Merchants of Doubt is arguably the most important documentary of the past decade, since Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth sounded the global alarm over climate change.
It’s not necessarily the BEST, mind you. But if you’re the type who’d let that fact get in the way of seeing a film that exposes a massive conspiracy to mislead humanity on issues regarding the health of our planet and its inhabitants, you’re precisely the sort of person who NEEDS to see Merchants of Doubt.
Based on the critically acclaimed book by historical scientists Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway, the film challenges you immediately with a satirical muckraking style designed to push your emotional buttons. Its central concept is that there is a cleverly coordinated plot, orchestrated by major corporations, to hoodwink the American public.
This massive global con game dates back decades, to when Big Tobacco companies used PR lies to convince people that smoking was not hazardous to their health. Internal documents later proved the companies knew that smoking caused cancer, lung disease and death, and intentionally misled consumers to believe otherwise simply by casting doubt on the scientific research.
Conway and Orestes, who is interviewed throughout the film, discovered that scientists Fred Singer and Fred Seitz (who worked on rocket science and the atom bomb, respectively) and conservative think tanks such as the Marshall Institute have “played a disproportionate role in debates about controversial questions.”
Privately funded by major corporations and conservative foundations led by billionaires such as the Koch brothers, these “merchants of doubt” have challenged and diluted the scientific consensus on the dangers inherent in smoking and pesticides, and the existence of the ozone hole and man-made climate change.
By discrediting the science, disseminating false information and spreading confusion, they’ve sown seeds of doubt that lobbyists used to convince Congress to oppose corporate regulations time and time again.
Meanwhile these unregulated industries bring rampant disease and death, raise medical costs and poison our planet’s natural resources. Singer (who is interviewed extensively) and his ilk don’t give a damn, as long as the corporations who pay them keep rolling in the profits.
If you know nothing about this historical hoodwinking, Merchants of Doubt will leave you shocked and feeling impotent and sad at our society’s inability to stop the world’s wealthiest 1% from raping and pillaging our planet with no negative consequences. If you do know all about it, you’ll simply be pissed off that more people don’t seem to care.
And unfortunately, director Robert Kenner’s (Food, Inc) damning evisceration of the people perpetuating this global con game is unlikely to be seen by the masses who need to be woken from their slumber and convinced to take action before it’s too late. –Bret Love
RATING: PG-13 (for brief strong language)
DIRECTOR: Robert Kenner
STUDIO: Sony Pictures Classics