After my own take on yesterday's court proceedings, here's a couple of other reports on the interminable case of Michael E Mann vs Free Speech. First, from The Washington Free Beacon's Elizabeth Harrington, who grabbed me after the hearing and found me in a chatty mood:
"No real scientist asks a court to litigate his science," Steyn said. "Dr. [Frederick] Banting didn't, Madame Curie didn't, Einstein didn't, Sir Isaac Newton didn't. Real scientists do not look to the District of Columbia Superior Court to decide the merits of their science. Dr. Mann does it because he's essentially a political activist, a political activist who uses science in service of his activism."
The hearing Tuesday was an appeal to a judge denying National Review and CEI's motion to dismiss the lawsuit under D.C.'s Anti-SLAPP Act, which is designed to prevent costly defamation lawsuits that are destined to fail.
National Review's lawyer Michael A. Carvin argued that "no court in the history of Anglo-American jurisprudence has ever allowed scientific debates to go to a jury," that Mann's libel claims have no merit, and if the case continues it could set a dangerous precedent for free speech.
Just to re-emphasize, I'm not part of that anti-SLAPP appeal because I concluded back in January that there are no express checkouts in the DC "justice" system so you might as well get on with it and go to trial:
"I took a decision not to appeal," Steyn told the Washington Free Beacon following the hearing. "The reason is I've been in this toilet of D.C. justice long enough and I would like to get onto the trial. If he wants a trial, I take him at his word."
"I've answered his discovery request, he doesn't want to answer mine, and I feel at this stage it's best just to get on with the trial, which he claims to want," he said.
My former colleague at National Review, Charles C W Cooke, was also in court and has filed a column on what's at stake:
At the root of this sorry affair is the crucial question of whether Americans are free to lambast public figures on matters of great import. Michael Mann claims that Rand Simberg and Mark Steyn have made "provably false" statements that a jury would be capable of objectively verifying without intruding on free and robust political debate. The Competitive Enterprise Institute and National Review believe that this is abject nonsense, and that Steyn and Simberg have merely criticized the merits of Mann's scientific work in a manner that is clearly protected under the First Amendment. "Why," Judge Beckwith inquired early on in the oral arguments, "isn't it reasonable to conclude that Simberg was saying Mann falsified data?" In other words: By describing Mann as a fraud, wasn't Simberg making a specific and objectively verifiable claim about an event? Grossman responded bluntly to the query: "Because he didn't say that." That much, Grossman argued, was evident "from the language." Instead, Grossman proposed, Simberg simply stated that Mann's techniques were akin to "data manipulation" — that is, that Mann had presented his findings in a slippery and underhand way but that he was not being accused of actually falsifying his results. Resolving the truth of that assertion would require a jury to wade into an area of highly contested and contestable opinion. Simberg's charge, Grossman noted, included a hyperlink to a discussion in which various critics drew different conclusions from the same underlying facts. Because such disagreements constitute "different interpretations" and "subjective views," and because debate over the merits of scientific techniques is protected under the First Amendment, Grossman proposed, "there can be no liability" for such statements.
That's a slightly subtler argument than mine. My position is more straightforward: I stand on the truth of what I said, and in a free society I should be free to say it. At any rate, on this Thanksgiving eve, I am thankful for many things about this great country, but the District of Columbia justice system is not one of them.
~If you'd like to support my pushback against the litigious Dr Mann, you can do so by swanking around town in our exclusive range of Steyn Vs The Stick trial merchandise, or by buying a loved one one of our new SteynOnline gift certificates or my new book or CD or both over at the Steyn store.