consider writing an email that you know will be seen only by 1 person you trust, or writing an email that will probably be seen by a thousand people who are out to get you. Don't you think that's going to harm your work?

            • by khallow (566160)
              Again, this is just a consequence of Dr. Mann receiving federal funding and in effect acting as a agent of the US government (in particular in furthering certain environmental policies). I don't believe in innocent until proven guilty when it comes to government activities.
  • While the imaginatively twisted likenesses are obviously meant to irritate Michael Mann, they are in no way defamation of character and I suggest a counter-suit for harassment!

    • by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Wednesday October 24, 2012 @04:14PM (#41756507)
      The defendants are much more creative than that. They are going to use discovery in this case to gain access to documents that Michael Mann has very strenuously fought to keep out of the public eye. There may be nothing in those documents relevant to either this case or to the AGW debate, but the fact that Michael Mann has fought so hard to keep them private suggests that there is something in them he would rather the public not know (it may be on a completely unrelated topic).
      • by riverat1 (1048260) on Wednesday October 24, 2012 @04:34PM (#41756761)

        The reason Mann has fought all of that discovery is because he's standing up for other scientists. The discovery is not after anything relevant to anything. What's relevant is his published work.

      • Michael Mann has fought so hard to keep them private suggests that there is something in them he would rather the public not know

        Not at all. It's simply a natural reaction to a precedent of harassment. It's not just Mann who gets hassled. It is any scientist who publishes anything on paleoclimate, or gives a quote to a newspaper or such.

  • Publishing peer reviewed science is almost the exact same thing as child molestation. How can anyone not see that?

    On a different note, is anyone else having problems getting Slashdot to load in a usable way? It's like I'm being dared to take my nerd traffic elsewhere.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by geekoid (135745)

      The only problem with slashdot is that no matter how far I adjust the brightness on my monitor, the AGW denial posters just aren't getting brighter.

    • by microbox (704317)

      Publishing peer reviewed science is almost the exact same thing as child molestation. How can anyone not see that?

      When the science is about paleoclimate, then absolutely. Those guys are part of a marxist conspiracy. Green is the new red. They'll lie and do anything to impose big government on hard-working freedom fighters.

      That's really how the tea party thinks of this issue. It is irresponsible. And when climate change really does start hitting the bottom line, they'll probably blame liberal godlessness, and quietly forget this disingenuous assault on science.

  • Peer review (Score:5, Insightful)

    by simonbp (412489) on Wednesday October 24, 2012 @04:12PM (#41756471) Homepage

    As someone who has been on both sides as both an author and reviewer of scientific papers, "peer reviewed" doen't not mean something is automatically correct, simply that it is worthy of publication. It's closer to saying it's plausible, and should be out there for the scientific community to discuss. Correctness is more judged by reproducability over a timescale of decades, but even that is not definative.

    Science is a lot more messy that a lot of people would like to believe...

    • Ya it gets rather annoying when people say "peer reviewed" like it means "proved beyond all debate." No, it means just that: some of your peers reviewed it and say "this is ok for publication."

      In addition to the fact that there could be something they missed (happens all the time) the process is also rather political, as with all human endeavors and so some things pass review that probably shouldn't, and other things get rejected should get published.

      All in all it is a necessary step but it is just a basic

      • by DeadCatX2 (950953)

        Strawman alert...reasonable people don't say "it's peer reviewed so it's proven beyond debate". Reasonable people say "look this paper isn't even peer reviewed so it is worth extra scrutiny".

        • From Slashdot "his now infamous (and peer reviewed/independently verified) hockey stick graph." They are presenting peer review as something that is a "oh you need to shut up and stop criticizing" situation.

    • the point is, if it's peer-reviewed, you don't get to jeer at someone and call them a child molester. Good science can indeed lead to incorrect conclusions, but that doesn't mean it isn't good science.
    • Re:Peer review (Score:5, Insightful)

      by microbox (704317) on Wednesday October 24, 2012 @05:43PM (#41757799)

      Science is a lot more messy that a lot of people would like to believe...

      Sure, but peer review is better then the blogosphere. And one side of the debate has 10,000s of pages of peer reviewed literature, and the other has the blogosphere.

  • by oodaloop (1229816) on Wednesday October 24, 2012 @04:16PM (#41756535)
    Sorry, I wasn't paying attention. I was thinking of the children.
  • by JDG1980 (2438906) on Wednesday October 24, 2012 @04:20PM (#41756583)

    Simberg is best known for a fabricated "Reuters" article allegedly from 1945 [educate-yourself.org] which, unbelievably, was taken seriously and cited by both Condoleeza Rice and Donald Rumsfeld. Basically, it was a lame satire about the Iraqi resistance which (falsely) claimed that similar things had happened in Germany after WWII.

  • by NinjaTekNeeks (817385) on Wednesday October 24, 2012 @04:20PM (#41756597)
    "Any intentional false communication, either written or spoken, that harms a person's reputation; decreases the respect, regard, or confidence in which a person is held; or induces disparaging, hostile, or disagreeable opinions or feelings against a person." From: http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Defamation+of+character [thefreedictionary.com]

    It really is a slimy piece of shit move to compare someone to Sandusky because they were at Penn under the same umbrella. This definitely harms his reputation and if you believe it then certainly you will have disagreeable opinions and feelings towards him. He's a scientist who interpreted data in a controversial way that is argued among academics, he certainly didn't rape innocent children in the showers.
    • He's a public figure though. Otherwise Obama and Romney could both stop their campaigns and retire off of lawsuits.

      (Cue the "But my candidate wouldn't do that, only the other guy would!" responses.)

      • Being a public figure only means that the writer has to be proven to know the allegation is written acted with actual malice.

        Yes it's a higher burden. But I'd vote that way.

         

      • by geekoid (135745)

        Are you a public figure if you where forced into the public by people making lies to get you there?

        Not that being a public figure means people can defame you; which is what there are attempting to do.

    • Any intentional false communication

      I don't see an intentional false communication here. No one is saying Mann is a rapist.

  • by Okian Warrior (537106) on Wednesday October 24, 2012 @04:21PM (#41756605) Homepage Journal

    The "Writing In the Sciences [coursera.org]" online course over at Coursera [coursera.org] says to distinguish between "compare to" and "compare with".

    "Compare to" is used to find similarities, as in "shall I compare thee to a summer's day?". "Compare with" is used to find differences, as in "His time was 2:11:10 compared with 2:14 for his closest competitor." (Many sources [google.com] on the net.)

    So I have to ask, was he being compared to Jerry Sandusky, or compared with Jerry Sandusky?

    Inquiring [Scientific writing] minds want to know :-)

  • by AlphaWolf_HK (692722) on Wednesday October 24, 2012 @04:27PM (#41756663)

    One way to give your detractors more attention than they otherwise would have gotten is to attack them (this article is a case in point.) Worse is that if he loses the case (which given his public figure status, is easily possible) he'll just add to their credibility.

    Disclaimer: I myself generally distrust climate alarmists. The earth has had periods of MUCH warmer climates, and life thrived in all of them. Hell, lets even look at more recent history: some archeologists have found evidence that during the medieval warm period, there were farms in areas that are now considered far too inhospitable for agriculture due to the cold climate. Further, what we're seeing now may very well be yet another temperate anomaly, only now our measurements are more accurate so it seems different.

    And yes, I do believe in global warming.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by MightyMartian (840721)

      Life may have thrived, but the life in question is several billion human beings who are heavily reliant on key agricultural zones like the North American grain belt, which, if they shift or disappear, will have severe consequences for billions of people.

      Civilizations have failed before due to climactic changes. Is there some reason you think history has ended and we are now immune to major alterations in agricultural productivity? Do you think the food on the shelves of your nearest grocery store appear the

    • Global warming is not about extinction of life on Earth. It's about economics and disruption of existing infrastructure.

  • by mgrivich (1015787) on Wednesday October 24, 2012 @04:29PM (#41756687)
    Mark Steyn on the freedom of speech: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XH70VHZ857M [youtube.com] Mark Steyn is known for intelligent and cutting right wing satire. He is also known for being prosecuted in various courts for his writings. As such, he is one of strongest defenders of the freedom of speech today. Everyone needs to remember that freedom of speech is not for those you agree with, it is for those you don't agree with.
  • Let me point out (Score:3, Informative)

    by Arancaytar (966377) <arancaytar.ilyaran@gmail.com> on Wednesday October 24, 2012 @04:30PM (#41756707) Homepage

    That even if Mann had engaged in scientific fraud, which is questionable considering that his accusers are known liars and can barely spell "science", they're stiill equating the violation of scientific integrity with the RAPING OF CHILDREN. .

    Fuck these guys hard.

    • by Moses48 (1849872)

      Maybe I read a different article. They argument was penn state administration covered up the Sandusky stuff. Thus, with something as mild as academic fraud they'd be even more likely to cover it up. Where did they equate the two?

      • They equated the two by using Sandusky as the example. They might as well have made a Hitler reference too. The goal was a psychological effect with some political consequences, planting the notion in the minds of people who don't understand climate science and who have no informed opinion either way on global warming, that Mann is somehow preserve, a danger to children and society at large, criminal. The person making this comparison is counting on the inability of readers to see two distinct situations an

  • by PerlPunk (548551) on Wednesday October 24, 2012 @05:05PM (#41757191) Homepage Journal

    A hypothetical scenario:

    If all that Simberg, Steyn et. al. wanted to do was have a look at Mann's data, this is how they might be going about it:

    W: Simberg, Steyn write inflammatory articles about Mann and his hockey stick graph, hoping Mann tries to sue their asses.
    B: Mann tries to sue their asses.
    W: Simberg & Steyn subpoena data out of Mann's ass.
    B: Mann must choose which is more important, the anonymity of his data or realizing the slim possibility of owning S & S's asses but still being more likely to lose.
    W: S & S smile.

    It's called Zugzwang, baby!

    • by riverat1 (1048260)

      Mann's data and methods are not hidden. You and anybody can find the information for the original hockey stick graph here. [psu.edu]

  • by EmperorOfCanada (1332175) on Wednesday October 24, 2012 @06:03PM (#41758095) Homepage
    I have seen business presentation after business presentation where their great idea had a hockey stick. This hockey stick was always just a few years away. The other half of the pattern was that they spent all the investment money around the same time the graph was about to turn up. So for me hockey stick graphs are usually a huge bad smell. If you look at the past you can find all kinds of hockey sticks. But I find that most were not predictable that far in the future. So take the number of European soldiers killed in either World War and you have hockey sticks. But few predicted either war say a decade before they happened. Another hockey stick would be the number of mortgage defaults in the US. Again a few predicted it but the vast majority didn't.

    So when someone calls bullshit on anyone waving a hockey stick graph and saying the sky is falling; give me money. I support anyone who calls Bullshit on them.

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