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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Michael Mann slandered again by Clive Crook of the Climate Denial Machine

Atlantic shocker: Senior editor Clive Crook fabricates another quote to smear Michael Mann

by Joseph Romm, Climate Progress, August 4, 2010

The Atlantic’s Clive Crook has written the most embarrassing and libelous piece published by the media, “More on Climategate.”

The fact that the Atlantic continues to allow him to make up stuff and print it (without fact-checking) for the sole purpose of smearing Michael Mann — after the editors were informed of the libelous errors in the first piece — calls into question the editorial judgment of the entire magazine.

Both of Crook’s pieces should be taken down from the web, and he should issue a huge, public apology to Mann.  Indeed, I think he owes Mann the courtesy of a phone call apology, too, since he has now written two falsehood-filled smear jobs on Mann without even bothering to try to talk to him.

Two weeks ago I wrote, “The Atlantic’s Clive Crook needs to retract his libelous misinformation and apologize to Michael Mann.” I pointed out a bunch of untrue assertions he made about Mann.   Crook now acknowledges some of them, sort of — but he doesn’t even go back and correct the original post!

At the time I thought he had fabricated a quote when he wrote, falsely:
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.
Of course, the allegations weren’t “dismissed out of hand.”  Mann had been exonerated of them in the first investigation, as I noted.

I can’t find the phrase “lack of credible evidence” anywhere in the second inquiry (or first, for that matter, the one Crook seems to suggest he was aware of even though his entire first post suggests otherwise).  Crook fails to identify where in the inquiry it came from, so I assume he can’t.  I challenge him to do so, especially since in his new post he makes a major fabrication whose sole purpose is to smear Michael Mann.  Two fabrications would make a pattern.

As we will see, this latest fabrication is so extreme it goes beyond what even extremists like Virginia AG Ken Cuccinelli have done in their effort to defame Mann.  Here is what Crook writes:

You be the judge. Read the reports and see if you find the inquiry convincing. I’d draw your attention especially to the finding that deals with “the trick to hide the decline.” On this, the first report says:
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. In fact to the contrary, in instances that have been focused upon by some as indicating falsification of data, for example in the use of a “trick” to manipulate the data, this is explained as a discussion among Dr. Jones and others including Dr. Mann about how best to put together a graph for a World Meteorological Organization (WMO) report. They were not falsifying data; they were trying to construct an understandable graph for those who were not experts in the field. The so-called “trick” was nothing more than a statistical method used to bring two or more different kinds of data sets together in a legitimate fashion by a technique that has been reviewed by a broad array of peers in the field.
Well. It seems to me, and I dare say to other open-minded readers, that the talk in the emails of a “trick to hide the decline” raised the reasonable suspicion that a trick had been used to hide the decline. “[T]o the contrary,” says the report. The “trick” has no connotation of trickery, but merely denotes a “statistical method”. Striving to keep a straight face, let us accept this.
What about “hide”? Is it all right to employ a “statistical method to hide the decline”? Why was anybody trying to “hide the decline”? (One response might be: because the data which showed the decline were unreliable. Fair enough, but then this rather casts doubt on the whole series, doesn’t it, not just on the part that shows a decline?)
I am not competent to discuss the science, and do not pretend to be. But here is what I see when I read the “trick” email and then the report. An explanation is required. Mann’s account strains credulity, yet is readily accepted. No contrary opinions are sought or heard. On this basis the report finds “no substance” in the criticism.
Romm is entirely satisfied by this rigorous “investigation.” Fine. I disagree with him.
The screenshot is here.

Anyone who follows this issue — and that should certainly apply to a journalist who is so obsessed with Mann he goes after him a second time after botching the first attack — knows the e-mails don’t contain the phrase trick to hide the decline.”

A serious journalist — or magazine — would check his facts or contact Mann before writing such trash, especially after being called out for failing to check his facts or contact Mann the first time!

But Crook isn’t serious.  He claims to be of “moderate opinion” but his phony line of attack isn’t being pushed by moderates.

As it so happens, the Union of Concerned Scientists points us to exactly who is pushing this disinformation.  In a July 1, 2010, article, “Ken Cuccinelli Makes Basic Factual Errors About Mike Mann’s Research, Stolen Emails in Response to UVA,”
On June 11, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli formally responded (pdf) to the University of Virginia’s request that he drop his demand for documents related to climate scientist Michael Mann’s research. The response is riddled with inaccuracies, according to an analysis by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), and undermines his case for obtaining documents pertaining to Mann’s work at the school…
First, Cuccinelli incorrectly attributes a characterization of another scientist’s research to research conducted by Mann. Cuccinelli wrote:
“…[V]arious statements or methods have been attributed to Dr. Mann including the fact that he developed a ‘trick’ in order to ‘hide the decline….‘ “
But the latter phrase from the emails did not, in fact, refer to Mann’s research. Those phrases were in an email from scientist Phil Jones, who ran the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia. It was Jones who described an aspect of Mann’s work as a “trick.” Later in the same email, Jones also described an aspect of scientist Keith Briffa’s research, calling it “hide the decline.” Cuccinelli wrongly attributes this description to Mann’s work. Given Cuccinelli is specifically investigating Mann, his inability to distinguish between references to Mann and Briffa is an egregious error.
And if Cuccinelli made an egregious error, what precisely should we call what Crook did?  While Cuccinelli may be an anti-scientific extremist– see Virginia AG mocks dangers of CO2, telling Tea Partiers to hold their breath and make the EPA happy and Nature rains on Cuccinelli: “The University of Virginia should fight a witch-hunt by the state’s attorney general.” — at least he didn’t fabricate a quote.

For the record — and for people like Crook who admit they are not competent to discuss the science but insist on doing so — the reason I and so many others are “entirely satisfied” on this issue is because we know it has been investigated to death.  As UCS explains in the very next paragraph:
Second, Cuccinelli’s response continues to cite those two phrases of technical jargon out of context. Both phrases, and the science they reference, have been thoroughly examined. Multiple investigations have found that the phrases are informal references to techniques used in climate change research that were publicly known and available at the time of the emails. Investigations by, Penn State University (pdf), the U.K. Parliament and an independent investigation commissioned by the University of East Anglia have concluded that climate contrarians have taken these phrases out of context and misrepresented climate science. In any case, reviews of Mann’s research and other climate reconstructions have confirmed Mann’s basic conclusions.
Crook can try to pretend that this isn’t about the science, but in order for him to challenge Mann and every single independent body that has looked at this, he is, in fact, claiming to be more of an expert on the science than they are.

Indeed, back in December (!) Nature magazine itself wrote:
The stolen e-mails have prompted queries about whether Nature will investigate some of the researchers’ own papers. One e-mail talked of displaying the data using a ‘trick’ — slang for a clever (and legitimate) technique, but a word that denialists have used to accuse the researchers of fabricating their results. It is Nature’s policy to investigate such matters if there are substantive reasons for concern, but nothing we have seen so far in the e-mails qualifies.
Shame on Crook for fabricating quotes and misrepresenting the facts in order to keep harassing Professor Mann, one of the nation’s leading climatologists or certainly the most exonerated.

Shame on the Atlantic for continuing to publish this libelous work after being warned what Crook is up to.
If the magazine doesn’t take these posts down and issue a blanket apology to Mann, I would suggest the professor sue for libel.  Crook’s false charges easily meet 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.”  The Atlantic was warned what Crook was doing, but they continue to let him publish unedited, unfact-checked falsehoods.

The magazine’s reputation is on the line here.  This is a far more serious matter than the first post.  Many would consider this a firing offense.  At a minimum, The Atlantic should require Crook’s columns to be fact-checked line by line, as their print magazine was when I wrote a piece for it in 1996.

If you want to send letters to the Atlantic’s editor, James Bennet or to Scott Stossel, Editorial Director, Atlantic Digital, it’s not terribly hard to figure out their e-mail address from the masthead.


Like many people with closed minds who have drifted further right from the center-right, Crook asserts he is “open-minded” and, later on, of “moderate opinion.”  He asserts that merely supporting some unspecified carbon tax makes him so, even though Bjorn Lomborg and ExxonMobil also do.

In fact, Crook is beyond close minded, and far beyond moderate.  Not only does he make crap up to smear climate scientists without interviewing them.  But, as I noted, his first 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.  He goes on to say:
He’s right, of course, that the green movement is not trusted as an adviser on what to do. So what? Its counsel on policy is not required.
This is what passes for open-minded at the Atlantic Monthly:  Falsehood- and fabrication-filled smears on climate scientists and a rejection out of hand of any possibility that environmentalists should be listened to on policy.



Laura said...

Off topic, but I didn't see a way to email you... An enormous chunk of the Petermann Glacier in Greenland has broken free:

Tenney Naumer said...

Thanks, Laura,

The end of the floating tongue of the Petermann Glacier has been about to go since at least last year.

I guess you have already seen the photos of the melt rivers running down it?

Check out this post from July 2009:

Laura said...

Yes, the photos taken last year were spectacular. I hope the clifftop cameras they positioned then are still working - it would be great to see what they recorded!