In heated war of words, my money is on Mark Steyn

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Conservative readers question me on a regular basis about why the Daily Inter Lake publishes the somewhat confrontational column by liberal Gene Lyons every week. 

The straightforward answer is because liberals exist and therefore they need a column to read. Far be it from me to shut down the free exchange of ideas.

The more amusing explanation is that rooting for Lyons to get something right is a bit of a guilty pleasure. He’s like a 100-to-1 underdog at the Kentucky Derby. He’s lost race after race, but the ever-present possibility that Lyons might actually prevail in his effort to put one foot in front of the other to reach a logical conclusion is so giddily intoxicating that reading his column can actually become addictive.

What brings me out of the closet as a Lyons reader, however, is last Thursday’s column in which he bravely but foolishly defended the bedraggled climate scientist Michael Mann from the ripostes of Mark Steyn, perhaps the most capably armed social critic since Edmund Wilson. 

According to Lyons, Steyn is due for a comeuppance because of his nasty personal attacks on Mr. Mann’s character. Indeed, Mann has sued Steyn, National Review, Rand Simberg and the Competitive Enterprise Institute for their audacity in challenging the Penn State climate scientist’s theories (most famously the global-warming hockey stick), his credentials, and most importantly his character.

Lyons thinks it is inappropriate for a social critic to actually criticize, and has come down against the First Amendment and in favor of Steyn being pilloried in the common square (NOTE: this is an exaggeration for rhetorical effect, and I would appreciate not being sued over it).

 Steyn’s apparent offense is that he dared to challenge the scientific orthodoxy on climate change, and he did it most colorfully. This is somewhat ironic since Lyons is himself noted for his acerbic barbs, aimed mostly at poor country bumpkins and rich Republicans.

Lyons wrote his column partly to commiserate with poor Michael Mann for being so abused while on a high pedestal of social acclaim, but more importantly to warn climate critics to keep their opinions to themselves.

What Lyons selectively omits from his column is the well-known fact that Steyn, unlike the other defendants, has dropped any effort to dismiss the libel charges against him because he relishes the idea of going to trial and getting a court to actually adjudicate the validity of the “hockey stick” and Mr. Mann’s claims to being a Nobel Prize-winning scientist. 

I strongly encourage anyone interested in either brilliant writing, a good laugh, or a wistful farewell to Western civilization to visit Mr. Steyn’s website at www.steynonline.com and read at random from any of his essays. You will not be disappointed.

In particular, Mr. Steyn is an unabashed advocate of free speech. Not surprisingly he has therefore been the frequent target of those people (usually liberals with limited understanding of the roots of liberalism) who aim to shut down free speech. In Canada, Steyn was the victim of that country’s “hate speech” law, which attempts to prevent him or anyone else from accurately describing the beliefs of the Muslim religion because it might “incite hatred” against Muslims. Steyn prevailed in that prolonged persecution, but now he is the target of Michael Mann’s petulant lawsuit.

Mann took offense at the fact that Steyn quoted another author, Rand Simberg, who wittily compared Penn State scientist Mann to Penn State serial molester Jerry Sandusky by saying that Mann had “molested and tortured data in the service of politicized science that could have dire economic consequences for the nation and planet.” 

Never mind that Steyn said he thought Simberg was overzealous in his extended metaphor; Mann was unhinged by the audacity of Steyn claiming that the famous climate-change hockey stick was fraudulent.  

The good news is that it is either fraudulent or it isn’t, and a presumably impartial court is now going to have to decide the matter. Steyn will be able to present evidence about how the inventors of the hockey stick manipulated data in order to create what Steyn calls “the single most influential image in the campaign to sell Big Climate alarmism at the turn of the century.”

And yes, Mann and his supporters will also be able to present their evidence — at least they will unless Mann drops his lawsuit under one guise or another. What Mann has not wanted to do, thus far, is respond to Steyn’s requests for “discovery” of the relevant evidence so that he may prepare his defense. That would mean turning over for public purview the secret data that supposedly scientifically conclusively proved for all time with no doubt that human activity for the past 100 years or so is responsible for the warming trend observed in the late 20th century (but oddly enough not the early 21st century). 

Steyn would love to get his hands on that raw data, which has been widely alleged to have been massaged in a statistical sleight-of-hand to support a foregone conclusion. Steyn would also like to see any evidence that Mann is, as he claims to be, a Nobel Prize-winning scientist. Mind you, this is only a Nobel Peace Prize, not a prize in chemistry or physics or any other science, but there is not even any evidence that Mann won the Peace Prize, as he regularly has claimed.

I’m not sure what kind of defense Mann intends to mount for this particular part of the lawsuit, but it will be hard to overcome the evidence that Steyn will presumably present in his defense, namely the testimony of the Nobel Prize administrators that the 2007 Peace Prize went specifically to former Vice President Al Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as a whole.

Geir Lundestad, the director of the Norwegian Nobel Institute, confirmed to author Thomas Richard of examiner.com that, “Michael Mann has never been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize... He has taken the diploma awarded in 2007 to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and made his own text underneath this authentic-looking diploma. The text underneath the diploma is entirely his own. We issued only the diploma to the IPCC as such. No individuals on the IPCC side received anything in 2007.”

Even the IPCC has gotten the message loud and clear. They issued a statement in 2012 (http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/nobel/Nobel_statement_final.pdf) that declared: “The prize was awarded to the IPCC as an organization, and not to any individual associated with the IPCC. Thus it is incorrect to refer to any IPCC official, or scientist who worked on IPCC reports, as a Nobel laureate or Nobel Prize winner.”

Michael Mann no longer seems to tout himself as a Nobel Prize winner, but as recently as October 2012 when he filed his lawsuit against Mr. Steyn, there is incontrovertible proof that he was doing so and you don’t have to look any further than the very complaint filed against Steyn and the other defendants where they are charged with “defamation of a Nobel prize recipient.”

I encourage all of you to do your own research on the “hockey stick” and Mr. Mann and make your own minds up whether you can believe everything either one of them says. And, I guess, that goes for Mr. Lyons, too!

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