There is a line in “Cinnamon Girl,” a song by Prince that goes: What’s the use when the god of confusion keeps telling the same lie?
That’s the premise for Robert Kenner’s movie Merchants of Doubt.
The strategies used by the tobacco industry to convince people that smoking didn’t cause cancer and other diseases are being used by pharmaceutical companies, energy companies and oil companies today. They are being used to convince people, among other things, that global warming is not man-made.
Merchants of Doubt is a documentary that examines the people who spread the propaganda surrounding global warming. It examines the people who to try to stop the propaganda. Ultimately, it examines how the public falls for the same tricks over and over again.
Here is one of the strategies.
One of the arguments being used to prove that global warming is not man-made is that there is not enough data to determine what exactly is causing global warming. This is an infinite end-game. The tobacco industry used the same argument for decades, saying that data connecting smoking to cancer was not only inconclusive, but incomplete.
Oil companies and energy companies hire scientists to come to the same conclusions. The data that links global warming to high levels of carbon dioxide is never satisfactory. More studies need to be done. More factors need to be considered. More information needs to be collected.
Here’s the problem. When is there enough data? Scientists and researchers can collect data forever, and still reach the same conclusion, but it will never be enough. There will always be another theory to consider, more experiments to conduct, more data to collect.
The global warming debate has reached a point in which all data points to global warming be man-made. Yet there are still those who argue that other factors play a role, a major role, and that global warming is inevitable, despite all the man-made contributions.
But here’s the best part of the strategy: Those who argue global warming is not man-made do not want to win the argument.
This is another strategy used by the tobacco industry for decades. It never wanted to be right about the link between smoking and cancer, it wanted to keep the debate alive. As long as there was a debate, nothing was ever resolved.
This movie is a fascinating exploration of manipulation. Whether you believe global warming is man-made or not, you will be captivated by how easily the public falls victim to the propaganda. The movie points out how the public fell for the tricks before and how it is falling for it again.
This movie will make you think. If you’re looking for an escape from the real world, this movie is not for you. But if you are looking for a hefty dose of reality, this movie is right in your wheelhouse.
An awards qualifying run will begin on November 14 in Los Angeles and New York. Opens 2015.