20 July 2013

Wearing A Tinfoil Hat Is Getting Expensive- DC Court Says Michael Mann May Proceed in Defamation Suit Against CEI and National Review

Posted by Dan Satterfield


Is a picture really worth a thousand words? Probably, and the one above has become one of the most famous science images, since the crew of Apollo 8 took a snap of the Earth rising over the lunar horizon. It was made by Dr. Michael Mann at Penn State University, and he had no idea the grief it would cause him. His book is a must read, and he details the attacks on him by those who recognized that the image was as powerful as it was. Since he published the first hockey stick, his research has been looked at under a magnifying glass many times, and it always comes out the same way- good and accurate science.

MIchaelMannHockeyStick_mainUnfortunately, those who found the science inconvenient to their political worldview, or were alarmed at the possible political solutions, have spent years attacking Dr. Mann. They finally went too far when they accused him of illegal acts, (like manipulating data and outright fraud) and he filed a defamation suit against the National Review, and Competitive Enterprise Institute. Investigation, after investigation has shown their accusations are false, and today a court in Washington D.C. refused to throw out the suit. Climate Science Watch has some excerpts of the decision ,and the news is bad news for the National Review and CEI.

It’s looking like wearing a tinfoil hat is going to get quite expensive for them, and good riddance. Dr. Mann is not the only scientist working in the field who has been the subject of wild accusations, death threats etc. I know others who have told me some hair-raising stories.

Excerpts of the decision from Climate Science Watch:

“Defendants argue that the accusation that Plaintiff’s work is fraudulent may not necessarily be taken as based in fact because the writers for the publication are tasked with and posed to view work critically and interpose (brutally) honest commentary.  In this case, however, the evidence before the Court, at this stage, demonstrates something more and different that honest or even brutally honest commentary.” [at 14-15]

“Given the dictionary definition as well as the common readers’ thought about the use of these words (fraud and fraudulent) the Court finds that these statement taken in context must be viewed as more than honest commentary—particularly when investigations have found otherwise. Considering the numerous articles that characterize Plaintiff’s work as fraudulent, combined with the assertions of fraud and data manipulation, the CEI Defendants have essentially made conclusions based on facts.” [at 15]

The definition of “bogus” in the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, inter alia, is “not genuine . . . sham.” BOGUS, MERRIAM-WEBSTER: ONLINE DICTIONARY AND THESAURUS, http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/bogus. In Plaintiff’s line of work, such an accusation is serious. To call his work a sham or to question his intellect and reasoning is tantamount to an accusation of fraud (taken in the context and knowing that Plaintiff’s work has been investigated and substantiated on numerous occasions).” [at 15-16]

“Having been investigated by almost one dozen bodies due to accusations of fraud, and none of those investigations having found Plaintiff’s work to be fraudulent, it must be concluded that the accusations are provably false.  Reference to Plaintiff, as a fraud is a misstatement of fact.” [at 19]

“Plaintiff has been investigated several times and his work has been found to be accurate. In fact, some of these investigations have been due to the accusations made by the CEI Defendants. It follows that if anyone should be aware of the accuracy (or findings that the work of Plaintiff is sound), it would be the CEI Defendants. Thus, it is fair to say that the CEI Defendants continue to criticize Plaintiff due to a reckless disregard for truth. Criticism of Plaintiff’s work may be fair and he and his work may be put to the test. Where, however the CEI Defendants consistently claim that Plaintiff’s work is inaccurate (despite being proven as accurate) then there is a strong probability that the CEI Defendants disregarded the falsity of their statements and did so with reckless disregard.” [at 21]

The record demonstrates that the CEI Defendants have criticized Plaintiff harshly for years; some might say, the name calling, accusations and jeering have amounted to a witchhunt, particularly because the CEI Defendants appear to take any opportunity to question Plaintiff’s integrity and the accuracy of his work despite the numerous findings that Plaintiff’s work is sound. At this stage, the evidence before the Court does not amount to a showing of clear and convincing as to “actual malice,” however there is sufficient evidence to find that further discovery may uncover evidence of “actual malice.” It is therefore premature to make a determination as to whether the CEI Defendants did not act with “actual malice.” [at 21]

“There is sufficient evidence presented that is indicative of “actual malice.” The CEI Defendants have consistently accused Plaintiff of fraud and inaccurate theories, despite Plaintiff’s work having been investigated several times and found to be proper. The CEI Defendants’ persistence despite the EPA and other investigative bodies’ conclusion that Plaintiff’s work is accurate (or that there is no evidence of data manipulation) is equal to a blatant disregard for the falsity of their statements. Thus, given the evidence presented the Court finds that Plaintiff could prove “actual malice.”” [at 23]