The now-classic book “Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming” has been made into a must-see documentary. The impeccable story-telling, clever visuals, and existentially important theme-make this an instant classic.
I guarantee that even the most jaded climate hawk will be both shocked and entertained by this film — and I say that as someone who has seen way too many climate documentaries. Also, this may be the perfect movie to bring one of your fence-sitting friends to.
Predictably, the climate science deniers featured in the movie have been looking “to file lawsuits against those exposing their actions,” as Scientific American has reported.
I say predictably because the climate science deniers have devoted their lives to obfuscating the truth of the greatest preventable threat to humanity — and trying to intimidate climate scientists and others from communicating to the public the increasingly dire nature of the situation. They are like the huckster Wizard of Oz crying, “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!” — if the wizard were backed by the fossil fuel industry and trying to persuade Dorothy and her friends to block efforts to save Oz from dangerous pollution.
Here is the movie trailer — which I’m posting even though it doesn’t do justice to a movie worth seeing for its production design alone:
The movie is never going to do very big box office numbers because it is only going to be shown at a very limited number of theaters nationwide (see full list here).
The movie exposes many deniers, including cyberbully Marc Morano. Morano was recently Sen. Inhofe’s key climate staffer, and before that Rush Limbaugh’s “Man in Washington,” and before that, the guy who helped launch the Swift Board smear campaign against John Kerry during the 2004 election.
Morano is admittedly a bit player now who runs a low-traffic website (ClimateDepot) with 20th-century levels of social media, but he has found his “niche” in the denial ecosystem — harassing scientists. On his website he publishes the email addresses of pretty much any climate scientist who dares to publish actual peer-reviewed research explaining climate science and the potential dangers of unrestricted carbon pollution.
Climate ethicist Donald Brown, who has been the focus of Morano’s “reprehensible” tactics four times, called it “sheer intimidation.” In 2012, highly-regarded MIT climatologist (and Republican) Kerry Emanuel — another Morano target — wrote me, “I had heard about the hate mail and threats received by others, but am surprised at how little it takes these days to trigger hysterical and hateful responses from the ideologues out there.” Emanuel explained that some emails contained “veiled threats against my wife,” and other “tangible threats.”
What you see firsthand in the movie is that Morano is gleeful and jocular about his pernicious tactics. He explains with a smile how much he enjoyed devising new strategies to “mock and ridicule” climatologists, while working for Inhofe.
In actuality, cyberbullying of climate scientists is no laughing matter. And contrary to Morano’s claims, he has repeatedly called for violence. He infamously said of climate scientists, “I seriously believe we should kick them while they’re down. They deserve to be publicly flogged.”
The movie entertainingly exposes several other deniers. And it is framed narratively and visually with an extended metaphor about how magicians are “honest liars” because, unlike deniers, they tell audiences they will be deceiving them. That is narrated by the incomparable sleight-of-hand magician Jamy Ian Swiss (see movie clip here).
But ultimately it is the exposé of the shocking tactics of the “Merchants of Doubt” that make this such a valuable contribution. If you didn’t know that the tobacco industry saw firefighters as a “potential threat” and developed strategies to “neutralize” them — “clip here — then this is a movie you need to see.