It’s hard to believe, but this Mann case has been wending through the courts for over a decade. It’s the Jarndyce case of the conservative vs. environmentalist movement whose purpose was to silence dissent.
That was explicitly the point all along.
The two also had a heated exchange over a private email Mann wrote in 2012, in which he said it was his “hope” that through the lawsuit he could “ruin this pathetic excuse for a human being,” referring to Steyn.
Back in 2012, this whole thing seemed like a ridiculous joke. And back then it was. But with enough money and lawyers, the case kept going because it also tracked the descent of the American Left into lawless totalitarianism which abused the legal system in order to silence political opponents.
The judicial wrangle began in 2012, when climatologist Michael E. Mann, a professor of meteorology at Pennsylvania State University and climate-change activist, sued National Review and pundits Mark Steyn and Rand Simberg, claiming that they had libeled him in a series of blog posts. On National Review’s website, Steyn commented on an article by Simberg, published by the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Simberg likened Mann’s research on global warming to Penn State’s cover-up in the case of Jerry Sandusky, Penn State’s former assistant football coach and a convicted child molester. Simberg called Mann “the Jerry Sandusky of climate science,” except that instead of molesting children, Mann had “molested and tortured data in the service of politicized science that could have dire economic consequences for the nation and planet.” Though Steyn distanced himself from the Sandusky analogy, he noted that Mann was the scientist behind the controversial “hockey-stick” graph, which purports to depict a sharp rise in global temperatures in recent years. Steyn called the graph “fraudulent.”
When Mann’s lawyer sent National Review editor Rich Lowry a letter demanding a public apology and a retraction, Lowry told Mann to “get lost,” noting that the blog post, which the magazine had neither written nor edited, represented an opinion and was “fully protected under the First Amendment.” At issue, Lowry argued, was the accuracy of Mann’s research.
But Mann’s lawyer closed by appealing to partisan hate. And it paid off. Big time.
In John Williams’ closing argument on behalf of Mann, he said that the jury should award punitive damages so that in the future, no one will dare engage in “climate denialism”–whatever that is–just as Donald Trump’s “election denialism” needs to be suppressed. In 41 years of trying cases to juries, I never heard such an outrageously improper appeal. John Williams should be ashamed of himself, but he won’t be, because this jury apparently bought his argument: they want to make Mark Steyn pay $1 million out of his own pocket, to a plaintiff who suffered no damages but only made an ideological argument, so that no one will, ever again, try to challenge the regime’s global warming narrative. However false that narrative may be.
Here’s the actual exchange…
MR. WILLIAMS: And as you’ve been instructed, if you find punitive damages are appropriate for outrageous behavior, you can set an amount not just to punish, but to serve as an example to prevent others from acting in the same — in a same or similar way.
These attacks on Climate Scientists have to stop, and you now have the opportunity—
MS. WEATHERFORD: Objection.
MR. STEYN: Objection.
THE COURT: Sustained.
This verdict is not about defamation, it’s about suppressing political dissent, and if we can expect anything from a D.C. jury, it’s a willingness to protect its own party and to punish the political opposition.