Michael Mann's The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines now out in paperback, is one of the best thrillers you will ever read.
There 's no blood or violence, but this outstanding work is an engaging "true crime" tale -- the crime in question being the unrelenting harassment of Mann after his research on human-caused climate change became a central part of the political discussion on the issue in the late-1990s.
Shortly after his research -- which featured an iconic graph showing a dramatic spike in worldwide temperatures in the last 150 years, a spike that came to be known as the "hockey stick" -- was published, Mann became the target of a coordinated effort by various fossil-fuel-industry front groups, many of which were connected to right-wing denialist billionaires Richard Mellon Scaife and David and Charles Koch -- to discredit his research. Political and legal assaults on Mann were launched by Texas Rep. Joe Barton (R) in 2005 and Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II (R) in 2010. In addition, Mann was smeared in right-wing media outlets after his emails were stolen from a server at the University of East Anglia and his writings on science were taken out of context in 2009. Mann was the recipient of relentless death threats and false allegations of academic and scientific fraud. Even after the integrity of his research was upheld repeatedly, representatives of the fossil fuel industry continued to bash him.
The descriptions of the extent to which Big Oil wanted to bury Mann are heartbreaking, terrifying, revolting. Describing the effort by the fossil-fueled right-wing to brand him a fraud after the University of East Anglia theft, Mann notes:
One front of the attack involved the sending of voluminous e-mail and phone messages containing thinly veiled threats of harm against me and my family. "You and your colleagues who have promoted this scandal ought to be shot, quartered and fed to the pigs along with your whole damn families," read one e-mail. Another read, "You should know the public will come after you," and "Six feet under, with the roots is were [sic] you should be doin [sic] your magic, how come know [sic] one has [edited] you yet, I was hopin [sic] I would see the news and you commited [sic] suicide."
Yet despite nearly fifteen years of psychological torture at the hands of those who see a financial threat in his research, Mann remains strong as ever, courageous as ever, unbought and unbossed. Mann has a survivor's spirit, one that allows him to keep going even after unhinged bloggers and fill-in talk radio hosts continue to scandalize his name.
Martin Luther King Jr. once talked of a "long and bitter, but beautiful, struggle for a new world." Mann's book is about a long and bitter, but equally beautiful, struggle for a cleaner and healthier world, one not contaminated by the moral scourge of carbon pollution. Mann's book ends on a positive note, noting the rise of a climate movement that is gaining the political influence necessary to challenge the fossil-fueled forces of distortion and denial.
Tennessee Williams once observed that "high station in life is earned by the gallantry with which appalling experiences are survived with grace." That's the story of Dr. Mann's life. He has survived the appalling experiences of the past decade and a half with amazing grace.
I don't know how Dr. Mann does it. I don't know how someone can survive such brutality and still be such a calm soul, filled with hope that the climate crisis can be resolved. He's a better man than I am, because if I had been the target of these grotesque assaults, I would shake with contempt for every last one of my persecutors. Had I gone through this experience, I would not have titled my book The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars. I would have titled it Not Ready to Make Nice.
The theft of the University of East Anglia emails (which remains unsolved), and the dishonesty of the right-wing media entities that exploited the theft, are covered in this 2011 video by Peter Sinclair of ClimateCrocks.com.
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