Michael Mann has been the subject of endless vitriol from climate change denialists who sling every negative word at him with no regard for its actual meaning. For example, he is suing National Review Online and one of its former writers for comparing his use of data to pedophilia. Debunking the latest manufactured climate science controversy, Mann objects to the misuse of the term “McCarthyism” by critics who are projecting their own behavior on him.

For example, an Attorney General attempted to subpoena all of one climate scientist’s personal emails based on accusations the scientist created fraudulent work with public funds. The Washington Post called it a “witch hunt.” The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) said the attack had “echoes of McCarthyism.” A climate scientist also came under scrutiny from the Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, a leading recipient of fossil fuel money whose intent was,according to the CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, “to discredit… rather than a search for understanding.” It too was called a “witch hunt” by the Washington Post. It was referred to as an “inquisition” by the New York Times.

If you know my story (as told in my book The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars), then you know that it is I who was the researcher at the receiving end of the harassment. So I hope you’ll forgive my lack of sympathy for Bengtsson, who complains of threats and McCarthyism yet has endured no formal inquiries or attacks from Capitol Hill, no death threats against him or his family (that I am aware of), nor any suspicious packages in the mail requiring FBI quarantine and testing. I guess I’m just lucky.

Mann’s science contradicts conservative orthodoxy and challenges some of the most powerful donors in right wing politics, but that is not a fight that Mann picked. Science is just science; the politics are created when we receive his science. Many conservatives simply cannot deal with empirical reality in a healthy manner, so negation and angry reaction overwhelm rational thought, and weaponized words lose their meaning. That kind of political environment breeds toxic behavior.