Monday, December 23, 2013

Bad behavior in the sand box

I've been reading National Review quite a bit more than usual since the government shutdown. They have constantly appealed for donations to their free-speech fund, or some such, that they're using to pay for their defense against charges of libel.

I finally clicked through to find out what this is about:
"Mann is upset — very, very upset — with this Mark Steyn Corner post, which had the temerity to call Mann’s hockey stick 'fraudulent...'
So why threaten to sue us? I rather suspect it is because the Steyn post was savagely witty and stung poor Michael."
One more click, and I'm finally reading the offending column:
"Mann could be said to be the Jerry Sandusky of climate science, except that instead of molesting children, he has molested and tortured data in the service of politicized science...
Graham Spanier, the Penn State president forced to resign over Sandusky, was the same cove who investigated Mann. And, as with Sandusky and Paterno, the college declined to find one of its star names guilty of any wrongdoing."
That first sentence was a quote from elsewhere, but it was quoted approvingly. The second was penned by Mark Steyn. Somehow I don't think the word 'fraudulent' is the actual point of contention.

I've heard of Mark Steyn before but never read much. What I've seen recently shows that he loves to make comparisons to the most vile analogues he can find. Here he compares the gay pressure group involved in the Duck Dynasty fiasco to those who have driven Christians out the Middle East. And also to the Soviet commissar in charge of politicizing chess (what??), who was eventually executed.

After reading this column and being frustrated that National Review wasn't forthcoming about why they're in this trouble, I'm unable to feel upset that the National Review is being sued. Part of me is downright happy that such uncivil writing has repercussions.

Image titled "Mark Steyn and soul" -- Hits the mark

Update 1/18/14. This comment prodded to find out what was happening now with Mark Steyn (gag) and the legal suit. It seems that Mark Steyn's work hasn't appeared in National Review for several weeks and his lawyers have dropped him. This writer blames one or both of these developments on a relatively mild post (for Steyn). Steyn slams the previous judge in the case but at least doesn't compare her to a group that committed a large number of murders. So sad that his fans are missing their regular doses of vitriol.


DWPittelli said...

Uncivil writing is not necessarily libelous. Someone can say, even of a nonpublic figure, "John Doe is a lot like Hitler" and that is not libelous in the U.S. because it is a matter of opinion. If, however, someone says "John Doe is like Hitler because he murders Jews" then that is potentially libelous (if Doe has not murdered, and the sentence is reasonably understood as serious), because of the fact claim at the end, not because of the comparison to Hitler. And if someone writes "John Doe is like Hitler, differing only in that he tortures data instead of Jews" well that is only libelous to the extent that "tortures data" is specific enough to be false.

ModeratePoli said...

@dwp, I'm aware of the legal definition of libel. I'm also aware that political libel nearly ends up in court even when there is a strong case for libel. How many times has Obama sued those who call him a Marxist or a Muslim terrorist? Never that I know of.

I'm torn on whether this libel suit is appropriate or not. I'm not torn over whether Mark Steyn is a particularly nasty jerk.

ModeratePoli said...

... rarely ends up in court, not 'nearly.'