Over at my other blog I’m trying to correlate variations in human energy consumption with variations in other measurables, such as GDP, CO2 emissions etc. All good fun and I love it!
But I love having a little fun, too. And what could be more fun in early January than settling down to watch the fireworks display provided by climate scientist Michael Mann and his lawsuit against conservative publications–and commentator Mark Steyn’s countersuit against Mann?
Mann is suing for defamation of character after Mark Steyn contributed an article to National Review saying Mann’s Hockey Stick was fraudulent. (Mann has included the Competitive Enterprise Institute as a defendant after CEI writer Rand Simberg wrote that Mann ‘tortured and molested data.)
Steyn and Simberg did write these things. However, Michael Mann has worked very hard to become a public figure. To a C-level extent he has succeeded. Public figures should expect criticism, according to U.S. courts and doctrine. Writers should be free to use sometimes intemperate language in that criticism. Furthermore, Mann’s suit argues that he was called a fraud, when in fact only part of his work was called fraudulent. Mann himself has tossed the word ‘fraud’ around casually about other opponents of his work and used even more incendiary language at times.
Steyn defends himself here.
The inimitable Steve McIntyre has done most of the heavy lifting in showing why Mann’s lawsuit should be tossed out. If you’re interested in a more detailed account, see here.
I’m writing because this controversy is what introduced me to Mark Steyn, an embarrassing admission for someone who claims to read widely. I’ve been reading quit a bit of what he puts up on SteynOnline.
He’s a really good writer with a talent for lampooning his opponents–Michael Mann got off lightly, at least until he filed suit. (Steyn has unloaded with both barrels since.) He’s a good wordsmith and knows how to make his case.
He’s also really, really conservative. And I’m really, really liberal. This presents me with a dilemma–and not for the first time.
Mark Steyn is correct (in my opinion) in what he writes about Michael Mann and the litigation the two are going through. Almost completely correct.
And it bothers me that my ‘side’ (progressive liberals in general) are getting it wrong on this issue while someone like Mark Steyn, who apparently thinks that Muslims will take over the West by the simple strategy of moving to western countries and out-breeding their hosts, can get it right on the politics behind the climate change controversy.
While my favorite liberal pundits (Paul Krugman, Kevin Drumm, etc.) are parroting platitudes that they must have culled from Grist, writers like Mark Steyn are skewering those platitudes mercilessly. It’s embarrassing.
Michael Mann became the darling of the Hollywood clique of eco-activists, those who want to use their celebrity to advance a ’cause’ and have found that cause in climate change. Climate change has become the favorite cause of many who don’t have the time or inclination to think through the issue.
As someone who is not a skeptic, who believes that climate change is real and something we need to address, I am hugely embarrassed at what is said about it by people ostensibly on my side.
As a progressive liberal, I am peeved that a conservative writer finds it so easy to score points and point out the flaws in what is said by my fellow liberals.
Being a liberal isn’t easy.
I’ll close this post by noting that Mark Steyn, who I think is wrong on almost everything else… also regularly writes really good prose poems about the history of popular music that are just a delight to read. It looks like 2015 is going to be the year he celebrates Sinatra–check it out.