Atlantic shocker: Senior editor Clive Crook fabricates another quote to smear Michael Mann

The Atlantic‘s Clive Crook has written the most embarrassing and libelous piece published by the media, “More on Climategate.”

The fact that the Atlantic continues to allow him to make up stuff and print it (without fact-checking) for the sole purpose of smearing Michael Mann — after the editors were informed of the libelous errors in the first piece — calls into question the editorial judgment of the entire magazine.

Both of Crook’s pieces should be taken down from the web, and he should issue a huge, public apology to Mann.  Indeed, I think he owes Mann the courtesy of a phone call apology, too, since he has now written two falsehood-filled smear jobs on Mann without even bothering to try to talk to him.

Two weeks ago I wrote, “The Atlantic’s Clive Crook needs to retract his libelous misinformation and apologize to Michael Mann.” I pointed out a bunch of untrue assertions he made about Mann.   Crook now acknowledges some of them, sort of — but he doesn’t even go back and correct the original post!

At the time I thought he had fabricated a quote when he wrote, falsely:

Three of four allegations are dismissed out of hand at the outset: the inquiry announces that, for “lack of credible evidence“, it will not even investigate them.

Of course, the allegations weren’t “dismissed out of hand.”  Mann had been exonerated of them in the first investigation, as I noted.

I can’t find the phrase “lack of credible evidence” anywhere in the second inquiry (or first, for that matter, the one Crook seems to suggest he was aware of even though his entire first post suggests otherwise).  Crook fails to identify where in the inquiry it came from, so I assume he can’t.  I challenge him to do so, especially since in his new post he makes a major fabrication whose sole purpose is to smear Michael Mann.  Two fabrications would make a pattern.

As we will see, this latest fabrication is so extreme it goes beyond what even extremists like Virginia AG Ken Cuccinelli have done in their effort to defame Mann.  Here is what Crook writes:

You be the judge. Read the reports and see if you find the inquiry convincing. I’d draw your attention especially to the finding that deals with “the trick to hide the decline“. On this, the first report says:

While a perception has been created in the weeks after the CRU emails were made public that Dr. Mann has engaged in the suppression or falsification of data, there is no credible evidence that he ever did so, and certainly not while at Penn State. In fact to the contrary, in instances that have been focused upon by some as indicating falsification of data, for example in the use of a “trick” to manipulate the data, this is explained as a discussion among Dr. Jones and others including Dr. Mann about how best to put together a graph for a World Meteorological Organization (WMO) report. They were not falsifying data; they were trying to construct an understandable graph for those who were not experts in the field. The so-called “trick” was nothing more than a statistical method used to bring two or more different kinds of data sets together in a legitimate fashion by a technique that has been reviewed by a broad array of peers in the field.

Well. It seems to me, and I dare say to other open-minded readers, that the talk in the emails of a “trick to hide the decline” raised the reasonable suspicion that a trick had been used to hide the decline. “[T]o the contrary,” says the report. The “trick” has no connotation of trickery, but merely denotes a “statistical method”. Striving to keep a straight face, let us accept this. What about “hide”? Is it all right to employ a “statistical method to hide the decline”? Why was anybody trying to “hide the decline”? (One response might be: because the data which showed the decline were unreliable. Fair enough, but then this rather casts doubt on the whole series, doesn’t it, not just on the part that shows a decline?)

I am not competent to discuss the science, and do not pretend to be. But here is what I see when I read the “trick” email and then the report. An explanation is required. Mann’s account strains credulity, yet is readily accepted. No contrary opinions are sought or heard. On this basis the report finds “no substance” in the criticism.

Romm is entirely satisfied by this rigorous “investigation”. Fine. I disagree with him.

The screenshot is here.

Anyone who follows this issue — and that should certainly apply to a journalist who is so obsessed with Mann he goes after him a second time after botching the first attack — knows the e-mails don’t contain the phrase trick to hide the decline.”

A serious journalist — or magazine — would check his facts or contact Mann before writing such trash, especially after being called out for failing to check his facts or contact Mann the first time!

But Crook isn’t serious.  He claims to be of “moderate opinion” but his phony line of attack isn’t being pushed by moderates.

As it so happens, the Union of Concerned Scientists points us to exactly who is pushing this disinformation.  In a July 1 article, “Ken Cuccinelli Makes Basic Factual Errors About Mike Mann’s Research, Stolen Emails in Response to UVA,”

On June 11, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli formally responded (pdf) to the University of Virginia’s request that he drop his demand for documents related to climate scientist Michael Mann’s research. The response is riddled with inaccuracies, according to an analysis by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), and undermines his case for obtaining documents pertaining to Mann’s work at the school….

First, Cuccinelli incorrectly attributes a characterization of another scientist’s research to research conducted by Mann. Cuccinelli wrote:

“”¦[V]arious statements or methods have been attributed to Dr. Mann including the fact that he developed a ‘trick’ in order to ‘hide the decline”¦.‘ “

But the latter phrase from the emails did not, in fact, refer to Mann’s research. Those phrases were in an email from scientist Phil Jones, who ran the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia. It was Jones who described an aspect of Mann’s work as a “trick.” Later in the same email, Jones also described an aspect of scientist Keith Briffa’s research, calling it “hide the decline.” Cuccinelli wrongly attributes this description to Mann’s work. Given Cuccinelli is specifically investigating Mann, his inability to distinguish between references to Mann and Briffa is an egregious error.

And if Cuccinelli made an egregious error, what precisely should we call what Crook did?  While Cuccinelli may be an anti-scientific extremist– see Virginia AG mocks dangers of CO2, telling Tea Partiers to hold their breath and make the EPA happy and Nature rains on Cuccinelli: “The University of Virginia should fight a witch-hunt by the state’s attorney general.” — at least he didn’t fabricate a quote.

For the record — and for people like Crook who admit they are not competent to discuss the science but insist on doing so — the reason I and so many others are “entirely satisfied” on this issue is because we know it has been investigated to death.  As UCS explains in the very next paragraph:

Second, Cuccinelli’s response continues to cite those two phrases of technical jargon out of context. Both phrases, and the science they reference, have been thoroughly examined. Multiple investigations have found that the phrases are informal references to techniques used in climate change research that were publicly known and available at the time of the emails. Investigations by, Penn State University (pdf), the U.K. Parliament and an independent investigation commissioned by the University of East Anglia have concluded that climate contrarians have taken these phrases out of context and misrepresented climate science. In any case, reviews of Mann’s research and other climate reconstructions have confirmed Mann’s basic conclusions.

Crook can try to pretend that this isn’t about the science, but in order for him to challenge Mann and every single independent body that has looked at this, he is, in fact, claiming to be more of an expert on the science than they are.

Indeed, back in December (!) Nature magazine itself wrote:

The stolen e-mails have prompted queries about whether Nature will investigate some of the researchers’ own papers. One e-mail talked of displaying the data using a ‘trick’ “” slang for a clever (and legitimate) technique, but a word that denialists have used to accuse the researchers of fabricating their results. It is Nature‘s policy to investigate such matters if there are substantive reasons for concern, but nothing we have seen so far in the e-mails qualifies.

Shame on Crook for fabricating quotes and misrepresenting the facts in order to keep harassing Professor Mann, one of the nation’s leading climatologists or certainly the most exonerated.

Shame on the Atlantic for continuing to publish this libelous work after being warned what Crook is up to.

If the magazine doesn’t take these posts down and issue a blanket apology to Mann, I would suggest the professor sue for libel.  Crook’s false charges easily meet the tough legal standard for determining whether a major media outlet has defamed a public figure “” that the publisher had “knowledge that the information was false” or that the information was published “with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not.”  The Atlantic was warned what Crook was doing, but they continue to let him publish unedited, unfact-checked falsehoods.

The magazine’s reputation is on the line here.  This is a far more serious matter than the first post.  Many would consider this a firing offense.  At a minimum, the Atlantic should require Crook’s columns to be fact-checked line by line, as their print magazine was when I wrote a piece for it in 1996.

If you want to send letters to the Atlantic’s editor, James Bennet or to Scott Stossel, Editorial Director, Atlantic Digital, it’s not terribly hard to figure out their e-mail address from the masthead.


Like many people with closed minds who have drifted further right from the center-right, Crook asserts he is “open-minded” and, later on, of “moderate opinion.”  He asserts that merely supporting some unspecified carbon tax makes him so, even though Bjorn Lomborg and ExxonMobil also do.

In fact, Crook is beyond close minded, and far beyond moderate.  Not only does he make crap up to smear climate scientists without interviewing them.  But, as I noted, his first piece is titled, “Climategate and the Big Green Lie” but the use of the harsh phrase “Big Lie” to smear the greens  is never defended.  The term is very strong,  as Wikipedia explains,

The Big Lie (German: GroŸe L¼ge) is a propaganda technique. The expression was coined by Adolf Hitler, when he dictated his 1925 book Mein Kampf, for a lie so “colossal” that no one would believe that someone “could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously.”

Anyone reading that headline would think Crook is going to layout some elaborate and colossal case against  environmentalists (or whoever the “greens” are –  Crook never says, but at points he seems to conflate “greens” with climate scientists).  The  best he can do is quote the rarely right Walter Russell Mead:

The Big Lie is that the green movement is a source of coherent or responsible counsel about what to do [about global warming].

But that doesn’t come close to the level of a “Big Lie,” assuming it is even a lie at all.   Every group thinks they are a source of coherent and responsible counsel about what to do about the policy issues they care about.  It is absurd to call that a “Big Lie.”  It renders the term meaningless.  He goes on to say:

He’s right, of course, that the green movement is not trusted as an adviser on what to do. So what? Its counsel on policy is not required.

This is what passes for open-minded at the Atlantic Monthly:  Falsehood- and fabrication-filled smears on climate scientists and a rejection out of hand of any possibility that environmentalists should be listened to on policy.

30 Responses to Atlantic shocker: Senior editor Clive Crook fabricates another quote to smear Michael Mann

  1. MapleLeaf says:

    Does Crook even know what they were referring to when they refer to the “decline”? Does he know about the divergence problem in the dendro chronology?

    I am willing to bet that Crook believes that they were trying to hide the decline in the instrumented temperature record. Right Mr. Crook?

    I would also argue that these libelous and fanciful “articles” have been solicited by someone. I would like to know who that person or group is who is pushing this BS?

  2. Colorado Bob says:

    More stuff that’ll make us all sick –

    Toyota touting climate deniers to sell luxury hybrid cars

  3. BB says:

    I wonder if Cook, upon learning that the real email says:

    Dear Ray, Mike and Malcolm,
    Once Tim’s got a diagram here we’ll send that either later today or
    first thing tomorrow.
    I’ve just completed Mike’s Nature trick of adding in the real temps
    to each series for the last 20 years (ie from 1981 onwards) amd from
    1961 for Keith’s to hide the decline. Mike’s series got the annual
    land and marine values while the other two got April-Sept for NH land
    N of 20N. The latter two are real for 1999, while the estimate for 1999
    for NH combined is +0.44C wrt 61-90. The Global estimate for 1999 with
    data through Oct is +0.35C cf. 0.57 for 1998.
    Thanks for the comments, Ray.


    …I wonder if he feels the thrust of his original missive using “trick to hide the decline” will be blunted. My guess is ‘no’ (wrong in reality or not). On the particular point about his suspicion generated from that phrase, I bet he would feel confident re-releasing the same opinion with the correct phrase.

    (I only suggest this to say that claiming he got the actual quote wrong– in part because he was missing ellipses, may be hair-splitting, because what he really wants to say would still be said with the correct quote and attribution).

    But yes, a journalist shouldn’t be making this sort of mistake. He should also clearly be more targeting other people (like Phil Jones) more than Mann, with regard to this specific quote (though I think Mann did support the use of this so-called ‘trick’).

    [JR: But he didn’t use ellipsis because he doesn’t actually do any research and not even Cuccinelli did.]

  4. Bob Doublin says:

    Scott STOSSEL?!? Is he any relation to JOHN STOSSEL,liar supreme?

  5. Hugh Mann says:

    Joe, what is not to understand here?

  6. Dano says:

    See, BigFossil wins if they get Mann to stop working on climate papers and get distracted by libel suits, which will cost the college much money and time and lower educational quality fighting deep-pockets lawyers.



  7. Matto says:

    Another great uber-evisceration of a libelous disinformer! Pretty fitting that they guy’s name is “Crook”. Mr Crook, where pray-tell do you see Mann say anything about “hiding the decline” in this e-mail: ?

    Denial ain’t just a slowly shrinking river due to climate change in Egypt, Mr. Crook.

  8. I think I am repeating myself here:

    This is the Climate Denial Machine in action and Clive Crook is an active participant, not a real journalist anymore.

  9. “I am shocked, shocked.”

    Why, pray tell?

  10. Mike says:

    [JR: But he didn’t use ellipsis because he doesn’t actually do any research and not even Cuccinelli did.]

    They did to do research. They got the wording from some denier blog. That passes for research (in some quarters) these days.

  11. Ani says:

    It seems to me, after reading his article, is that his defence for writing an article like this is that he is not smart enough to understand the science. Maybe his readers think that’s a good reason to be a denier or a requirement to work for conservative pub but the logic escapes me.

  12. Bill Logan says:

    I can’t believe this is still an issue. I studied physics and most of senior year was about learning the necessary “tricks”. You do long computations to solve mechanics problems and then you find you can solve the problem in a few simple lines if you know all the tricks. I remember the Hamiltonian equations being introduced as a trick we will find helpful, then feeling like choking someone for waiting that long to teach that particular trick. I don’t know where Mr. Crook went to school or what he studied, but if no one showed him the “tricks of the trade” in his particular discipline, he should get his money back. If anyone is still confused about what was being referred to as a decline, after it has been explained so many times in so many forums, they are willfully and deliberately ignorant.

  13. Mike#22 says:

    “I am not competent to discuss the science, and do not pretend to be.”

    “Romm’s absurd ferocity shuns that very segment of moderate opinion that needs to be brought round to…”

    –Clive Crook

  14. Ani says:

    Congrats to Prof Mandia for being threatend by monckton. It seems its becoming a badge of honour among the educated.

  15. Doug Bostrom says:

    Hey Joe, speaking of fabrications here’s a heads up that some wag by the name of Tom Fuller is over on RealClimate claiming you’re encouraging the use of some “black list” to deny funding, tenure, the right to have children, etc. to rogue scientists. To wit:

    The Joe Romm’s of this world have already called for this list to be used to deny funding, tenure and grants to scientists.

    Specimen bottled here.

    This Fuller fellow apparently is prepared to trade his credibility for a cheap shot, behavior usually found behind disposable pseudonyms.

    Please feel no compunction in deleting this. I just thought you might want to correct the record at RC (on the other hand when did facts ever matter to the cognitive dissonance set?).

  16. MapleLeaf says:

    Now if Mr. Crook really wanted a legitimate scandalous story then he should read this:

  17. Whatshisname says:

    Earlier this year Atlantic fell over itself running to the rescue of a ghost-busting, saucer-chasing, climate change denier whose career as a syndicated radio talk show host was put on the ropes by a tiny discussion thread of wise-cracking fact checkers. Should this same magazine be sued for trying to attack Dr. Mann or given a rim shot?

  18. Lewis Cleverdon says:

    Crook has been allowed by Atlantic to trail his coat a second time, and more brazenly. Given that the mag will have lawyers on hand, this has to be intentional. How is Atlantic’s circulation these days ?

    If there’s no legal challenge, the odds are that Crook will be encouraged to go further.

    Dr Mann might be well advised to hold fire until he can see the whites of their eyes . . .



  19. Joe, you are really having an effect. You are the best and loudest voice out there right now, so they are likely finding it expedient to go after Mann as per usual and have noticed that this also has a side benefit for them, which is to get you to spend your valuable time on it.

  20. re: #19

    Oh yeah buddy — follow the money. Have a look at the circulation numbers, numbers of ad pages, financials if available.

    It is all about money.

  21. Mark says:

    it is often said that scientists are not communicating well enough.

    If the individual here as been libelled, why doesn’t he consider demanding an apology?

    and If one is not made, why doesn’t he institute legal action? I think some help must be available for his costs. If the climate lobby has millions to spend on the senate, why not help this guy out.

    That would be one very effective way of putting an end to this kind of crap. Maybe the only way.

    And a scientist at University of Victoria has done that, sued the National Post.

    I wish a few of these other people would do the same.

    It’s the only way to shut these people up. there doesn’t seem to be any other solution.

  22. john atcheson says:

    Cook is a neoclassical economist — an ardent believer in what Paul Krugman referred to as the “freshwater economists.” These people don’t believe in the tooth fairy, but they do believe in an even more improbable fable — that markets are perfect and market failures don’t occur. And they believe it with a fervor and faith that is more religious than empirical.

    Global warming — as Sterns noted — is the largest market failure in history. If one is a freshwater economist, one must either work to discredit global warming or change one’s view about economics.

    Changing would be akin to a religious conversion — it is rare, and gut wrenching for those who have been led to believe they have the tools to explain all the complex workings of society.

    So it’s no wonder he is on the attack. The mystery is why the once proud Atlantic magazine is following him into this absurd tilt at windmills.

    While most magazines are doing well, the Atlantic will shrink and die. Their readers will not tolerate such shabby editorial work.

    Perhaps they believe the faux balance issue that wrecked the NYT and the Washington post is a winning strategy, perhaps they have no scientific capacity to tell them how stupid they are …

    Either way, my subscription will not get renewed.

  23. Re: #4
    Scott Stossel is John Stossel’s nephew. John refers to Scott as his “lefty nephew,” however:

  24. anon says:

    Thanks Joe for your hard work. Whenever I plan on donating to the CAP or even reading thinkprogress, I consider your efforts.

  25. Deep Climate says:

    Speaking of accusations of fraud in climate science:

    While we’re waiting for John Mashey’s magnum opus on the Wegman report (and believe me, it is well worth the wait), let’s take a look at what Edward Wegman and his protege and report co-author Yasmin Said have been up to recently (again, a big hat tip to John).

    The Interface Symposium (an annual statistical computing conference dating back to 1967) held its 2010 edition in Seattle June 16-19, with Wegman and Said as program chairs. And what a program it was!

    The Interface 2010 home page lists an alphabet soup of co-operating organizations, but the leading one of those is clearly the American Statistical Society. In fact, grant support is listed as follows:

    * ASA Section on Statistical Computing
    * ASA Section on Statistical Graphics
    * NISS (National Institute of Statistical Sciences)

    Remember that one of the conference co-chairs, Yasmin Said, accused climate scientists of “the willingness” to “bend the peer review process” and “destroy data”. And one of the invited presenters, Don Easterbrook, goes further and accuses climate scientists of outright scientific fraud:

    “The fraud is (1) faking data, (2) changing climate data to make it appear warmer, (3) lying about Himalayan glacier retreat, (4) deliberate suppression of data that doesn’t support CO2 as the cause of global warming.”

    How can the ASA allow itself to be associated with, let alone give financial grant support to, such a symposium?

    Also more dubious scholarship, with a round up of apparent plagiarism found so far in the Wegman Report:

    More to come next week … what a disgrace.

  26. Jeffrey Davis says:

    Talk of contrarians “believing” this or that assumes that they’re in good faith, and there’s no reason to suspect anything of the sort.

    “Some will rob you with a six gun and some with a fountain pen”.

  27. Clive Crook writes:

    “I am not competent to discuss the science, and do not pretend to be.”

    The first part is certainly true, and the second part is an out and out lie.

    Conveniently, he drags out “hide the decline” without bothering to discover what it is — something that is hidden in plain sight, published in Nature (I think) for all to see, many years ago. And gee, data from real thermometers are available for the time period in question — boy, scientists sure can hide that kind of thing.

    Hey Clive, why don’t you write an article on George Schultz and how he thinks fossil fuels are polluting and causing climate change?

  28. Shall we put Clive Crook up there in the Academy of Ephemeral Letters inhabited by his peers Crichton, Monckton, Lomborg, Pielke père and fils, and Lindzen?