Michael ("Hockey Stick") Mann has reached the questionable conclusion that it's a good idea to sue Mark Steyn for defamation, thus setting up a public court battle over the truth of Steyn's allegations concerning ClimateGate. The quarrel grows out of Steyn's quotation from, and partial agreement with, an attempt to equate Prof. Mann with Jerry Sandusky, not on the subject of pederasty, but because the Sandusky affair calls into question the value of any internal investigation of the ethics of a poohbah at Penn State. Mann, you may recall, was formally investigated by the university in the wake of ClimateGate, a scandal that earned him the affectionate nickname of "Piltdown" Mann on AGW-skeptic sites. He received, if not a glowing vindication, at least a dim one -- an acquittal on three counts and a hung jury on the fourth. Given Louis Freeh's harsh assessment of Penn State's ability to police itself in the context of the Sandusky scandal, it's natural to wonder how vigorously the same university was prepared to scrutinize Mann's affairs. Penn State has not demonstrated a courageous willingness to embarrass any of its media stars or cash cows in the pursuit of doing what's right.
Mr. Steyn engaged in a bit of apophasis by quoting from another author's harsher article, then stating (without much conviction) that he didn't approve of its excesses in equating the two scandals. He is a humorist, and given to dramatic and ironic expression. He set a trap for Mann, who can't complain about the implicit equation of academic fraud with child molesting without continually drawing attention to the linkage himself -- which he's already begun doing, and on Facebook, yet. Without this squawking, how many people would even remember that Mann was at Penn State, like Sandusky, and that he once was cleared of academic fraud by a university panel?
I look forward to Mann's attempt to prove that Steyn said anything untrue about his scientific data management, a process that, complete with testimony under oath and discovery of emails, may be better calculated to shed light on the controversy than any prior internal investigation. What's more, as Pundit/Pundette pointed out, the last guys who sued Steyn for defamation not only lost, they set in motion a process that got the underlying Canadian libel statute repealed as an abuse of the freedom of speech in that country.