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The Michael Streisand effect

21 Feb 2024 | News Roundup

As we noted last week, the extraordinary verdict in the Mann v Steyn case might have the ironic effect of drawing attention to Mann’s nastiness and political rhetoric in ways that harm his reputation. Not to mention the reputation of the scientific establishment if it rushes to excuse his conduct as all being in a good cause. And already there’s a remarkable example of it. A piece in Science magazine praising Mann and his work is unable to avoid conceding that Mann “has expressed strong – and even intemperate – emotions and words in political discourse”. Then it attempts to justify his conduct, saying “It’s perfectly human to react when attacked.” Sure. As if Mann’s many tirades on social media were merely the responses of one being unfairly attacked, instead of the rants of one accustomed to doing the attacking. But the more his defenders try to talk around the central point, the more they draw attention to it and their own unease with it.

Inside Climate News also played the victim card on behalf of Mann and others in the catbird seat academically:

“Michael Mann’s $1 Million Defamation Verdict Resonates in a Still-Contentious Climate Science World/ A D.C. jury hands a win to the climate scientist behind the ‘Hockey Stick’ graph, but less prominent researchers continue to feel threats over their work.”

Uhh, researchers who line up with the Michael Manns of the world are not the ones dealing with threats. Those are reserved for anyone who disagrees with the consensus, then finds they can’t get grants, jobs or promotions and if they do somehow get a job find themselves being hounded out of academia by various self-appointed gatekeepers known to contact journal editors and so forth.

That ICN piece even included the preposterous line:

“Mann said on the witness stand that he was made to feel like a ‘pariah’ in the community and also saw his research grant funding plummet.”

A pariah? The Michael Mann? The go-to guy for journalists, respected promoted professor, winner of grants beyond number, showered with awards and honours by the “community”? Apparently the journalist didn’t check that on cross-examination Mann had to admit that his claim of losing $9 million in funding was utter tosh. Or grasp that in awarding $1 in real damages the jury openly ridiculed his claim of actual harm from the blog posts in question.

Still, self-awareness is not a big Michael Mann thing. The Science item by H. Holden Thorpe, who turns out to be their Editor-in-Chief, says that Mann:

“also sees assaults on science as advancing the conservatives’ agenda. ‘They want to make doing science in these areas so toxic that young people won’t want to go into it,’ he said.”

Whereas Mann wants to make criticism of “science”, aka Michael Mann, so toxic that young people won’t go into it, and scientific debate will be replaced by politically-endorsed state-enforced unanimity. Not that Mann himself hasn’t been known to do research on the politics of climate change containing statements like “A second common feature of denial, which differentiates it further from skepticism and legitimate debate, involves personal and professional attacks on scientists both in public and behind the scenes.” Still, if conservatives attack Mann for politicizing science, he has a battalion of lawyers someone else is paying for.

Thorpe is unrattled:

“the case also says something profound about the difference between matters of opinion and scientific interpretations that can be worked out through normal academic processes…. the finding of the District of Columbia Superior Court boiled down to the fact that it is not an opinion that determines when scientific misconduct occurs but rather, misconduct can be established using known processes.”

We defy anyone to say what that sentence even means, other than that Mann can abuse people on social media, in emails and in conversation but they can’t insult him back. As Pielke Jr. sneered about this piece:

“It is OK for scientists to smear, bully, harass, denigrate and defame their colleagues
That is just passion and humanity at work
Just don’t do it in a peer reviewed journal
Otherwise, go for it!”

Precisely. Thorpe then gibbers that:

“Although some free speech advocates warn that the verdict will have a chilling effect on the criticism of scientific findings, perhaps the verdict can be viewed more optimistically as appropriately directing matters of opinion to blogs and opinion columns while matters of scientific disagreement are handled in the literature of scientific record…. Opinions are protected speech, and both scientists and their critics should be welcome to express them.”

Right. Which is why Mann sued two bloggers over their opinions. Still, Thorpe can’t entirely overlook the chilling effect. Or Mann’s manners:

“Another lesson is that although some may prefer scientists to be more restrained and circumspect than Mann, expressing passionate views does not justify false accusations from critics.”

What, like the one where Mann falsely accused Judith Curry of sleeping her way to the top? No, that stuff is fine:

“What’s important is that scientists are dispassionate in their research publications, not on social media or in opinion pages.”

Thorpe then attempts to stagger back onto the high road, ending the piece:

“Human passion varies over a range. But scientific consensus is reached rationally and through established processes.”

Not including those in a courtroom… we once believed. Back when we cited putting Galileo on trial as a grotesque and ultimately counterproductive blunder.

Frankly Thorpe’s attempt to excuse Mann’s behaviour is a mess, not least because he doesn’t explicitly mention any of it. But he can’t ignore the twin towers here of which his audience is now more aware than ever: Mann is himself extremely rude and mean-spirited in his commentary, and a massive lawsuit against someone who criticized him will frighten others into silence if not reversed on appeal.

Of course there was a certain amount of enthusiasm for the verdict. The New York Times ran a “Guest Essay” in favour by no less impartial a pair of observers than… um… Michael E. Mann and one of his lawyers. That piece called climate change alarmism “facts, not conjectures” then warned:

“Yet the scientists researching the fallout from that inconvenient fact, established more than 100 years ago, continue to face attacks that threaten their research, reputations and livelihoods.”

Including of course Mann, whose career has taken off like a rocket bringing him fame and fortune, unlike say Judith Curry who was forced out of academia for daring question orthodoxy. As she herself just said:

“All professional societies and universities have codes of conduct. AGU even has an anti-bullying policy. Michael Mann calling other scientists ‘denier’ violates all codes of professional conduct. Like Trump, he somehow gets away with bad behavior... because politics”.

Without blushing, Mann and his lawyer nevertheless write:

“We hope this sends a broader message that defamatory attacks on scientists go beyond the bounds of protected speech and have consequences.”

Including, they say, those who attack orthodoxy in other areas such as “the Covid-19 pandemic”. And never mind winning the argument:

“It is in the context of this broader war on science that our recent trial victory may have wider implications. It has drawn a line in the sand. Scientists now know that they can respond to attacks by suing for defamation. A scientist defamed can publish a thousand peer-reviewed articles in the effort to clear his or her name, but when scientists and lawyers join forces, disinformation can more readily be defeated.”

You’d think it a strange position for a scientist to take. But they take it enthusiastically:

“What’s disheartening is that it took more than a decade and countless hours by a team of lawyers to win a jury verdict in our case when the verdict on human-caused global warming was rendered decades ago.”

The piece goes on to assert in an unbiased way that:

“the hockey stick graph in the meantime has become firmly ensconced in the wall of evidence that burning fossil fuels is warming the planet at a pace and scale unseen. Yet the machinery of disinformation, waged in part by the fossil fuel industry, continues to seed doubt, divert attention and delay action.”

But they have an answer to free speech, and it’s not to win a debate.

In fact Mann had already blocked CDN on X. And when one of us used their personal account to make a sarcastic comment about him sneering that two of his critics didn’t entirely agree (that comment being “Apparently Mann is surprised to find actual debate on a scientific topic. But yes, outside the cult we don’t enforce dogmatic certainties, we discuss and argue and test hypotheses. Weird, huh?”) he blocked us personally, so we can’t now bring you his post. Mann does not enjoy scrutiny. He is above challenges. And next time we’ll screen cap… if there is a next time.

In a way it’s flattering that he took the time to ban us personally. I suppose he was very afraid of our comments. Or he just has a very thin skin. As Roger Pielke Jr. commented on Super Bowl Sunday, “It is Super Bowl Sunday morning/ Michael Mann is still rage Tweeting about me and Judy Curry/ Perfectly normal stuff😎🤓😁”

Well, it is now. But the Streisand Effect is waiting.

9 comments on “The Michael Streisand effect”

  1. Mann's suit (against Tim Ball) was tossed out of Canada with a warning to not come back to Canada without bringing along his, "proof"; the numbers he used to achieve the hockey stick. which he hides under a cloak of secrecy, declaring the sanctity of 'ownership' ... which has never faced peer review, the 'sanctity' of science the rest of the world believes in.
    The ICPP live and die by that hockey stick, but they too/a have never seen the numbers. They flaunt the 'stick' with repetition after repetition of the numbers predicting the end of the world being nigh.

  2. Follow the money.Who is funding Mann's endless lawfare?That would answer many questions.But oh yeah,the oil lobby and climate skeptics have
    all the money!Mann belongs in the penalty box for playing with a broken hockey stick!

  3. Unfortunately the trial wasn't about the science but about the defamation. Most climate realists wanted it to be about the science but it was not.

  4. This trial outcome was, for Mann, his Torquemada event. The green theocracy of which he is clerisy is part of a science (and regulated professions) now under the thumb of centralized power structures in a self reinforcing circular financial complex dealing with heretics with only slightly less drastic measures as those given Galileo and Bruno.

  5. ‘Progressives have specifically attacked the Scientific Method, so that it is no longer taught in almost any K-12 US schools.’
    Andrew Breitbart: 'Politics are downstream of culture.' To add: Culture is downstream of Science. Vacuum tube to transistor to microchip to internet to social media.

  6. Seeing Tim Ball’s picture reminded me that Tim claimed Mann first offered his thesis to the University of Virginia. For some reason it was turned down. It would interesting to find out why.

  7. One needs to remember that while Michael Mann was loudly complaining that his career had been badly damaged by Steyn, something the courts rejected, he was personally responsible for destroying Judith Curry's academic career. This was in addition to his libellous comment that she had slept her way to the top.
    Mann apparently has neither scruples nor conscience.

  8. I'll start with: in my opinion Michael Mann is an Obtuse 'Climate expert ' and a full blown coward! I say this because he and others were invited to an open and recorded debate on climate change with John Colman and three others who openly say; The climate crisis is a scientific and global Fraud!'
    This was back in 2008 to 2014. Mann and some 2000 others invited, refused even show their faces to have a scientific debate. This can be verified on John Stossels Podcase history.

    As to the Mann v Steyn case, I suggest that CDN, Judith Curry and Steyn and anyone he's badmouthed, turn the tables on Mann, and take him to court for deformation, slander, libel and maybe scientific fraud.
    Like someone else mentioned, follow the money Mann is clearly getting from somewhere.
    And how does Mann have the clout to block CDN from X or any platform for that matter??

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