Merchants of Doubt: Urgent Call to Arms about the Fast and Furious Climate Change

documentary_blackRobert Kenner’s intelligent documentary, Merchants of Doubt, raises many timely and relevant concerns and discusses them in an unusually articulate manner to the point where even if you do not know much about climate change, corporate politics, and the tobacco industry, you still feel the urgency of the issues.



Based on the 2010 book by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway, the docu suggests that there’s only one way of looking at the evidence–or hard facts based on systematic investigation, as my sociology teachers at Columbia University used to say while instructing about the value of empirical research.

Corporate spokesmen, such as Steve Molloy or Walker Merryman, can still claim that, “There’s no evidence pesticides are harming us,” and “there isn’t a scientific consensus” on how damaging tobacco is.  But who would believe them.

The feature’s apt title, “merchants of doubt,” is based on the erroneous and calculated notion that there is need for “further study.”  This ambiguous philosophy helps to delay government action and also convince lay (and lazy) citizens like me that there is no real reason to be worried.

The film’s central figure is Jamey Ian Swiss, a manipulative man whose specialty is how to deceive for as long as possible.

Tobacco companies rely on men like Dr. David Heimbach of “Citizens for Fire Safety,” a funded agency whose purpose is to lie to politicians about the status of the case.  We also meet Bill O’Keefe, who serves as president of the George C. Marshall Institute, actually operates as a well-paid lobbyist for Exxon Mobil.

James M. Taylor of the Heartland Institute is an expert witness, with dubious scientific knowledge, and Mark Morano is a shrewd guy who attacks and threatens reputable scientists in a rather personal manner by (ab)using his website and manipulating his  readers to write or take action about issues they have no knowledge whatsoever.

The “merchants” are pseudo-scientists who present themselves as courageous men.  Quite shockingly, not all of them are motivated by greed or money. Fred Singer and Fred Seitz dispute empirical findings on the dangers of acid rain, tobacco, and climate change, based on their opposition to any government regulation and their strong conviction in the merits of “healthy” capitalism.

However, the vast majority of scientists who have been warning that man-created climate change is dangerously real and realistically dangerous go out of their way to show that environmental and ecological issues apply to all us, rich and poor, young and old, men and women–and, yes, Republican and Democrats.

Angry in tone as one would expect, Merchants of Doubts is an excellent companion piece to An Inconvenient Truthdemonstrating the reaons why no change–moderate or radical– has occured since Al Gore’s significant documentary of a decade ago.