My erstwhile fellow Canadian, Conrad Black, does not hold the American justice system in particularly high esteem. Depending on one’s perspective, one may or may not agree with him.
However, if one values the principle of freedom of the press, one would be hard put to disagree with Black’s take on the ludicrous lawsuit of Mann vs Steyn (or any of Michael E. Mann‘s other “free speech for me, but not for thee” lawsuits).
Here are some selected excerpts from Black’s views but do treat yourself and read the whole thing (all emphases are mine -hro):
THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MARK STEYN
In America we should be free to call a spade a spade.
The debunking of formerly oracular Global Warmer and proto-Gorite Michael Mann should have been a routine matter, conspicuous only for the skill and originality of the polemicist involved—I mean Mark Steyn, of course.
Steyn, a friend of mine for many years, cited Simberg’s piece in a post for National Review Online and added a shower of causticities of his own:
But what has made this case a cause célèbre is not just the prominence of the protagonists, particularly Mark. The bench-clearing brawl that has ensued in the media between partisans on either side, and the antics of the first members of the judiciary who have opined, have all raised the stakes. But the real ante-upper has been Steyn himself, who has, quite rightly, taken this ludicrous defamation suit for what it is: a referendum on American justice and the state of free expression in this country.
Steyn has already written a bestselling book bewailing America’s decline into moral and fiscal bankruptcy. For so powerful a writer and indomitable an exponent of heartfelt views, the Mann affair could scarcely fail to escalate into something more than an exposé of the crooked timber of Mann’s hockey stick.
In the fifteen years since Mann stepped onto the rink with his stick in hand, data suggests that there has been no change in world temperature. Over the last seventy years, temperatures have risen by about one degree centigrade. But the alarmists, who have embarrassed themselves with their “end is nigh” scenarios, are unrepentant. Unsurprisingly a great deal of scorn has been heaped upon the whole global warming fraternity (and I for one have not entirely succeeded in resisting the temptation to join in the fun). But these jabs are generally endured as fair comment, especially in the United States. Mann’s lawsuit, then, is (to continue the sports analogy) something of a last stand by a group of struggling players at the crease in front of their goalie.
Steyn has mocked, as well he might, Mann’s unctuous swaddling of himself in his supposed status as a “Nobel Prize recipient.”
At this point, Steyn took the tompions out of his heavy-gage guns and bombarded the serried ranks of be-robed sacred cows on the American bench. Apart from appealing the decision (unsuccessfully), he impugned the judge’s intelligence and pointed out factual errors in her judgment. It was a refreshingly robust response, doubly refreshing because of the free lunch the entire American judiciary has long enjoyed in the media and public opinion. While the president and Congress have been rightly chastised for their incompetence, and at times, their venality, the bench has soldiered unassailably on for decades, tacitly assumed by almost everyone to be condign and virtuous.
In fact, as is becoming notorious, American justice is in a shocking condition. Too many judges in the U.S. are elected; too many are ex-prosecutors; the battle over capital punishment has taken all the air out of the room in which the infamous severity of American sentences and the unspeakable lopsidedness of prosecutorial success should be debated.
At one point Steyn began filing motions on his own behalf—the best written court documents you may ever read—that drip with disdain for the judicial process. He quotes Lady MacBeth and describes various pieces of the case using phrases such as “multi-car pileup,” “zombie-like,” “Potemkin hearing” and “meretricious folderol.” It would have been equally unreasonable not to foresee that the authorities upon whom his withering fire descended would not resent this deserved if unaccustomed hostility, and whatever one may think of Mann, he cannot be faulted tactically for trying to tuck himself under the wing of an affronted legal establishment.
That does not justify Mann’s infliction of the hockey stick upon the world […] any more than it whitewashes Mann’s own insults. He has dismissed the immensely respected Danish scientist and intellectual Bjorn Lomborg as “a career fossil fuel industry apologist”; Judith Curry, co-editor of the Encyclopedia of Atmospheric Sciences and an honored member of the National Research Council’s climate research committee, as a “serial climate disinformer”; Australian journalist Andrew Bolt as a “villainous” threat to the planet who is paid by Rupert Murdoch “to lie to the public” (Mann apologized for this one after Bolt—in solidarity with Steyn—threatened a lawsuit); and the rest of us as mere “climate change deniers.”
When the dust settles, the failure of Mann’s thrashing swipes will only make Mark Steyn loom even larger as a free-speech crusader. Recall the circumstances of his struggle with the human rights apparatus of Canada, which attempted to enforce a Pleasantville ban on any group disparagement. In 2007 his commentary was the subject of human rights litigation by Muslim groups in three Canadian jurisdictions. He prevailed after a bruising battle.
Mark Steyn has displayed in the Mann case similar courage and principle, fighting a battle for freedom of expression in keeping with the greatest traditions of the West and of all democratic countries. He must succeed as he soldiers on against the evils of oppression slouching in the dark corners of the tenebrous American legal system. Many of his seeming friends have slunk out the back door into the tall grass, as they always do, especially when the law gets involved. (I have some experience of this.) He is paying counsel himself, even doing his own legal work where he can. Yet he remains jaunty. If not a Happy Warrior, he is at least a stoically determined one.
As well he should be. Mark Steyn, National Review, and CEI must win.
As I noted above, do treat yourself and read the whole thing!