Larry Clifton on Michael Mann's Suit: Nope, wrong, sorry.

Larry Clifton has suggested that Michael Mann’s law suit against the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the National Review, Mark Steyn, and Rand Simberg is ruining it for everyone, and a lot of his right wing conservative friends agree. But they are all wrong, so wrong that one wonders how they could be so wrong. It smells to me like willful ignorance.

This is Michael Moore. For a while, Clifton had a picture of Michael Moore instead of Michael Mann on his Digital Journal post.  Made me laugh.   This is Michael Moore. For a while, Clifton had a picture of Michael Moore instead of Michael Mann on his Digital Journal post. Made me laugh.

For people who spend most of their time whinging about how other people are ruining the Constitution, they don’t know much about the Constitution. A document filed as a “friend of the court” brief by a gaggle of Defenders of Liberty and Stuff states, “While Mann essentially claims that he can silence critics because he is ‘right,’ the judicial system should not be the arbiter of either scientific truth or correct public policy,” the brief states, adding that “a participant in the ‘rough-and-tumble’ of public debate should not be able to use a lawsuit like this to silence his critics, regardless of whether one agrees with Mann or defendants.”

The title of Clifton's piece is "Climate change advocate sues over rejection of his work" which very clearly indicates that the suit is about Mann's scientific work and over objections to that work. It isn't. Perhaps the title of that post was added by an Intern in the editorial office, and if so, somebody should fix that, but if the title o the post is meant to imply the meaning of the post, then Clifton clearly misunderstand, deeply and completely, what is going on with the suit.

The judicial system is not being asked to arbitrate about the science or to address "rejection" of any scientific work by anyone. It is easy to prove that Michael Mann is engaged in a number of scientific debates. This one and this one come to mind. This is not about defining or interpreting the science, never was, can not possibly be interpreted that way by an honest observer.

This is not about public policy. Again, Mann is engaged in debates about that too. But the law suit is not about that. Never was.

A law suit about science interpretation or public policy would have been tossed out first thing.

The law suit is about a very specific and actionable libelous accusation of professional misconduct, not about the validity of Mann’s research, or the reality of global warming. Clifton and his friends make an utterly absurd claim that this is about criticism of Mann’s research, that Mann is suing someone who disagreed with him. No, it is not, that is not what happened, this is not what the suit is about, and any assertion along these lines comes from ignorance of one kind or another, either simple ignorance of the narrative or willful ignorance designed to produce a particular effect.

So, no, Larry, you’ve got this totally wrong.

(Sort of off topic, but Larry, you also have the bits about global warming in your post totally wrong as well. Sort of "bigfoot is real" level wrong, actually.)


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"It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his political agenda depends upon his not understanding it."
-- Sinclair Lewis (paraphrased)

By Brainstorms (not verified) on 14 Aug 2014 #permalink

That's Upton Sinclair, not Lewis.

By Robert Grumbine (not verified) on 14 Aug 2014 #permalink

Whoops! You're quite right.... Oy!

(Did you parody my icon on purpose? :^)

By Brainstorms (not verified) on 14 Aug 2014 #permalink

It's very interesting to compare comments on that thread. The Digital Journal separates them into facebook comments and "digital journal comments" (i.e. people commenting without facebook). The Facebook-registered comments are almost entirely supportive of Mann and critical of Clifton; Clifton barely engages and doesn't e.g. respond at all to the points about getting the picture wrong. The Digital Journal comments mostly agree with Clifton, are highly critical of Mann, and he engages with them with a mixture of conspiracy-theorizing and ribaldry.

The difference in quality of English is also noticeable. It's a very clear example of the difference between social-media-engaged young people who support AGW theory, and older, non-SNS-using idiots who think it's all a scam...

By Captain Flashheart (not verified) on 14 Aug 2014 #permalink

A lot of the commentary on this case from the Right seems to be predicated on the assumption that the same norms of discourse which prevail in business and politics should apply to science. I don't think that this is a failure of comprehension. I think that it's an effort to destroy the intellectual autonomy of the natural sciences. Certainly that seemed to be the case with McIntyre and his efforts to nobble Mann.

Good point, Lars. But at the same time there is simply a basic misunderstanding of what the suit is about, willfully on the part of the plaintiffs, maybe less willfully on the part of those dragged into going along with the incorrect interpretation.

The argument addressed in the suit is not about climate change or science. Not even a little.

While you should never ascribe to malice what can be ascribed to stupidity, in this case I have to disagree. Certainly the misunderstanding is willful on the part of the plaintiffs - Mark Steyn will be cut to ribbons on the stand is he has to defend his knowledge of climate science, but he is reframing this case as a free speech issue. And a lot of the chorus on the Right are providing support because it can be made to look like Mann (and by extension, Science, that monolith) is using the law to crush debate. I think that what looks like incomprehension is actually this reframing manoeuvre, serving to promote the idea that scientists are just another special interest group and that they won't fight fair when crossed.
Hope that I don't sound obtuse here, Greg, and that I got your point. My office seems to be an anoxic environment on Friday afternoons.

Let's put this in schoolyard terms: if Mann is right and Steyn is wrong, then Mann should be sued a dozen times for his public comments that differing climate scientists are paid deniers in the service of the Kochs or other Unnamed Big Money Rightists. Or we could just say that everyone should grin and bear it like adults, but that wouldn't grind your axe.

Dave, you can't sue someone for saying the truth. You, in this comment, are guilty of pressing a false balance. You are wrong.

Greg, what does "whinging" (from article) mean? Perhaps you need an editor for your little lefty blog. But thanks for writing an entire article based on my article.

By Larry Clifton (not verified) on 05 Oct 2015 #permalink