For quite some time the American Left has been busy turning American law into a partisan political weapon. Various progressive factions have undertaken a disparate and uncoordinated but still ideologically homogeneous effort to criminalize dissent using the courts and statutory law.
Let’s look at some of the Left’s most prominent examples of lawfare to get an idea of how it works: how the law is used to squelch dissent, silence conservative voices, and punish incorrect opinions.
Mark Steyn and Michael Mann
Several years ago, conservative commentator Mark Steyn, writing at National Review Online, called global warming scientist and alarmist Michael Mann’s work on climate change “fraudulent.” In response, Mann sued both Steyn and National Review. That was in 2012; the case is still dragging on in a Washington DC court. Steyn has been vocal about the astronomical cost of fighting a years-long court battle; the legal battle also led to Steyn parting ways with National Review, for which Steyn had written for many years.
This isn’t Mann’s first lawsuit: he sued Canadian scientist Tim Ball for libel five years ago when Ball suggested Mann should be in prison for his role in the Climategate controversy.
Based on the Climategate e-mails, there are actually serious questions about the scientific validity of Mann’s work; the kind of rhetoric Steyn invoked was perfectly justified in light of those concerns. But Mann isn’t interested in restoring his good name (a name that was already rather sullied to begin with); he is interested in punishing Steyn and National Review with an endless, extremely expensive court battle that will discourage them (and others) from commenting on climate change in the future.
In addition to these and other instances of lawfare, there are several troubling indications that liberals want to expand the reach of vindictive lawsuits and law enforcement.
Global Warming and RICO
After years of alarmism and hysteria, climate change activists are dismayed to find out that the general public really doesn’t care all that much about global warming. Angry and embarrassed by the failure of the climate change campaign, liberals are turning towards a new tool to help quash dissent on the subject: lawsuits.
Last year Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse proposed using the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) to prosecute fossil fuel companies for “climate denial.” Earlier this year a professor from the University of Wisconsin argued the same thing. Multiple climate scientists subsequently advocated in favor of prosecuting climate dissidents. Incredibly, the U.S. attorney general signaled an openness to the idea.
These prosecutions haven’t yet begun. But they are gaining currency on the Left, and you can be sure this idea will continue to gain traction, especially if global warming hysteria continues to be ignored and alarmists humiliated by this lack of interest.