Thursday Free Speech Quickies

LIKE A BOSS: I was all set to sue Jordan Rushie for stealing and making commercial use of my line. But then I got to the part where he attached a copy of the First Amendment to his response to a threat letter. Now I want to swipe that. Then we'll be even.

MY LORD, I HAVE A CUNNING PLAN: Lawyers representing Professor Michael Mann of hockey stick fame have written a threatening letter to the National Review based on a Mark Steyn post comparing Penn State's exoneration of Professor Mann with its inadequate supervision of Jerry Sandusky. Steyn, in turn, quotes Rand Simberg, a man with the rhetorical taste and subtlety of a thirteen-year-old girl making a YouTube video about the bitch who stole her boyfriend. Without commenting on the merits, this will be interesting to watch. Steyn doesn't yield to censors. This is not a prudent move on Professor Mann's part — unless his purpose is to use the courts to conduct a political, scientific, and cultural debate, something that is generally a poor use of the legal system.

IT'S STILL A STEP UP FROM BEING FORCED TO DRINK HEMLOCK: The Greek Olympic team has dumped triple jumper Paraskevi Papachristou for writing a stupid, rather incoherent, and offensive-to-many tweet about how Greek mosquitoes will enjoy feasting on the Africans visiting Greece. Greece has its own laws, and the team is a private entity, not the state, so this isn't a First Amendment issue. It's worth noting, though, that the more that the Olympics become a vehicle for monetizing the Olympic brand, the more that private entities like Olympic teams will be moved to axe athletes who speak in a manner unbecoming to a hired PR flack.

Last 5 posts by Ken White

Comments

  1. Dan Irving says

    1. Follow opposing nation's athletes on twitter to say something butthurt worthy
    2. Retweet to increase the interweb rage
    3. ????
    4. PROFIT!!!

  2. Damon says

    Love it when folks like Marc throw bombs like this. Zing. And Mann is a well deserved target.

    Let the battle begin. I will pop popcorn and watch.

  3. says

    It's interesting comparing the complaint letters from the first two items. In the slumlord's case, his attorney provided no specifics and was quickly swatted down by the blogger's lawyer.

    In Mann's case, his attorney was very specific about what was defamatory (the word "fraudulent"), and provided a boatload of supporting evidence. If Mann actually goes forward with that one, we'll settle in with an extra-large movie tub of popcorn.

    Any attorneys want to weigh in on the merits of that claim? Is an accusation of fraud sufficient grounds for defamation, even if the person making the claim believes the fraud happened, despite all evidence to the contrary?

  4. says

    At the risk of being a kiss a55, this post was absolutley awesome. I'm still cracking up over the first lawyer's response.

    On the Mann thing, it's amazing how much butthurt dissing the gods of AGW causes. He should post an Internet Butthurt report form for good measure

  5. Luke says

    "a man with the rhetorical taste and subtlety of a thirteen-year-old girl making a YouTube video about the bitch who stole her boyfriend."

    Brilliant comparison Ken

  6. Valerie says

    Yes, her comment was offensive, and I would be ok with the Greeks refusing to have her represent their nation (the right to free speech includes a responsibility to accept with the consequences of of your words).

    I'm less ok with her not being sent because McDonald's and Coke are sponsoring an athletic event and want to get as many fat asses plopped on the couch watching other people exert themselves while they indulge in brand-name burgers and soda.

    For Pete's sake, North Korea & other dictatorial hell holes are allowed to compete. Between that and the bribery accusations, the Olympics brand hardly shines as an example of humanities' highest values.

  7. Whitney says

    "Without commenting on the merits…"

    Please tell me you're planning to comment on the merits! Aside from the mention of "intentional infliction of emotional distress," Mann's lawyer's cease and desist letter doesn't bear any of the hallmarks of a censorious douchebag that you have so lovingly spelled out in other posts.

  8. Anita says

    How many others were expecting to see the phrase, "Snort my taint," in the Rushie letter? Show of hands, please.

    *raises hand*

  9. tonylurker says

    For the Mann case, when does libel rise to the level of something actionable? Even if Steyn believes, despite all evidence, that what he's saying is correct, when does the willful disregard for facts by Steyn and the National Review become too much?

    Basically, If you accuse someone of scientific fraud, how well do you have to be able to back up your allegation for it not to be libel?

  10. says

    Actually, the evidence is against Mann.

    Having dug into the various investigations that 'exonerated' him, I have found them all uniformly lacking.

    For example, not one of them has actually interviewed, or taken oral or written testimony from Steven McIntyre.

    Some links of interest:
    Tricking the Committee about one of the reviews of Michael Mann's "Nature Trick to Hide the Decline".

    The Mann Report. If you only read one link, this is the one you should read.

    In my opinion, if Michael Mann sues anybody for libel, his reputation will be utterly destroyed. Having a PSc in Physics and having done computer modeling back during my days in the steel industry, I agree 100% with Mr McIntyre's criticisms of his work. And the fact is, Mann has repeatedly sought to mislead people in an attempt to avoid dealing with those criticisms.

    This incident was my first introduction to the Team just making stuff up. I couldn't believe that someone described as a "Scientific American Visionary" would either stoop to making up stories or to be so foolish as to make up stories that were readily refuted by the email record. I was even more amazed that the climate science "community" acquiesced in this sort of fabrication. This was totally outside my experience.
    Osborn’s response here shows that he is acutely aware that Mann’s characterization of the email record is untrue. However, Osborn does not show any awareness of any obligation on his part to ensure that the record is accurate – something that one would have expected of him as a scientist. Instead, his thinking is entirely tactical – mentioning the "excel files" will open them up to criticism. Osborn was not acting here as a scientist whose responsibility was to ensure that the record was correct, but an advocate.

  11. Kreshon says

    I too was expecting to read "snort my taint" in the letter. Empty thuggery is a nice second place line.

  12. Michael says

    It seems like there is one more that should be noted here.

    The Mayor of Boston, and some schlub I can't remember from Chicago, both threatened to ban Chick-fil-A from their cities, actually vowed to use their government powers to influence the permit and licensing processes to keep the business out, in retaliation for the CEO voicing his stance on gay marriage. I do not agree with his stance one bit, but the fact that two separate government authorities in 2 separate states both saw fit to stomp all over the first amendment to punish this man and his company for having and voicing an unpopular opinion is beyond contemptible.

  13. says

    Ken, I was going to sue Jordan for stealing my "I have attached the first amendment idea", which I may have come up with yesterday after I had a glass of whiskey.

    Want to go in on a lawsuit together? Maybe we can hire Charles Carreon to represent us?

    To give him a modicum of credit, using the painting was all his idea…

  14. Allen says

    I don't know, it seems that the attorney that is representing Mann also defended G. Gordon Liddy in a defamation case. If nothing else he must have awesome client control skills.

  15. Rob says

    Yes, her comment was offensive, and I would be ok with the Greeks refusing to have her represent their nation (the right to free speech includes a responsibility to accept with the consequences of of your words).

    I'm less ok with her not being sent because McDonald's and Coke are sponsoring an athletic event and want to get as many fat asses plopped on the couch watching other people exert themselves while they indulge in brand-name burgers and soda.

    So, you're cool with state censorship, but you don't like it when corporations simply refuse to sponsor people who say things they don't like? That's remarkably…statist. Authoritarian, even. Possibly even fascist.

  16. darius404 says

    How many others were expecting to see the phrase, "Snort my taint," in the Rushie letter? Show of hands, please.

    *Raises hand*

  17. Connie says

    @S.Weasel – Wait, what? I thought they had accepted their 'victory' and moved on to the next wharrrgble law case.

  18. Bill says

    I was unable to find a 1st amendment to the Constitution of Greece. Perhaps you were referring to Article 14 or Article 25?

  19. says

    Was that addressed to me, Bill? Because I could have sworn that I said that Greece has its own laws so it's not a First Amendment issue.

  20. Narad says

    If nothing else he must have awesome client control skills.

    The autobiography wasn't entitled Will for nothing.

  21. Narad says

    The Mayor of Boston, and some schlub I can't remember from Chicago, both threatened to ban Chick-fil-A from their cities….

    The Moreno tactic in Chicago is to refuse to change the zoning map for a subdivision for the restaurant. How would you propose getting this from Point A to Point Not-Fail?

  22. Narad says

    Having a PSc in Physics and having done computer modeling back during my days in the steel industry

    What's a "PSc"?

  23. John David Galt says

    @tonylurker: The Michael Mann defamation case is being greeted as great news by the skeptic community (much discussion of this on WattsUpWithThat, which is probably a better place for it than here).

    For one thing, as soon as he files suit, discovery will reach not only the "Climategate" e-mails cited in Montford's "The Hockey Stick Illusion", but also subsequent e-mails which skeptics recently lost an attempt to obtain through the Freedom of Information Act.

    Then there is the huge list of skeptical scientists whom the defense will want to call as expert witnesses. I suppose the court could keep them all out by deferring to EPA's determinations as incontestable Pravda as other courts have done, but I have the feeling that National Review would take that issue to the Supreme Court and prevail on it.

    And finally, once we have a ruling that says Mann lied, both he and the many institutions that have whitewashed him, including UVa, lie open to fraud charges, both civil and criminal. Maybe EPA does too!

    This is going to be incredibly fun.

  24. George William Herbert says

    Ken:

    Hmm. I actually know Rand, and I think Ken's characterization was a little over the top here. Rand is an engineer and entirely convinceable by well founded data, when I talk to him in person. On this point he has deep skepticism about Mann (I don't, I think the climate change science is of typical but not perfect scientific quality and ultimately accurate). He doesn't believe the sun's going to change direction or anything nutso like that.

    He does have some rhetorical flair, though.

    Mr Galt:

    I will take scientifically developed data, including the climate change data, over financial data accuracy or what governments or the press euphemistically call "truth" any day of the week including Sunday.

  25. says

    George: perhaps I could have qualified it with "in this instance." And he did go back and delete the part that led me to make that comment:

    Mann 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.

  26. Narad says

    But this really disturbed me.

    She's on about Golden Dawn? Spare me. I can't stand people who are stuck in the Koot Hoomi era.

  27. says

    How many others were expecting to see the phrase, "Snort my taint," in the Rushie letter? Show of hands, please.

    :: raises hand ::

    Also – did anyone else notice? One of the linked Popehat posts in the second item links in turn to yet another piece by the elusive "Via." Apparently this has been going on for quite some time. Somebody should tell Tara.

  28. Bill says

    Heya Ken – That response was to what followed the words "Greece has its own laws…" To wit: "the team is a private entity, not the state, so this isn't a First Amendment issue." If I have I missed your intent, please accept my sincerest apologies.

  29. says

    All due respect to Ms. Sartori — she clearly has bigger fish to fry — but her [webmaster's] WordPress skills leave a little to be desired.

    As for the actual response from Mr. Rushie, ye gods I do so hope that he included that picture along with the copy of the First Amendment. My hero.

  30. eveningperson says

    On the likely Streisand factor in the Mann case, the situation is vastly different from most libel cases.

    If you google anything newsworthy in climate science, you will find that the self-styled 'sceptical' sites and blogs greatly outnumber the scientific ones – I haven't counted them, but but the ratio is likely to be at least 10:1, mosre likely 100:1. The scientific content of these sites is vanishingly small, but they thrive on gossip. Any libel or the slightest aspersion against any climate scientist, particularly one as well known as Mann, will be distributed across the web, usually in identical reposts, and be at the top of Google in no time.

    I suspect that Mann is bound to lose in these sites either way – if he loses legally he loses, and if he wins he'll be presented as a censor.

    Of course Mann has been multiply vindicated in the places where it matters, and the science, which deals with physics, is largely correct. What the 'sceptics' – who are economists, journalists, emeritus professors in other subjects, anything but climate scientists for the most part – seem not to understand is that climate science is about matter and energy, and those don't give a toss about rumour and politics.

  31. Rich Rostrom says

    Rob • Jul 26, 2012 @3:18 pm: So, you're cool with state censorship

    The Greek Olympic Committee is a private body, like the USOC.

  32. says

    Steyn, who purports to be a journalist, accused Mann, a scientist, of "fraud" in his profession. If Steyn wants to disagree, he is free to do so in whatever manner he chooses, but there's no "right to falsely claim in my national publication that my lengthy investigation has revealed fraud" in the Constitution. If false, it's straight-up defamation, and Mann should sue him and win.

  33. Nigel Declan says

    I hope that if this goes to trial, a witness for Dr. Mann ends up having to explain why discussion of fabrication of facts in e-mails by scientists is mere opinion and discussion and, thus, unworthy of litigation while comment thereupon is scandalous and actionable. I suspect the lawyers think that Steyn & Co. will back down or settle and give them and academia the easy win, or I hope they do since I don't see how they can win at court, given that the comparison between Sandusky and Mann is strictly limited to the fact that Penn State did an investigation of both and that there was a cover-up in both cases involving many of the same people (the former statement being demonstrably true, the latter being very likely true or, at least, very difficult to definitively disprove).

    I believe climate change, including man-made, is very real. I also believe that insulated academia like Dr. Mann (as evidenced by the Facebook page of Dr. Mann which shows the letter and explicitly deletes and threatens all commenters who disagree with what a horrible monster Steyn and the conservative media are) needs a 1st Amendment-backed boot to the tenured junk.

    Prof. Mann indeed does not know Mark Steyn, who stood up and prevailed against the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal which was not only a kangaroo court but which had the express legal and statutory authority to find people liable for hundreds of thousands of dollars for publishing material that hurt other people's feelings (past tense, because the most egregious provision, s.13, which literally made butt-hurt actionable, was recently repealed). With the benefit of a First Amendment, Prof. Mann is looking at a long, painful, expensive humiliation in his future.

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