A Few Things Ill Considered

Climate Scientist Sues National Post

Via DeSmogBlog comes the news that Andrew Weaver is suing Canada’s National Post for libel and defamation.

You can read the press release here and the Statement of Claim is here [PDF].

While I think the basic aspect of holdinng a newspaper accountable for outright lies or reporting so irresponsible it is virtually indistinguishable from a lie is a Godd Thing, this particular action brings up some much less cut and dried issues such as holding the paper accountable for anonymous commenters and the paper accountable for article reposts.

Given the escalation of personal attacks and irresponsible journalism, such libel cases need to be pursued. This Huffington Post article describes just how serious the climate of climate science has become:

One symptom of this shift is the ongoing campaign of cyber-bullying
directed at climate scientists themselves. Any climate scientist in
the news now receives a torrent of aggressive and abusive emails. As
Stanford’s prominent climatologist Stephen Schneider says: “It’s ugly
death threat stuff; ‘You belong in jail,’ ‘You should be executed.’
[This] never happened… a year ago. [But] now it’s off the charts.”

The climate change deniers efforts to intimidate is not confined to
verbal threats. Schneider reports that climatologist Ben Santer found
a shredded animal on his doorstep late one night after someone rang
his doorbell.

Targeting individuals at their residences is a strong indication that
the intimidation campaign is determined and well-orchestrated.
Internet sites like Climate Depot focus the efforts of an emerging
army of aggressive bloggers

I don’t recall any such incidents where a prominent denialist was on the receiving end of such a vile gesture.

Comments

  1. #1 MattK
    April 22, 2010

    I’m not too familiar with this story but I think that there have been suggestions that commenters may be affiliated with the paper and I’m guessing that they have been included in an attempt to go fishing for such a connection.

  2. #2 eNeMeE
    April 22, 2010

    http://www.marketwire.com/press-release/Climate-Scientist-Sues-National-Post-for-Libel-1151667.

    “Error

    We’re sorry, the page you are trying to access does not exist.”

  3. #3 eNeMeE
    April 22, 2010

    …needs an ‘htm’ at the end of it, I found out from Deltoid.

  4. #4 coby
    April 22, 2010

    Thanks eNeMeE, fixed now.

  5. #5 Marco
    April 22, 2010

    @MattK:
    The ‘fishing expedition’ for the names of the commenters looks more like a way of getting newspapers to take responsibility for the open dissimination of libelous comments.

    Moreover, they can be used in a court of law as witnesses that the comments made by the NP journalists (and I’m being liberal here) are interpreted a certain way.

  6. #6 Moridin
    April 23, 2010

    I find it strange that many liberals oppose libel laws when it comes to the Simon Sigh case, but openly support it here. Does logical consistency seems to be lacking?

  7. #7 Chris S.
    April 23, 2010

    @ Moridin.

    I dunno, let’s compare & contrast:

    Simon Singh was sued (unsuccessfully) for this article: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/apr/19/controversiesinscience-health

    That criticised the BCA for claiming that its members could “treat children for colic, ear infections, asthma, prolonged crying, and sleeping and feeding conditions by manipulating their spines.”

    The BCA were given full right of reply by the Guardian but refused preferring litigation.

    On the other hand, let’s see an excerpt from Weaver’s press release: Dr. Weaver said, “I asked The National Post to do the right thing – to retract a number of recent articles that attributed to me statements I never made, accused me of things I never did, and attacked me for views I never held. To my absolute astonishment, the newspaper refused.”

    See a difference? Is logical consistency lacking? Really?

  8. #8 Jack Savage
    April 27, 2010

    He should have his day in court. But woe betide his reputation if he settles outside it for an “undisclosed sum”.

    I would also remind you all of this quote by Jonathan Aitken.

    “I will cut out the cancer of bent and twisted journalism with the simple sword of truth.”

    Have a look at Wikipedia to find out what happened to him.

  9. #9 Moridin
    April 29, 2010

    @Chris S, there is still a logical inconsistency.

    Either science or the courts determine what is valid. You can’t have it both. You cannot one moment say that libel should be kept out of science (or determine what is true or false), and then the moment after say that libel will settle the science (or determine what is true or false).

    Either science settles both, or the courts settle them both; you can’t have the cookie and eat it too. It is scary how freedom of expression is only accepted when it is in your favor, but when someone is challenging your orthodoxy, it is all of a sudden vile and contemptible. This is an exaggerated example, but it is like of like Islamic fundamentalist who demand freedom of speech, but then when they are criticized, claim that those who oppose Islam should be beheaded. So how is it: is freedom of speech valid for just you, or for the rest of us as well?

  10. #10 coby
    April 29, 2010

    Moridin,

    Too many assumptions and predjudices in your comments, have you read the actual complaint by Andrew Weaver? He has been egregiously misquoted and freedom of speech does not cover lying about another person, which is…wait for it..libel! The suit is not about science, it is about irresponsible to the point of criminal journalism.

    Also, I don’t know of any Islamic fundamentalists who believe in free speech, are you thinking of something specific?