Michael Mann is a well known scientist who works for Penn State. About a year ago a blogger for the Competitive Enterprise Institute suggested that because of the scandal in the athletics department, the university might be covering up malfeasance by Michael Mann. These accusations were then repeated at the National Review. Comparisons were made between an accused pedophile at Penn State and Michael Mann himself, and they went on to accuse him of scientific fraud. They included phrases such as "data manipulation," and "scientific misconduct."
In short, they didn't just say he was wrong. They said he was lying.
Michael Mann sued for defamation last year. The National Review moved that scientific fact is elusive and amounts to opinion and attempted to have the suit thrown out of court. On July the 22, the judge denied their motion, and he did so in such a way that suggested that he considers Michael Mann's case to be pretty strong.
The court did not agree, concluding that "the evidence before the Court, at this stage, demonstrates something more and different than honest or even brutally honest commentary." Elsewhere, it noted that, as phrased, the columns' argument "questions facts—it does not simply invite the reader to ask questions." All told, the columns "are not pure opinion but statements based on provably false facts" (a footnote notes that "the court does not view this as a very close case").
Quote taken from Ars Technica.
In general, the decision suggests that there is a reasonable chance that Mann can show the "Defendants disregarded the falsity of their statements and did so with reckless disregard." The ruling notes that the organizations have called for Mann's investigation multiple times; "if anyone should have been aware of the accuracy (or findings that the work of Plaintiff is sound), it would be the [National Review] Defendants." Thus, continued attacks on Mann may be construed as a reckless disregard for the truth.Typically, the response by the National Review to Michael Mann's lawsuit was to threaten him in a public post on their magazine.
If Mann sues us, the materials we will need to mount a full defense will be extremely wide-ranging. So if he files a complaint, we will be doing more than fighting a nuisance lawsuit; we will be embarking on a journalistic project of great interest to us and our readers.Essentially they are threatening to use the suit to go through all his papers, and suggested that while the lawsuit goes on they will no doubt defame and slander him again. The threat does not appear to have deterred him. The next hearing is scheduled in September.
And this is where you come in. If Mann goes through with it, we’re probably going to call on you to help fund our legal fight and our investigation of Mann through discovery. If it gets that far, we may eventually even want to hire a dedicated reporter to comb through the materials and regularly post stories on Mann.
My advice to poor Michael is to go away and bother someone else. If he doesn’t have the good sense to do that, we look forward to teaching him a thing or two about the law and about how free debate works in a free country.
I plan on following the case and I'm waiting for them to attack him again. I'd like to ask those people with more presence then I have here to be ready to counter what they print with the truth.
Unfortunately, magazines like the National Review essentially don't have journalistic standards, and relentless attacks from that quarter sometimes silence scientists who wish to do nothing more then show the results of the research to the public. It is important that we do not let them get away with it.