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January 31, 2024

Steyn v. Mann and Climate Speech Suppression

A defamation case yields two big lessons about free speech and the power of Climate Inc.

There’s a big defamation case in the news and we don’t mean E. Jean Carroll’s lawfare against Donald Trump. However, Mark Steyn v. Michael Mann does have some similarities to that case. Someone writes a book and makes spurious claims to boost sales. Someone else harshly criticizes the author and ends up getting sued.

That’s oversimplifying, of course, but in a way that sheds some light on the cases. So, to the background.

Michael Mann is a climate researcher alarmist fanatic who writes books and, unfortunately, indoctrinates young people at the University of Pennsylvania. Mark Steyn is a highly entertaining conservative firebrand who rarely puts his criticisms of the Left politely. He’s been a regular guest on Fox News over the years and often filled in for the late, great Rush Limbaugh, but this case deals with a blog post for National Review way back in 2012.

Steyn’s post was partly a response to a separate article for the Competitive Enterprise Institute by Rand Simberg, and in it, Steyn attacked as “fraudulent” Mann’s infamous “hockey-stick” graph ostensibly showing that global warming spiked in the 20th century. Mann, said Steyn, is “the very ringmaster of the tree-ring circus.” Simberg was more crass, comparing then-Penn State professor Mann to that university’s Jerry Sandusky, the assistant football coach who had molested numerous students. “Instead of molesting children,” Simberg said, Mann “has molested and tortured data in the service of politicized science that could have dire economic consequences for the nation and planet.”

In the current age of playing the legal lottery, Mann sued because the Sandusky comparison really hurt his feelings and once made someone scowl at him in public. It “was maybe the worst thing that I had ever experienced,” he lamented.

Never mind that Steyn and Simberg — not to mention National Review and the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) — were engaging in protected journalistic commentary about a public figure and that Mann therefore had a high bar to clear to prove defamation. Indeed, in 2021, National Review and CEI were removed from the case.

How high is the bar? According to the most relevant Supreme Court precedent, New York Times v. Sullivan, a defamation plaintiff must prove that his critics are guilty of “actual malice” in whatever they said. Harsh criticism does not meet that threshold. Sarah Palin couldn’t prevail in a case against The New York Times that had far more merit than Mann’s.

Besides, Mann is arguably the one guilty of actual malice. “My hope is that we can ruin this pathetic excuse for a human being through this lawsuit,” Mann wrote of Steyn in a 2012 email. “He has been libeling and lying his whole life. We will put an end to it.” In other correspondence, he anticipated the “possibility that I can ruin National Review,” which he called a “filthy organization,” a “threat to our children,” and beholden to “greedy fat cat corporate masters.”

He specifically sought to destroy or at least severely censor Steyn and the rest via litigation, which he admitted has cost him nothing, though he won’t say what fat cat is funding him. By contrast, the defendants have spent vast amounts of money and time on this bogus case, which, for Mann, is the whole point.

Mann also has a history of viciously smearing his critics on social media, including accusing them of — drumroll please — “white supremacy.” He’s a “guy who can dish it out but can’t take it,” Steyn said during the trial.

Despite suffering multiple heart attacks in recent years, Steyn is currently representing himself (though not Simberg) at trial this month in Washington, DC. If you’ve ever seen or heard Steyn, you can imagine that his sharp wit has made for entertaining exchanges, including complaining that the heat in the courtroom was “cruel and unusual punishment.” Hilariously, he’s even paying for his defense by selling $100 “Liberty sticks” that are signed and etched with passages of the U.S. Constitution.

Now, for the moral of the story.

Actually, there are two. First is the First Amendment, which protects free speech — the right of the people to say what’s on their minds, especially when it comes to public policy and political issues. Steyn, Simberg, and anyone else writing online has this right, even if they’re conservative and the Big Tech censors work to silence them.

Second is that Climate Inc. is a corrupt industry of ecofascists who manipulate data to achieve particular policy ends. Climate models, like those produced by Mann, are only as good as the data entered. And those models are often wrong. In fact, Mann was at the center of a collection of publicized emails that became known as Climategate because they revealed the manipulation, alteration, and suppression of climate data related to that infamous hockey stick graph.

Also, remember Mann’s phony claim to a Nobel Peace Prize. Mann is not an honest man.

The two morals of this story are closely related because dissent from The Climate Narrative™ is not permitted. The Wall Street Journal’s William McGurn makes an apt observation: “Anthony Fauci isn’t the only oracle of science who regards dissent from his findings as heresy.”

That “heresy” is often punished with censorship, which Mann admitted wanting to inflict upon Steyn and Simberg. He’s part of a cadre of angry enforcers of manipulated climate science who want to foist certain expensive “solutions” on the entire world. In other words, we all have an interest in the outcome of this case.

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