Tonight's Mark Steyn Show is the second of our weekend editions, where we focus not on the flotsam and jetsam of politics but on the big cultural questions and the small pleasures of life. This weekend's theme is the future, the day after tomorrow, the world circa 2026, 2029 - as seen in a brand new novel, and an old but influential movie. More details here.
~As readers will know, a somnolent and unimpressive troika of judges on the DC Court of Appeals, having sat on a fairly routine bit of business for nigh on three years, recently issued a ruling allowing Big Climate enforcer Michael E Mann of the fraudulent "hockey stick" to proceed with his defamation case against me and others. They thereby inflicted some considerable damage on the First Amendment. My co-defendant and former boss Rich Lowry writes in The Los Angeles Times:
[Mann] wrote a book titled "Climate Wars." He claims that "the scientific community is in a street fight with climate change deniers," and accuses his critics of taking "corporate payoffs for knowingly lying about the threat climate change posed to humanity."
This is all well and good. The debate about climate change is enormously consequential, and deserves a full and robust airing by scientists and advocates representing every part of the spectrum on the issue. But Mann's credo is evidently "scorching polemics for me, not for thee."
We became his target for a lawsuit over a 272-word blog post [by] one of our contributors, Mark Steyn... Mann claimed in his complaint that it was defamatory for Steyn to call him the "man behind the fraudulent climate-change 'hockey stick' graph, the very ringmaster of the tree-ring circus."
Mann maintains that calling the hockey stick "fraudulent" is tantamount to accusing him of a crime. But the word is loosely thrown around in debate all the time. In common polemical usage, it means misleading and wrong, not that someone has criminally defrauded people. Mann generally insists on a hyper-literal reading of Steyn's sharp attack. That makes no sense. The post was obviously whimsical and hyperbolic — no one could reasonably believe that Mann has ever performed in "a tree ring circus" (whatever that is).
Mann's suit shouldn't be a close call... In a New York Times op-ed, Mann once referred to "the appearance of debate where none should exist." He meant it. But the 1st Amendment exists as a bulwark against such would-be censors. His suit deserves to fail, and if free speech gets its rightful protection, eventually it will.
I take a slightly different tack from Rich Lowry: I meant what I said when I called the hockey stick "fraudulent", and I'm happy to prove it in a DC court, if their lethargic honors would get off their arses and bring the thing to trial. But, as to the ruling by those three DC judges, I note that ever since Mann's ludicrous "hockey stick" first appeared at the turn of the century I have called it "fraudulent", and in publications far more prominent and with far greater readerships than National Review. I have dismissed the hockey stick as "fraudulent" in, among others, Britain's Sunday Telegraph, Canada's National Post and The Australian - and nobody sued. So, with respect to the DC Court of Appeal, I find it sobering that their ladyships apparently believe that the framers of the First Amendment intended that Americans should have fewer rights to free speech than those territories that remained within the British Empire.
[UPDATE: Further to the above, in the United Kingdom my old comrade James Delingpole has just won one over an ocean acidhead who attempted to go full hockey-stick on him:
But the thing that needs to be understood about these complaints is that they are not really designed to sift right from wrong, truth from untruth. Rather, as Mark Steyn says, the process is the punishment. That is, if you're a publicly funded scientist on a generous grant with plenty of time on your hands in your cosy academic sinecure, then it's no problem at all to while away a few days preparing your vexatious complaint to IPSO or the Press Complaints Commission. But if you're the hapless journalist who has to prepare your defence, it's a different story: you're very busy, time is money, and the whole process is so grindingly tedious you'd almost rather lose then have to go through each pettifogging criticism, crossing every T and dotting every I...
Thank goodness I did win, though – not so much for my own sake but for the far more important causes of freedom of speech, honest and open scientific enquiry and responsible use of taxpayers' money...
Williamson, consider yourself pwned. Now, back into your box, where you belong, you lank-haired pillock.
Mann is not lank-haired, but pillock-wise he belongs in the same category. We may call James as an expert witness.]
Next month, by the way, I'll be north of the border to see the litigious hockey-stick huckster take on my compatriot Tim Ball in Vancouver. If you're in the neighbourhood, do swing by and say hello.
And, if you'd like to help keep me in the game as this case prepares to enter its second half-decade, well, I edited an entire book on the fraudulent artifact at issue.
~I don't have anything to say about Showergate, mainly on the grounds that (a) it's obvious bunk and (b) in the unlikely event Donald Trump had any enthusiasm for this particular fetish, he'd undoubtedly be the one in the fly-unzipping role with the sodden US media on the receiving end.
However, in his own thoughts on the subject, this blogger quoted something yours truly wrote a couple of sex scandals back that doesn't really have anything to do with anything, but I enjoyed re-reading anyway:
I was asked the other day about the difference between American and British sex scandals. In its heyday, Brit sex was about the action - Lord Lambton's three-in-a-bed biracial sex romp; Harvey Proctor's industrial-scale spanking of rent boys; Max Mosley's Nazi bondage sessions, with a fine eye for historical accuracy and the orders barked out in surprisingly accurate German; Stephen Milligan's accidental auto-erotic asphyxiation while lying on a kitchen table wearing fishnet stockings.... With the exception of the last ill-fated foray, there was an insouciance to these remarkably specialized peccadilloes.
By contrast, American sex scandals seem to be either minor campaign-finance infractions - the cheerless half-hearted affair with an aide - or, like Gov. Sanford's pitiful tale (at least as recounted at his news conference and as confirmed by the e-mails), a glimpse of loneliness and social isolation, as if in the end all they want is the chance to be sitting at the bar telling the gal with the nice smile, "My wife, and my staffers, and my security detail, and the State House press corps, and the guy who writes my Twitter Tweet of the Day, don't understand me."
More from that column - and the "bubble" of political life - here. Say what you like about him, but Trump is a guy who burst his own bubble.