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such a nasty woman | by maryann johanson

Merchants of Doubt documentary review: capitalism kills

by MaryAnn Johanson

Merchants of Doubt green light

Opens our eyes to the PR sleight of hand that huge corporations deploy to protect their profits when facts and science aren’t going their way. Enraging.
I’m “biast” (pro): I know that reality has a liberal bias

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

I have not read the source material

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

The merchants of doubt are the people you see on your TV, sadly shaking their heads with derision and condescension at the scientist on the other side of the split screen attempting to boil a complex issue down to a snappy soundbite (and failing). They are the people who took the playbook that Big Tobacco used for half a century to stonewall the public on the deadly impacts of smoking, and are now using it to prevent real action on global warming. Filmmaker Robert Kenner opens our eyes to the public-relations sleight of hand — a metaphor put to good and entertaining literal use here — that huge corporations deploy to protect their profits when the facts and the science aren’t going their way. You will be enraged to see the TV footage from the 1970s, 80s, and 90s in which highly paid shills dance around the science of tobacco using the very same language we now see highly paid shills use to deny that climate change is an issue we should be worried about. Based on a book by historian of science Naomi Oreskes, this is an infuriating expose of the corporate con game, from the phony grassroots organizations set up to combat anything that threatens profits to the attacks on individual scientists and activists when they can’t knock down the facts. And as Oreskes, who appears here, points out, just as once you see how a card trick is done, you can’t unsee it, you will see these tactics everywhere in our public discourse. It may turn you into a person who yells at the TV (if you aren’t already). And you won’t be able to unhear the inevitable horrifying conclusion Oreskes underscores about the connection between Big Tobacco and Big Everyone Who Profits From Fossil Fuels. Capitalism killed smokers. Will it eventually kill us all?

green light 3.5 stars

Merchants of Doubt (2014)
US/Canada release date: Mar 06 2015 | UK release date: Dec 12 2104

MPAA: rated PG-13 for brief strong language
BBFC: rated 12A (infrequent strong language)

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

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  • Froborr

    And remember, global warming is just one of three major ongoing environmental disasters-in-the-making, along with declining availability of fresh water and biodiversity loss. And of the three, it’s the one with the largest body of supporting evidence, a clear, singular primary cause, and a straightforward (albeit politically and economically difficult) solution.
    We are seriously fucked.

  • BoogerSnacks

    One major problem is comment sections on legitimate news websites. The cbc in Canada (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) has enlisted these spin doctors so that any person commenting against specific interests has the content disabled. Especially when one complains about the censorship taking place. One follows the guidelines but if someone debunks an article.. content disabled..

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