Mark Steyn is an Idiot

I noticed Mark Steyn has a new piece in which he says he is “content to let Mr Shollenberger have the last word, in the unlikely event he ever gets around to it.” Since it’s clear no resolution is possible, I’m content to make a final comment and leave things unsettled. That comment is: Mark Steyn is an idiot.

This all began when Steyn wrote a post which said I believe the lawsuit against him should go to court then said:

(Shollenberger rests this belief on the quaint assumption that Mann has been “cleared” by “eight different investigations”.)

I e-mailed him to inform him I neither believe nor assume Michael Mann “has been ‘cleared’ by ‘eight different investigations.'” I didn’t think much of it. I figured he’d just say I gave the impression I do believe that and maybe add a note at the end of his piece saying I don’t agree with that description.

That obviously didn’t happen. Steyn published my e-mail in a new piece, disagreeing with me. That drew attention to the issue, and I wrote a public response. A number of people then started saying things like:

It’s possible to pick the people that the spotlight naturally shines on, and those that go searching for that spotlight as a desparate play for relevance. Don’t be the latter.

So I pointed out I had contacted Steyn privately to try to resolve our disagreement. It was Steyn’s decision to draw a lot of people’s attention to this issue. I couldn’t understand why I should be accused of trying to draw attention to myself when I chose to try to resolve things privately.

Steyn responded. For the first time, Steyn actually addressed a comment to me. He didn’t do that when I wrote to him saying he had misunderstood. He didn’t do that when I wrote a post saying he had misrepresented me. The only time he deigned to address a comment to me was when I pointed out I had contacted him privately.

I don’t get that, but what’s really troubling is his comment explains why he published my e-mail, something nobody needed to know. He was sent an e-mail about one of his pieces, and he published it. That’s completely unremarkable. Nobody had expressed any displeasure with it being done, yet he concluded:

I took that as you “indicating” you “wanted” your “communication” “made public”, as you were already making public your dissatisfaction with my unresponsiveness to you. So I published your communication in full.

Thus I am surprised to find you are now claiming the same copyright in your letter to me as the University of Queensland does in cease-and-desist letters to you. Have you retained Dame Jane Malloch, QC as your solicitor?

Leaving aside Steyn’s typical, exaggerated rhetoric, this comment is absurd. Steyn portrays me as having complained about him publishing the e-mail I sent to him. I hadn’t. He’s just making that idea up in order to smear me. Anyone who possess basic reading skills could tell the difference between:

“I contacted him privately.”
“I wanted him to keep our communication private.”

I said the former. He painted me as saying the latter. This was the one time he actually responded to me, and his response was a pathetic smear based upon nothing but misinterpretation of a simple sentence.

I don’t know why Steyn resorted to such an obvious fabrication to insult me. Maybe he knew what I said and just figured people are too dumb to notice his lie. Maybe he didn’t know because he can’t read. Maybe he’s just so arrogant he assumes anyone disagreeing with him must be a moron.

I don’t know. I don’t care. I’m happy to make the last word on this subject:

Mark Steyn is an idiot.



  1. We used to call these flame wars. Decades ago they seemed to based on the fact that one or more of the parties involved can’t read and process the information and the an·o·nym·i·ty of the exchange. Now it seems anonymity is not important but the inability to understand one another is the core of the problem. The two of you SHOULD be allies. sigh…
    (Not taking or expressing a opinion for one side or the other, just wish it had not happened.)

  2. You two are a classic case of two somewhat big mouthed personalities, basically on the same side, who are also a trifle careless in phraseology, and then get into it.

    My mother would have thwacked both of you

  3. Brandon, FWIW – now that I’ve read your previous post (and all 100+ comments) – the view from here, so to speak, is that you seem to be digging in your legalistic and literal heels over:

    a) a claim you initially made (to the effect that Mann deserves his day in court); and, perhaps more importantly from your perspective

    b) Mark Steyn’s (from my perspective) almost parenthetical “throwaway” – in which he factually erred, perhaps because he simply was not familiar with the work you have done via your extensive documentation of Mann’s contributions to the demise of his own reputation! Or perhaps this was simply his somewhat sardonic way of directing other readers to your work!

    But in his initial post (to which I gather you have taken rather extreme exception), my reading was that Steyn was far more interested in, concerned about, and supportive of your actions in exposing Malloch’s bullying ineptitude.

    Hell, he even followed your lead on this and replicated and advanced your efforts!

    Can you step away from your position – and arguments – for a moment, Brandon, and put yourself in Steyn’s shoes … or at least at his keyboard? 😉

    P.S. Also FWIW, I do differ from both Mark Steyn and Steve McIntyre on Cook et al‘s “97%” paper; and while I’m not sure that it’s worth the effort you are/were (sorry, haven’t followed up on that thread yet!) contemplating, as I had noted on my blog, I’m more concerned about ERL’s elevation of this mediocrity to the status of “ERL’s ‘Best article of 2013′” – particularly in light of their subsequent dismissal of Bengtsson et al.

    To my mind, there is something radically wrong with this picture (and ERL’s “standards”)!

  4. Hey Hilary Ostrov, thanks for your comment. I’m afraid you’ve misunderstood the situation a bit though. I didn’t take “extreme exception” to what Mark Steyn said in his original piece. His comment was, as you say, a parenthetical throwaway. I wanted it corrected so people didn’t think I actually support Michael Mann’s actions, but I wasn’t overly concerned about it. I figured it was just a minor mistake caused by my writing being unclear.

    I didn’t get upset in the slightest until Steyn doubled down on his misrepresentations of me. His response to my e-mail was inexcusable. There was nothing extreme about my reaction to it, but I’ll admit I took some offense at him choosing to ignore what I wrote in order to mock me based upon further fabrications.

    I get Steyn’s situation with this lawsuit sucks. I can’t put myself in his situation though. I cannot imagine any situation where I’d so flagrantly misrepresent what someone says as he has (such as the example in this post). Honesty and accuracy mean too much to me. In fact, they mean everything to me. I don’t really care how rude or obnoxious someone might be if they’re honest and accurate.

    That’s what this comes down to. I made a sincere effort to analyze a situation in an objective manner. I got criticized because some people didn’t like my conclusions. That’s all.

    And that’s wrong.

    Honesty and accuracy are everything to me. Without honesty and accuracy, everything goes crazy.

    That’s why this world is insane. People choose selfish desires, willful delusions, over reality. I can’t do that. I’d rather be lonely and unliked. At least then I could live with myself.

  5. I don’t get it, why would call him a idiot? Shouldn’t you consider the other person psychological status, instead of calling him a idiot for misintepreting? Sometimes people make mistakes of judgment, and first impressions are important.

    I cannot imagine any situation where I’d so flagrantly misrepresent what someone says as he has (such as the example in this post).

    Your imagination is too shallow. Either you should take Steyn’s reaction as normal, even if you think it is wrong, or kill yourself. You might not like this world.

    In Mark Steyn articles, one thing you didn’t say to readers your, Brandon, was that you weren’t the article’s main issue. He probably doesn’t have time to make a analysis of every single climate blogger he cites to make 103% accurate articles. He uses his preconceptions as shortcuts to avoid sideline work (like reading your blog, btw, you shouldn’t think others have the obligation to read everything you ever wrote just so they can mention you). You might think this isn’t cool, but you shouldn’t calling someone else a idiot for that. Time is more important than accuracy, you are taking Steyn’s error too personally. (you called him willfully obtuse, a idiot, you have now made a rant about you personal valuation of “honesty and accuracy”). I wonder how many of your readers bothered to go to Steyn’s site.

    Where did Steyn stated that you believe that “Mann has significant amount of evidence to win the case”?

    Obs: I hope than when you said that honesty and accuracy is everything to you, that you aren’t meaning that literally.
    If a serial rapist forced you to say where is your partner hiding, would you be honest? Accurate? (2º Obs: I’m not trying to make any analogies, I’m just showing you should express yourself better.)

  6. An third obsevation:
    You are article A Rare Agreement With Michael Mann, is filled with counterfactual reasoning, known for being highly obtuse. A person skimming that article might think that you believe that the exonerations are valid. It is perfectly acceptable.

  7. For many years I kept a small piece of paper beneath the glass cover on my work desk upon which the following anonymous saying was written:

    “Gardening seems the only sensible thing to do when you become wise enough to realize that you can’t do anything about other people…”

  8. Daniel G., it sounds like you think it “is perfectly acceptable” to publicly claim a person believes something based solely upon skimming a single article. If that’s correct, we have an irreconcilable difference.

    Then again, suggesting I commit suicide probably indicates we have a lot of irreconcilable differences. As does suggesting hypotheticals where a person I care about would be raped.

    That hypothetical actually amuses me because the answer is, I would definitely answer honestly. I can’t imagine any reason to lie if someone asked me where my partner was hiding given I have no partner.

    Maybe I’m not the one who should express himself better.

  9. Your smirk doesn’t disprove any of my points. At best, you have refuted one. RE-READ my comment, as you are directly replying to me.

    Look that I have nothing against you, if you want to skim my comment and publicly claim I believe something, but that only puts you in a unfavorable position. (keep in mind I’ve never said that Steyn’s mistake doesn’t put him an unfavorable position with respect to yourself)

    Let met repeat one of my points: The fact that your article, positing a opinion different of Steyn, agreeing to Michael Mann, used counterfactual reasoning, not known for being straightforward, and that I person skimming it would think that you believe the exonerations are valid. You’ve been unable to refute that.

    I apologize for making a (quite large, but ignore that, please) mistake: by perfectly acceptable, I mean perfectly understandable.

    I state here, simply put: He should not have misrepresented you.

    But If you see above, I asked you to comprehend Steyn’s situation. Apparently, you haven’t done that, I repeat myself, at least try. Calling him a idiot is exactly what is unacceptable.

    Sometimes, people say inaccurate things to others, so I attempt to create a absurd situation where you’d agree that it is acceptable for something inaccurate to be said. Well I failed, but let’s think about… Einstein. Let’s say I write a book about photography. Would it be that bad if I attribute to Einstein something he probably never said? Is it really that bad?

    First I’ve never said or insinuated that you should express yourself better. Second, irreconcilable is a funny word, after all, what is your motivation for saying that? I have to say it’s quite entertaining to see yourself in the defensive, while my argumentation remains intact.

    Brandon, even though most of your readers are not idiots, so it is expected that they see (in the case I’m wrong and your are right about inrreconcilability) the overt flaws of my arguments or the obvious falsehood of my premises. It seems that it’d be useful if you left that aside and gave me an serious answer.

  10. Daniel G., if you want people to give you serious answers, it might help to not suggest they kill themselves. Similarly, it might help not to offer hypotheticals where people they care about would be raped.

    So long as you feel it reasonable to comment in such a crass manner, I see little reason to give you a serious answer. I see no reason when you combine that crassness with outright fabrications. For example, you just said

    I’ve never said or insinuated that you should express yourself better.

    When your last comment specifically said:

    I’m just showing you should express yourself better.

    Though for what it’s worth, at least by completely making things up, you got me to RE-READ your comment. Perhaps it’d help if you tried the same.

  11. You said that it would be crazy if couldn’t be always honest and accurate. Why would you want to live in a crazy world?
    I’ve explained that I tried to give an absurd example. It might not be the nicest thing that I could do, but what warrants you to call Steyn an idiot? Can you sleep knowing that you are completely ignoring someone who is being honest?

    Ok, this is not outright fabrication, as you cited me with no context at all. When I said that “I’m just showing you should express yourself better”. I wrote that in the context of you writing about your personal values. Not matters as it is just an side remark. But you put your “Maybe I’m not the one who should express himself better.” as generally speaking. I don’t think that is correct, as your postings are generally clear.

  12. Daniel G., I wrote a post explaining why I called Mark Steyn. You haven’t addressed the explanation. You haven’t even commented on the example of the post, instead focusing entirely upon one from a previous post. Despite that, you claim I am “completely ignoring someone who is being honest.” Hypocrisy aside, I haven’t even ignored anyone.

    You then claim I am somehow taking a remark of yours out of context because your comment following it it was referring to something else. That’s weird. You said I should express myself better. I responded, scoffing at your remark. You responded to my scoffing by denying having ever told me I need to express myself better. There was no opportunity for the context to change. There was also nothing to indicate the context was ever what you now claim it was.

    As for why I shouldn’t kill myself, how about I answer your question with a question of my own. Even if I did want to kill myself, why the hell would you tell me to do it?

  13. I have more respect for Mark Steyn than most. So this post of yours has caused me to lose most respect for you. You appear to be a narcissist, obsessed with whether he addressed you directly or not, in private or not, publishing your letter or not, and all sorts of other details, for no apparent reason. Get over yourself.

  14. Brandon,
    You should amend your last word. It does not put you in a good light, and it misrepresents the situation.
    You may soon be entering into a situation where you will need more true friends of free speech.
    There are far too few true friends of free speech and Mark Steyn is one of those friends still standing.
    Steyn has played this sort of drama all the way up the ladder in the past and has won by sticking to his guns.
    I admire you, have given and will give more to you if the need arises, and urge you to carefully consider what I and others have offered you as friendly counsel.
    Sincerely and respectfully,

  15. hunter, I think “idiot” is a perfectly appropriate word for someone who did what I show in this post. I don’t think it puts me in a negative light at all. Mark Steyn either willfully misrepresented what I said, or he simply wrote a lengthy, critical response to a simple sentence without even trying to comprehend it. That’s bad. It becomes stupid when you realize that’s the only time he’s responded to me.

    I’ll happily change my tone if somebody can show me Steyn’s comment was remotely justifiable. Otherwise, I’ll call him an idiot for behaving like an idiot.

    As for the issue of friends of free speech, if insulting someone makes them not support you in your rights, they were never a friend of free speech in the first place. I may think Steyn’s reactions to me were pathetic and idiotic, but I wouldn’t hesitate to support his rights to free speech for a moment.

    Heck, I’d do the same for Michael Mann if the roles were reversed.

  16. your problem is titling your post as being in agreement with mann. there is nothing to agree about with him. he has lied about virtually everything in his court filings. why would you even bother going there?

  17. This all began when Steyn wrote a post which said I believe the lawsuit against him should go to court then said:
    (Shollenberger rests this belief on the quaint assumption that Mann has been “cleared” by “eight different investigations”.)
    I e-mailed him to inform him I neither believe nor assume Michael Mann “has been ‘cleared’ by ‘eight different investigations.

    What you did say is that Steyn should have to go to trial
    However, unlike Steyn and most of his supporters, I believe this case ought to go to trial.

    On what basis?
    As I said at The Blackboard, I’m inclined to believe the judge ruled properly in not dismissing Michael Mann’s lawsuit. The relevant standard for libel in this case is “reckless disregard.” From the St. Amant ruling, we know a finding this standard was met requires:
    There must be sufficient evidence to permit the conclusion that the defendant in fact entertained serious doubts as to the truth of his publication. Publishing with such doubts shows reckless disregard for truth or falsity and demonstrates actual malice.

    What proof is there the defendant Steyn had serious doubts, according to you?
    “Michael Mann’s lawsuit claims eight different investigations by legitimate bodies of authority found he had behaved properly. That claim, plus the idea his work is widely accepted and replicated, provides the foundation for his case. I believe his claims, if true, would permit the conclusion Mark Steyn entertained serious doubts about what he published.”

    Michael Mann’s lawsuit claims eight different investigations
    I believe his claims, if true, would permit the conclusion Mark Steyn entertained serious doubts about what he published.

    If true? Guess what? The judge (falsely) BELIEVES that Mann had been cleared and that those investigations had vindicated Mann. She didn’t dismiss the case (Which you AGREE WITH her letting it continue) on the very basis that Mann HAD been cleared.

    You AGREE with the Judge’s ruling that states Mann has been cleared by eight different investigations.

    from the legal website Volokh conspiracy:
    While a direct accusation of scientific fraud may be actionable, challenges to scientific conclusions and interpretations of scientific studies are clearly protected by the First Amendment. So are erroneous interpretations of scientific conclusions. Yet according to Judge Combs-Greene, to call someone’s work “a sham or to question his intellect and reasoning is tantamount to an accusation of fraud (taken in the context and knowing that Plaintiff’s work has been investigated and substantiated on numerous occasions)”

    Judge Combs-Greene places substantial weight on the fact that Penn State and other institutions investigated and cleared Mann’s work.

    Yet it is the alleged inadequacy of Penn State’s investigation that were the focus of the very posts at issue. It cannot be that once some official body has conducted an investigation of an individual’s conduct, that further criticism of that individual, including criticism that “question[s] his intellect and reasoning” is off limits.

  18. Rick Spung, you can’t hope for a meaningful discussion if you think there is nothing you could possibly agree with Michael Mann about. Making things that “us” vs. “them” does nothing but hinder dialog and ruin conversations.

    I acknowledge when somebody is right, no matter how I feel about them as an individual. That’s the only way a true dialog is possible.

  19. liontooth, I fished your comment out of moderation, but I’m not going to try to read it all. I have little interest in reading a comment which uses quotes extensively yet does nothing to set those quotes apart. It’d be too much of a chore to try to figure out what parts of your comment are actually you speaking.

    That said, one thing did catch my eye:

    You AGREE with the Judge’s ruling that states Mann has been cleared by eight different investigations.

    The judge did not rule that, and I did not agree with anybody that it had been done. Your misunderstanding might be connected to the fact you say:

    Judge Combs-Greene places substantial weight on the fact that Penn State and other institutions investigated and cleared Mann’s work.

    When that judge isn’t on the case, and hadn’t been for a while after I wrote my post. My post discussed a ruling by Judge Frederick H. Weisberg.

  20. “When that judge isn’t on the case, and hadn’t been for a while after I wrote my post. My post discussed a ruling by Judge Frederick H. Weisberg”.

    The case should have never gotten to Weisberg, that’s is the entire point. It ONLY has because of the convoluted and false logic of Judge Combs-Greene.

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