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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Clive Crook and The Atlantic libel Michael Mann -- new vicious attack by the Climate Denial Machine

Dear Readers,

I remain amazed that so few people see this for what it is -- this was not an example of "bad journalism"!  This attack was a planned attack on Michael Mann by the Climate Denial Machine!

The Atlantic’s Clive Crook needs to retract his libelous misinformation and apologize to Michael Mann

by Joseph Romm, Climate Progress, July 21, 2010

The Atlantic’s Clive Crook has written one of the most embarrassing and willfully uninformed pieces published by the status quo media, “Climategate and the Big Green Lie.”  Coming after multiple exonerations of climatologist Michael Mann, it is libelous.  Amazingly, Mann tells me that Crook never interviewed him or contacted him at all before writing this piece.

How exactly does the senior editor for a major magazine trash the reputation of a man whose academic practices and scientific results have been exonerated probably more than any other U.S. climate scientist — without even talking to that scientist?  By basically making crap up.

You know your piece is probably blame-the-victim misinformation if it becomes is the basis of the screaming banner headline at the website of disinformer’s leading cyber-bully (who urges violence against climate scientists):  “The Atlantic Mag’s Warmist Editor Clive Crook Slams Sham Climategate Investigations….”  Similarly, the top, but fading, disinformer blog, WattsUpWithThat, devoted a whole post to it.

Crook opens:
By way of preamble, let me remind you where I stand on climate change. I think climate science points to a risk that the world needs to take seriously. I think energy policy should be intelligently directed towards mitigating this risk. I am for a carbon tax.
Uhh, Memo 1 to Crook:  Those exact same words could have been written by Bjorn Lomborg (or even the CEO of ExxonMobil).  They tell us absolutely nothing about where you stand on climate change.

Memo 2 to Crook:  In case you and your magazine missed it, the big climate change policy Congress has been wrangling over for the last year and a half are cap-and-trade bills, not a carbon tax.  Who cares whether you are for some unspecified and hence possibly meaningless carbon tax?

But that’s just typically lame status quo media BS.  Where Crook jumps the shark is in this paragraph:
The Penn State inquiry exonerating Michael Mann — the paleoclimatologist who came up with “the hockey stick” — would be difficult to parody. Three of four allegations are dismissed out of hand at the outset: the inquiry announces that, for “lack of credible evidence,” it will not even investigate them. (At this, MIT’s Richard Lindzen tells the committee, “It’s thoroughly amazing. I mean these issues are explicitly stated in the emails. I’m wondering what’s going on?” The report continues: “The Investigatory Committee did not respond to Dr Lindzen’s statement. Instead, [his] attention was directed to the fourth allegation.”)
It is Crook’s misinformed smear that would be difficult to parody.

Crook seems completely unaware that the inquiry he links to was a second investigation of Mann by Penn State.  The first three allegations were thoroughly examined and dismissed in Penn State’s first review of Mann.

Had Crook actually read the link he provides, he would know that since it clearly states that after  thoroughly reviewing all of the relevant material, “The Inquiry Committee determined there was no substance to this allegation and further investigation of this allegation was not warranted,” for each of the first three allegations.
I have no idea where Crook came up with the phrase he puts in quotes “lack of credible evidence” — if anyone can find the source for that exact word-for-word quote, please let me know. Note:  The original report (which Crook seems unaware of) uses the phrase “there exists no credible evidence” a number of times, but that is not the same as what Crook wrote.

To assert that Penn State “will not even investigate” three of the four charges and imply that they dismiss them out of hand without thorough examination is, I think, libel.

As I wrote here, I do not use the word “libel” for the vast majority of media miscoverage of climate science.  But Crook links to — and later quotes at length — a document that clearly explains his charge is false.  Thus, his false charge meets the tough legal standard for determining whether a major media outlet has defamed a public figure — that the publisher had “knowledge that the information was false” or that the information was published “with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not.”

It is very revealing that Crook quotes Lindzen as if he were a credible scientific source.  For quite some time Lindzen has been doing little but spreading disinformation — see Re-discredited climate denialists in denial.  He’s even started publishing nonsense that has led to unusually strong debunkings by his colleagues:
As I just posted, MIT atmospheric scientist Kerry Emanuel accurately called Lindzen a liar for signing a falsehood-filled letter to Congress:
Among other untruths, it contained the sentence, referring to evidence of anthropogenic global warming, “There is no such evidence; it doesn’t exist.”
So Crook asserts that “I think climate science points to a risk that the world needs to take seriously.”  But the only person he quotes in defense of his libelous smear of Mann is a scientist who smears other climate scientists and who pushes outright disinformation on climate science.  Again, Crook never contacted Mann.

Crook’s next sentence asserts, “Moving on, the report then says, in effect, that Mann is a distinguished scholar, a successful raiser of research funding, a man admired by his peers — so any allegation of academic impropriety must be false.”  That is willfully misleading. Among other things, the Investigatory Committee interviewed three scientists determine what standard  academic practices were and are in the field.

But obviously the fact that Mann’s work has stood the test of both peer review and time matters.  As the panel noted, “literally dozens of the most highly qualified scientists in the world scrutinized and examined every detail of the scientific work done by Dr. Mann and his colleagues and judged it to meet the high standards necessary for publication.”  But Mann’s proven scientific record of achievement means nothing to Crook, who repeats and expands his libelous statement:
In short, the case for the prosecution is never heard. Mann is asked if the allegations (well, one of them) are true, and says no. His record is swooned over. Verdict: case dismissed, with apologies that Mann has been put to such trouble.
This libelous nonsense is what passes for journalism at The Atlantic?

The key point about Mann’s “Hockey Stick” work is that it was repeatedly attacked and utterly vindicated long before we saw any of the trumped up charges around the stolen emails:

  • The Hockey Stick was affirmed in a major review by the uber-prestigious National Academy of Scientists (in media-speak, the highest scientific “court” in the land) — see NAS Report and here.  The news story in the journal Nature (subs. req’d) on the NAS panel was headlined:  “Academy affirms hockey-stick graph“!
  • The Hockey Stick has been replicated and strengthened by numerous independent studies.  My favorite is from Science last year — see Human-caused Arctic warming overtakes 2,000 years of natural cooling, “seminal” study finds (the source of the figure below).
  • And then we have Penn State’s first review of Mann, which concluded:  “After careful consideration of all the evidence and relevant materials, the inquiry committee finding is that there exists no credible evidence that Dr. Mann had or has ever engaged in, or participated in, directly or indirectly, any actions with an intent to suppress or to falsify data. While a perception has been created in the weeks after the CRU emails were made public that Dr. Mann has engaged in the suppression or falsification of data, there is no credible evidence that he ever did so, and certainly not while at Penn State.”

It would be one thing if Crook smeared Mann before the multiple vindications, but to do so after his scientific work and academic practices have been more thoroughly vetted than that of pretty much any other climate scientist in the country is journalistic malpractice that borders on harassment.  Did I mention that Crook never even talked to Mann before smearing him?

I really don’t want to waste much more time on the rest of Crook’s falsehood-filled character assassination at this point.  The piece is titled, “Climategate and the Big Green Lie” but the use of the harsh phrase “Big Lie” to smear the greens  is never defended.

The term is very strong,  as Wikipedia explains,
The Big Lie (German: Große Lüge) is a propaganda technique. The expression was coined by Adolf Hitler, when he dictated his 1925 book Mein Kampf, for a lie so “colossal” that no one would believe that someone “could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously.”
Anyone reading that headline would think Crook is going to layout some elaborate and colossal case against  environmentalists (or whoever the “greens” are –  Crook never says, but at points he seems to conflate “greens” with climate scientists).  The  best he can do is quote the rarely right Walter Russell Mead:
The Big Lie is that the green movement is a source of coherent or responsible counsel about what to do [about global warming].
But that doesn’t come close to the level of a “Big Lie,” assuming it is even a lie at all.   Every group thinks they are a source of coherent and responsible counsel about what to do about the policy issues they care about.  It is absurd to call that a “Big Lie.”  It renders the term meaningless.

As an important aside, Crook himself never offers “coherent or responsible counsel about what to do” about  a problem he claims  needs to be taken seriously,  so I don’t see how we can possibly criticize those who do offer comprehensive solutions.

I am only including this brief Big Lie discussion to show a pattern of Crook making absurd attacks that he never  supports with any evidence.  A lame attack on “the green movement” is standard stuff for the status quo media.

But libeling  one of the country’s top climate scientists  even though you are aware — or should be –  of the multiple exoneration of his work and his practices is beyond the pale of  journalistic practices.

Crook needs to retract his libelous misinformation and apologize to Michael Mann.  Merely changing a few words in his piece will not do.

Failing that, I challenge The Atlantic to have a panel of national journalists review Clive Crook’s article, “Climategate and the Big Green Lie” and the relevant Penn State reports, and interview Michael Mann and Crook.

Until that happens, readers are entitled to conclude the Atlantic is the home of “suffocating groupthink and intellectual corruption” — the absurd charge Crook levels at the scientists whose emails were hacked.


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