This is one of those moments: I want to grab everyone I know and say, you MUST see this movie -- Merchants of Doubt. Made by the director of Food Inc., and based on the remarkable book by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway, the documentary shows exactly how a small, well-trained group of PR people crafted a massive campaign to confuse Americans about climate change -- Democrats and Republicans alike, all the way on up to President Obama. "We can't attack the science," says one, knowing that the science is overwhelming in its warnings about global warming. "So we're attacking the scientists."
It's all on film -- there was no deception in getting the interviews. How the deniers adapted the techniques from the campaign that paralyzed smoking regulations for fifty years, using lawsuits and lying under oath while lung cancer claimed one life after another. How they did the same thing with flame retardants. And then did it again to suppress, distort and deny information on climate change. They knew: all they had to do was confuse the public to protect the profits of the fossil fuel industry.
Truth usually outs, in time. But we don't have time, not with global warming. We have to slow carbon and methane emissions, now -- the window is closing, and soon we will be seeing irreversible and extraordinarily dangerous consequences of temperatures that are higher than they have ever been in human history.
After the screening, director Robert Kenner told the stunned audience that one of the most able disinformation campaigners bragged to him about just how good he was: "I could stand a garbage man next to climate scientist Jim Hansen in front of a camera -- and make the American public believe the garbage man on the science."
South Carolina Republican Bob Inglis has the final word. He lost a political race when he dared to say that climate change was real, and we had to do something about it. He tells us why he took a moral position to stop denying the science. It is all about his children, and grandchildren. About doing the right thing.
As the credits rolled by, I noticed that this moving, powerful film was produced in part with the generosity of Omidyar Networks -- as in Pierre Omidyar, the brilliant creator and chairman of eBay.
But eBay is a member ALEC, an organization that is playing a huge role in the very disinformation campaign this movie exposes. How is this morally defensible? eBay is lending them its halo of respectability, betraying its own core values. It is time for eBay to withdraw from denier machine ALEC.
Fair is fair, though: a huge thank you to Pierre Omidyar -- and everyone else involved -- for bringing to the screen the story of the most immoral, dangerous and effective PR campaign ever foisted on the American people.
Put Merchants of Doubt on your must-see list!
Photo: Merchants of Doubt