Scientist sues conspiracy theorists…and wins!

In a bit of happy news:

In a victory for climate scientists, jurors in Michael Mann’s defamation case against Rand Simberg and Mark Steyn awarded Mann $1 million in punitive damages for defamatory comments made in 2012.

In a unanimous decision, jurors agreed that both Simberg and Steyn defamed Mann in blog posts that compared Mann to convicted sex offender Jerry Sandusky, former assistant football coach at Penn State University. They announced that Simberg will pay $1,000 in punitive damages and Steyn will pay the larger $1 million.

Before the free speech fanatics start whining, this is something more than a guy suing someone to stop them calling him names. Simberg & Steyn were trying to undermine significant scientific claims by using ad hominems (hey, I’m actually applying that logical fallacy correctly) against Mann by defaming him. They can’t defeat the science with evidence, so instead they accuse a scientist of pedophilia…with absolutely no evidence for that, either.

Mann’s lawyers pointed this out, too.

“One million dollars in punitive damages makes a statement,” he said in an exclusive interview. “This is about the defense of science against scurrilous attacks, and dishonest efforts to undermine scientists who are just trying to do our job.”

Mann also noted that the trial was about defamatory statements made in an effort to discredit scientists “whose findings might prove inconvenient to certain ideologically driven individuals and outlets.”

“It’s about the integrity of the science and making sure that bad actors aren’t allowed to make false and defamatory statements about scientists in their effort to advance an agenda,” he added.

More than a defense of Mann, this was a trial about defending science. Simberg & Steyn’s lawyers, though, simply resorted to more personal attacks against Mann. Even if those criticisms were valid (they aren’t), they wouldn’t have constituted a good defense of the climate deniers claims. It was just more ad hominem!

But in the trial, these questions about “tenor” around the time of so-called “Climategate” seemed designed to legitimize attacks on Mann.

Roger Pielke Jr., another witness for the defense, called Mann “thin skinned” and “quick to attack.”

Much of the defense testimony seemed designed to “victimiz[e] the victim,” Williams said in his closing argument. For those who oppose climate action, “Michael Mann has become a huge target.”

This strategy of “victimizing the victim” not only shifted days of trial away from Simberg and Steyn’s articles comparing Mann to Sandusky — it also gave the defense an opportunity to put the hockey stick chart, and climate science more broadly, on trial.

My one complaint would be that the award of $1.1 million was not adequate. The bad guys, Simberg & Steyn, are backed by a whole vast industry with deep pockets, and that much money is just loose change to them — they’ll extract that much from their sofa cushions.

It’s no reward for Mann, either. I’ve been through this particular wringer with one petty, low profile accusation, and it required paying a lawyer hundreds of thousands of dollars to win. This was a big case — I imagine all Mann has won financially is more debt. But it was worth it!*

* At least, that’s what the lawyers say.


  1. Brad Keyes says

    Sorry for the crapto formatting, I wanted to get that in before the all-important 500 ppm tipping-point.

    Well, it’s been real, fellas.

  2. John Morales says

    Gotta love someone living in the past.

    This is 2024, O Brad, the underpants gnome, and Mann has been vindicated for well over a decade now.

    In 2024, it is trivially easy to select some text, right-click on that, and click on “search”.
    Very, very easy to source stuff.

    — typical result —
    Climategate 2
    Herald Sun › Blogs › Andrew-bolt
    23 Nov 2011 — So, why don’t you want to let the result into science? Cook: I am afraid that Mike is defending something that increasingly can not be defended.
    — typical result —

    (Andrew Bolt was one of the right-wing shock-jocks in Australia back in the day; of course a climate change denialist. And with zero scientific credentials)

  3. John Morales says


    PZ has to manually shut the thread down, Brad the underpants gnome.

    (The 500 is the auto-rollover setting at hand)

    But yeah, it’s been fun.

    Rarely have I seen someone so incompetent, so clueless, and trying so hard to be orotund whilst failing so miserably. A perfect chew-toy, actually.

  4. John Morales says

    Oh, right:

    Most recent scholarly article:
    Role of atmospheric resonance and land–atmosphere feedbacks as a precursor to the June 2021 Pacific Northwest Heat Dome event
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
    Stefan Petri, Xueke Li, Michael E. Mann, Michael Wehner, Stefan Rahmstorf

  5. StevoR says

    @468 Asterosk here :

    Nor did they find “errors galore” or “Phony math” or a “conclusion that basically sucks” instead they found valid graphs matching others datsticks -there’s a whole hockey team or two of grpahs and data such as that compiled by Muller’s BEST project and Mann has been – as has been stated here about umpteen gazillion times already* – vindicated by science, history and the courts.

    .* Slight hyperbole – but only slight really.