2014, Movies

Merchants of Doubt (2014, Robert Kenner)

This is a compelling film about how corporations and lobby groups use pundits to undermine scientific consensuses that would otherwise hurt their profits. The film examines the bag of tricks both the tobacco industry and the oil industry have used to fool the American public about both the short and long term health risks of the use of their products, including making the conversation about economics, not science, and outright lying about scientific studies and consensus.

For most of its run-time, it’s also remarkably balanced for a message film. Sure, it’s clear what size these filmmakers have taken, but they have gone to pains to interview people from the “other side.” That’s impressive.

Unfortunately, the last part of the film, in its attempt to be inspirational and drive action on Climate Change, likely fails to connect with anyone who entered the film believing what the corporate-funded pundits say, rather than what scientists are saying. Though I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, and it featured an insight that was relatively new to me as a serious position – namely that many people are attacking the scientific consensus on Climate Change because they were brought up in the Cold War and fear a return of Stalinism, something I thought only my boss and people like Alex Jones believed – I think the ending undercuts any hope that the film will change minds. The first two thirds I believe to be fairly persuasive, but that ending…

Anyway, if you’re already wary of pundits pretending they’re on TV for the public good, you will like this movie as it preaches to you. If you are a “climate skeptic” you might be able to handle the majority of the film, though you would likely believe it biased. Unfortunately, the ending will make you feel as though it’s just more “liberal propaganda” and you will continue to contribute to the eventual transformation of the planet to something unrecognizable.

Ah well, I won’t be here.


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