Malice has a discreet legal meaning in defamation cases that can be difficult to prove.
On the other hand, accusing a scientist of fraud is a factual allegation which can be proven true or false. That's the important thing here.
Lars --Assuming it was a factual allegation as opposed to rhetorical hyperbole, Because he is a public figure for defamation purposes, Mann has to do more than to prove it was false. He has to prove that Steyn, et al. made their statements knowing they were false or with reckless disregard of the truth or falsity of the statements. That is a difficult thing to prove.
Re: "reckless disregard of the truth"I have yet to see any effort by Steyn or Simberg to LOOK FOR the truth. There is by now a lot of other research that confirms the hockey stick, all of which they completely ignore in favor of what they *think* M&M proved. Why they think M&M proved that is no doubt simple -- it's the only result that fits their ideology.
Opinions and rhetorical hyperbole are protected speech under the First Amendment. Arguably, several of defendants’ statements fall into these protected categories. Some of defendants’ statements, however, contain what could reasonably be understood as assertions of fact. Accusing a scientist of conducting his research fraudulently, manipulating his data to achieve a predetermined or political outcome, or purposefully distorting the scientific truth are factual allegations. They go to the heart of scientific integrity. They can be proven true or false. If false, they are defamatory. If made with actual malice, they are actionable. Viewing the allegations of the amended complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, a reasonable finder of fact is likely to find in favor of the plaintiff on each of Counts I-VI, including the Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress alleged in Count VI as to both sets of defendants.Quote from the current judge on the case. No mention of Mann being a public figure for defamation purposes. As to "reckless disregard for the truth", as David points out, one would have to have been hiding under a rock, or be a right-wing pundit, to be unaware that there is a considerable amount of research corroborating Mann's work.
What I find hysterical about this whole issue is tha tMann is a "public figure". the only reason that is the case is because denialsts, such as Steyn, AEI and NR have MADE him a public figure by accusing him of fraud for the last 5-20 years. If they had not ben making such a stink about this, Mann would not be known by anyone outside of scientists interested in ACC. Not sure why the legal standard is for malice, but unless it is WILDLY different form the common interpretation of the word, this seems like a slam dunk case of malice. The fact that Steyn clearly evinced no interest in actual facts about this issue, and the comparison to sandusky makes it hard to imagine malice NOT being the prime motivation for his actions. Also the fact that he refused to moderate his words after being asked to, also makes the idea of malice more compelling.Do I think that the case is won by Mann? I am not sure. I certainly hope it is, but from this ruling I don;t see deniers being able to take this case as a victory for themselves.
I'm not sure that the legal definition of malice is as straightforward as all that - have heard that it is a very difficult thing to prove in court(IANAL). Difficult for us laymen to comprehend, really. However, Steyn is stuck here, I think - if he says he knew enough about Mann's research to make a valid criticism of it, and that's what he was doing, he'll have to substantiate that, which will be fun to watch. If he says that he doesn't know enough about it and was just making an off-the-cuff remark about it, no intent to wound, no sir, he's going to look like an asshole. Sorry, like even more of an asshole. A win-win situation.
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