Saturday, April 01, 2017

The Curse Of Victimology


Perhaps the governors of the states should hand out victimization certificates along with birth certificates because – when everyone is a victim, no one will be a victim, and that may help to put an end to the victimization of non-victims nonsense. Students at Yale, we have recently discovered, are victims. One may wonder whether a graduate of Yale or Harvard has been the more victimized. Are any of them more victimized than the fatherless children in Connecticut's shoot-up capitol city, Hartford, which a few months ago was proclaimed the murder capital of New England?

Everyone, it seems, wants to get in on the action. In academia, the victimization scam may end in the destruction of the liberties of scientists.

Among the most oppressed victims in the 21st century, we discover, is tortured Penn State University climatologist Michael Mann, who appeared before U.S. Congress at the end of March to declare himself victimized. Consider his bleeding wounds.

Before Mr. Mann put before the Congress his statement, he supplied the members of the House Science Committee – is anyone wondering: does the Congress really need a Science Committee? -- with his curriculum vitae. Mr. Mann is the author of a number of books, none of them suppressed by a Stalinist government. During his hearing, Mr. Mann unreeled “a prodigious list of awards,” according to National Review magazine. Mr. Mann is suing the magazine, Mark Steyn, Rand Simberg and the Competitive Enterprise Institute for defamation, a judicial action for which Mr.  Mann doubtless will receive from his persecuted colleagues yet another award, more plentiful in academia than snowflakes in a blizzard. Incredibly, the non-Stalinist D.C. Court of Appeals has not spiked the case and sent Mr. Mann to a frozen Gulag for gross impertinence.

Mr. Mann regaled the members of the House Science Committee with a story concerning false science. In Stalinist Russia, the crackpot theories of Trofim Lysenko concerning heredity and agronomy were embraced first by Vladimir Lenin and later by Lenin’s St. Paul, Stalin. In practice, the theories were ruinous, Russian agriculture suffered a setback, and real scientists who took issue with Lysenko’s theories were imprisoned, many of them dying in their cells.Mr. Mann’s reference to the evils of the Stalinist state were intended to indicate that science, even here in the good old USA, might suffer setbacks under an oppressive governmental regime and anti-scientific culture.

Stalin’s agricultural and industrial policies did produce real victims: five million Ukrainians suffered and died under a Stalin administered famine in 1933-34. Intellectuals and school teachers were shot or sent to the Gulag, and eventually Ukraine and the rebellious Caucasus were brought under Stalin’s hobnailed boot. “If you want a vision of the future,” said George Orwell, who was familiar with Stalinist regimes, “imagine a boot stamping on a human face - forever.”

 If you want a vision of our future in the new century, try to imagine a distinguished professor of climatology, the author of numerous books, who claims that climate change (AKA global warming) is “settled science,” that 90 percent of scientists in the United States agree with him on the point, and that he is being oppressed by Stalinists because other reputable scientists and commentators have had the temerity to disagree with him on the point. Furthermore, Mr.  Mann is the one using the organs of the state to sue his detractors for slander, hoping perhaps to shut down disagreeable commentators and bloggers who have poked fun at his “scientific” pretensions. Whose face is being smashed here? Is science, the lifeblood of which is controversion and disputation, the victim, or is the victim the tenured, much published, much honored, suit-prone but thin-skinned professor, who appears to be unwilling to brook controversy without taking science to court?

Mr. Mann’s slander case could be settled in an instant – the United States is not Stalinist Russia, and Mr. Mann’s disputants should be able to seek safe shelter under the nation’s 1st Amendment – were it not that most issues of this kind are settled out of court by a party to the suit that does not wish to be impoverished for the rest of his life by enriching lawyers. And so the case will drag on, and on, and on… until one of the principals has become poor enough to be unable to afford further litigation. This torture by judicial process is what passes for justice in 21st century America. It is the secret of U.S. Senator Dick Blumenthal’s many successes as Attorney General of Connecticut: if you can impoverish a target through the seizure of assets and endless litigation, you needn’t win a final case in court; after a few rounds, your target, now poor and much more reasonable, will settle the case more or less on your terms.


Leaving aside the all-important undetermined question -- who is right, and who is wrong about climate change? -- it should be relatively easy to determine, out of court, who is the victim and who the victimizer in this particular instance. Perhaps someone should revoke Mr. Mann’s victimization certificate.

ADDENDA

Mr. Mann's letter to the New Haven Register below appeared in the paper on 4/12/17.




Letter to the Editor: Don Pesci misleads readers about climate change






Don Pesci chooses to engage in childish attacks against both the science of climate change, and me personally in his recent letter (“The curse of victimology,” April 6) in the online edition of your paper.
Despite his insistence that climate change is not “settled science,” the scientific community has concluded otherwise. The U.S. National Academy of Sciences — created in the 19th century by Republican president Abraham Lincoln and hardly a den of political activists — has concluded that “most of the recent change is almost certainly due to emissions of greenhouse gases caused by human activities.” In the modern era of “alternative facts,” Pesci would like us to believe a handful of fossil fuel industry advocates, and right-wing commentators like himself, over the overwhelming consensus of the world’s scientists. For readers interested in the truth about climate change, I recommend my recent book, “The Madhouse Effect: How Climate Change Denial Is Threatening Our Planet, Destroying Our Politics, and Driving Us Crazy.”
Pesci gets the facts similarly wrong when he refers to my libel lawsuit against the National Review and Competitive Enterprise Institute. This case is not about scientific orthodoxy or freedom of speech. Just as the First Amendment does not permit one to falsely shout “fire” in a crowded theater, one may not falsely accuse a scientist of fraud in their professional work, which is precisely what the defendants did. Five judges and two courts have already rejected Pesci’s assertions. In fact, the latest ruling, from the highest court in the District of Columbia, dismissed the positions of the defendants that they were simply expressing their legitimate opinions about climate change, characterizing their statements as “noxious.” Now, it is time for a jury to decide.
— Michael E. Mann
Pennsylvania
Michael Mann is distinguished professor of atmospheric science and director of the Penn State Earth System Science Center at Penn State University.

_________________________

Mr. Mann is incorrect on two points: 1) his court case does affect freedom of expression, and 2) the column to which he has taken exception is not about climate change, as any perceptive reader may discover by reading it.  The courts Mr. Mann mentions ruled on procedural not substantive grounds; so, we'll see. Courts, in any case, are not well positioned to settle "scientific" questions. The criticism directed at him in particular concerned his own hockey-stick "theory," which has not yet been declared a "scientific law" by the "scientific community" -- which, by the way, supported the notion that the earth was flat and silenced Galileo on the point.  The point of the column above was not to decide the issue of climate change, but to question whether legal suits may suppress scientific inquiry. And Mr. Pesci, consulting the history of science, needs no community of like souls to assert positively that it does. All science is settled until it is unsettled by further scientific inquiry. A solution to carbon emission, when it does arrive, may be technological in nature. There can be no legal or political solution to carbon emissions short of outlawing CO2 the world over, which will not have a beneficial effect of vegetation in Pennsylvania, where Mr. Mann lives and breathes. Readers of this blog should pause and ask themselves what effect a libel suit pressed against Mr. Pesci for his “childish attacks against both the science of climate change, and (Mr. Mann) personally” might have on free inquiry in the New Haven Register. I am assuming Mr. Mann’s letter is not a prelude to a suit. The District of Columbia court decision may be found here: http://www.dccourts.gov/internet/documents/14-CV-101_14-CV-126.pdf






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