How bad are things for free speech in America right now? This week the Supreme Court turned its attention to an Ohio law under which people can be fined or jailed if the "election commission" pronounces them guilty of "lying" in a political ad. Orwell's Ministry of Truth, as Justice Scalia rightly called it, is alive and well and living in Columbus and some 15 other state capitals. Steve Huntley writes about the Ohio case in The Chicago Sun-Times and connects it to a broader "hostility to free speech that ought to be worrying to Americans of all persuasions". In fact, certain persuasions are not in the least bit worried about it:
The left is behind much of the hostility to free speech these days. College campuses, among the most liberal environments in America, are notorious for shouting down or outright rejecting speakers they don't agree with. The most notable recent example was Brandeis University withdrawing an honorary degree planned for woman's rights activist Ayaan Hiras Ali, who has said politically incorrect things about Islam.
Commentator Mark Steyn is being hounded with a lawsuit for daring to question climate change alarmists. The head of Mozilla and the directors of the California Musical Theater and the Los Angeles Film Festival lost their jobs for donations backing a winning 2008 California ballot initiative against gay marriage.
These are sad days for free speech, free debate, free minds.
Indeed. And I'm glad to see Mr Huntley writing about it in a mainstream, big-city American newspaper. One of the differences between my current woes and my battles up north a few years back is that, within a relatively short space of time, commentators at the CBC and The Globe & Mail and other bastions of Canadian liberalism, including, eventually, The Toronto Star, identified the threat to free speech and addressed it very trenchantly.
By contrast, America's unreadable monodailies "don't see a scandal here," in Huntley's words. "That tells you a lot."
~Maybe they all went to Columbia Journalism School. I've written before about The Columbia Journalism Review's curious coverage of the case, from the inability of assistant editor Alexis Sobel Fitts to master the basic facts to Curtis Brainard's crackerjack job interviewing spokesmen for one side of the story. Now Columbia's other newspaper, the student-run Morningside Post, turns its attention to the topic. Patrick Knapp writes:
The more the climate's ironic feedback loops thwart the climate alarmists, the more the alarmists rely instead upon the positive feedback loops of groupthink to defend their dire hypotheses. They rely, in other words, on narrowing the range of acceptable public debate to the point that even alleged havens of free inquiry like Columbia University begin endorsing the unleashing of legal force against critics of publicly funded climate scientists. This past January, a federal court gave the green light to Penn State University climate scientist Michael Mann's legal proceedings against political humorist Mark Steyn of the National Review. Steyn, a Canadian immigrant to the U.S., is being prosecuted for the unlikely crime of "personal defamation of a Nobel Prize recipient."
Well, we know how that worked out for the now formally de-Nobeled Mann. But the larger point is more important, and reinforced by James Cameron's current "Living Dangerously" yawnfest with Jessica Alba and Michael E Mann - a piece of turn-of-the-century alarmism so vieux chapeau it could have been frozen in Arctic ice since 2001. (Not surprisingly, it gets "beaten in TV ratings by 'Bob's Burgers' reruns".) At a time when scientists ought to be acknowledging the failures of the last 15 years, Mann and the other enforcers are instead, like Soviet commissars after yet another floppo five-year plan, insisting ever more vehemently that there can be no ideological deviancy. That a "journalism review" thinks it worth doubling-down in defense of such a tired shtick confirms that the operating principle of America's newspaper industry is now "Better dead than read". Mr Knapp continues:
At a time when proponents of free speech should be defending Steyn, the Columbia Journalism Review can be found smack in the middle of Mann's legal suit as a friend of the court, calling Steyn's comments "deplorable, if not unlawful..."
Despite claiming so in his lawsuit, according to the Nobel Committee in Norway, Mann "has never won the Nobel Prize." Yet neither this minor detail, nor the scientists at Russia's Pulvoko Observatory warning that we could be in for a centuries-long ice age weigh heavily on those for whom legal force is a solution in search of a problem. Columbia Journalism Review and Columbia University Press owe an apology to Steyn and to the entire student body for depriving it of the essays and criticism of writers who have felt the chill in the air for some time and instead opted to wait and let the ice settle in.
That "chill" is not just an incoming ice age but the chill of free speech and vigorous debate, too. My comment - on the "fraudulence" of Mann's hockey stick - was not "deplorable", but necessary. The stick is, indeed, fraudulent: It does not prove what it purports to, and Dr Mann well knows that, which is why in East Anglia, in Virginia, in British Columbia, and now in the District of Columbia he refuses and obstructs proper scientific disclosure. So my comment is truthful, as I will be happy to demonstrate at trial. And there is something very strange (and actually almost Pravda-like) about a "journalism review" that finds alternative viewpoints "deplorable". It's because so many others - from planet-saving narcissists like James Cameron and transnational opportunists like Rajendra Pachauri all the way down to the boobs and saps of The Columbia Journalism Review - insist that the cartoon alarmism of the hockey stick cannot be questioned that it becomes not just non-deplorable but highly necessary to question it.
Hannity 'Celebrates' Earth Day By Attacking Climate Science With His Know-Nothing Pal, Mark Steyn
Thus the headline on an analysis by "Ellen" that I greatly enjoyed:
If Sean Hannity was searching for the least qualified person to help him attack Earth Day and global warming concerns, he could not have done better than high-school dropout and Rush Limbaugh substitute Mark Steyn last night. Between the two of them, there wasn't a credential or bona fide to be found. But that didn't stop either from playing climate science mavens on the Hannity show last night.
Let's just review the resumés of these two.
Steyn's own bio describes his career as follows:
'Mark Steyn is an international bestselling author, a Top 41 recording artist, and a leading Canadian human rights activist. …His human rights campaign to restore free speech to Canada led to the repeal by Parliament of the notorious "Section 13" law...
'…Over the years, Mark's writing on politics, arts and culture has been published in almost every major newspaper around the English-speaking world.'
Notice anything missing? Besides any mention of education? Like an interest in climate science or any science at all?
Here's what Steyn doesn't mention: He's a high-school dropout.
Yes, I'm working so hard at covering that up that Ellen's hyperlink is to an Australian interview with me that mentions it. I'm so embarrassed by the revelation that on page 149 of my bestselling book After America there's a whole little section about "the unlettered Mark Steyn": In normal circumstances, I'd offer to send Ellen a free copy, but I'm being sued by fake Nobel Laureate Michael Mann so I need the cash. But, if she wants to buy the book from the Steyn store, I do promise to pen an affectionate autograph.
But here's the point. Why didn't Michael Mann react as Ellen did? Ellen scoffs at the very idea of a know-nothing dropout having any credibility when he comments on climate science, but the insecure Mann's legal complaint alleges that somehow the know-nothing dropout has managed to inflict huge professional damage on him within his field. I rather think Ellen's line is more persuasive. Maybe we should call her as a witness.
By the way, on my apparent lack of interest in climate science: well, I wasn't terribly interested in Canadian "human rights" law or Section 13, until it made the mistake of picking a fight with me. And now Section 13 doesn't exist any more. Funny that.
I can't promise that the hockey stick will be as dead as Section 13 by the time this stupid trial is over, but I will do my best to ensure it - not just because the appalling and incurious prostration before pseudo-authority embodied by everyone from "Ellen" to The Columbia Journalism Review ought to be embarrassing to a functioning media, but because climate science itself, like Brandeis and the State of Ohio, needs, in Steve Huntley's phrase, more "free speech, free debate, free minds". Especially that last one.