Dealing in Deception

Film Recommendation 

Merchants of Doubt (2014)

How Special Interests Buy Doubt

I watched this documentary again last night, and it’s still amazing! What the writers and filmmakers were able to expose is truly impressive. Merchants of Doubt is based on the book (same name), written by┬áNaomi Oreskes and Erik Conway. The story covers the marketing and confusion peddled by the fossil fuel industry. The goal of these marketeers is to sow deception around man-made climate change and buy the fossil fuel industry more time.

This is primarily (but not uniquely) done by creating controversy around the topic of global warming. Those that profit from the fossil fuel industry (see The Koch Brothers), spend vast sums of money on influencing both public opinion and national policy.

These special interest groups channel enormous amounts of money, sponsoring spokespeople and making substantial payments to key influencers. This aggressive lobbying helps maintain the status quo, obstructing key legislation that might be relevant to public health or environmental action.

Climate Change is Real
Click for more on the UN’s Latest Climate Change Report (Oct 2018).

As Real As It Gets

Most educated people are keenly aware that climate change is real. There is no controversy! Humans have clearly changed the face of the planet. What’s more, we have impacted it in ways that are creating increasingly dire repercussions. There really isn’t any doubt about it.

You can’t expect to cut millions of trees, burn copious amounts of fossil fuels, and release multitudes of chemicals into the atmosphere daily, and not expect it to have adverse effects on our very unique life-supporting systems (learn more about The Interconnected System). It’s fairly logical even before looking at all the overwhelming scientific consensus.

Despite the cloud of deception, the danger is very real.

Welcome to the Danger Zone

The documentary covers the transition of corporate denial in tobacco companies (despite said companies being blatantly aware of the evidence), as they sought to mask the harm that their products provoked. This was also true for a number of chemical companies (flame retardants for instance) and is currently true for the fossil fuels industry.

Rather than argue the science head on, they learnt that they need to merely sow doubt and deception. With the public caught up in all the noise, they need not even bother with the science at all!

Snake oil salesmen where infamous for dealing in deception.
Snake oil salesmen were notorious for their use of deceptive marketing.

Masters of Deception

To perform this nefarious task is a crew of well-paid commentators. Their goal is to slow down and immobilize any climate change action. The film clearly demonstrates that many of these debilitating orators happen to be the very same people that had spoken up for the cigarette and chemical (flame retardant) companies. These are the deception dealers.

Truly an enlightening documentary! The information was very clear and unpleasantly startling. It’s somehow both alarming and unsurprising to learn that there are these manipulations in play. The delivery made it abundantly clear. Indeed, the film itself does a nice job of playing with the analogy between magicians and these purveyors of doubt and deception. It makes for a slightly less dire format given the material. I highly recommend watching it.

For more on the film, book, or research, click here.


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