by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Jonathan Adler recently documented for the Washington Post’s “Volokh Conspiracy” blog the latest developments in a lawsuit pitting high-profile climate alarmist Michael Mann against Mark Steyn, National Review, and the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
Of particular interest to this reader was the concluding paragraph, which should give pause to any pundit or partisan who relies more on insults than sound arguments.
The climate policy debate is quite heated. Partisans hurl charges against each others with impunity, challenging the honesty, intelligence, and integrity of those on the other side. So it’s understandable that many environmentalists hope Mann will win. Yet should he prevail, many on his side may come to rue this result. Should Mann win, it will not be long before defamation suits are filed in the other direction. Every time an environmental activist suggests someone on the other side is “bought” by fossil fuel interests, they had better be able to substantiate their claim, or they will be inviting a lawsuit. And while it would be nice to have less ad hominem in our political debates, and more serious discussion of climate policy in particular, the threat of defamation suits is not a good way to achieve this result.