Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Merchants of Doubt (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

Merchants of Doubt

Robert Kenner's new documentary has enough villains to fill a Marvel comic storyline. Each stuffed shirt is a man most should love to hate. Consider noted conservative Fred Singer, a rocket expert who worked during the cold war, who denies that global warming exists but then backtracked to say that it may exist but man has little to do with it.

Then there is Marc Marano, a snarky frat boy type who personally attacks reputable scientists with death threats and happily says that he would continue to do it. "I get them a lot myself too," Marano chuckles as if playing a game.

As incredible and hard to fathom as this may seem,"Merchants of Doubt" is no Avenger epic.

Sadly it is all too real.

Many corporations from Phillip Morris to the Koch brothers have hired so called "experts" to speak pseudo-scientifically and dismiss physical reality, going against (according to the film) some 900 statements on the man-made cause of global warming.

To further combat science, these men gathered signatures from the science community and acquired a document of some fifteen hundred signatures.

But there was only one problem. Most of the signatures on the statement were not men of science at all, but fraudulent names, including Dr. Charles Darwin, Geri Halliwell (the singer Ginger Spice) and Michael J. Fox, the actor.

According to Marc Marano, the goal was not accuracy in investigation but only to plant doubt in the mainstream.

The most damaging aspect of this push is that it paints people of the scientific and environmental community as anti American communists, socialists and "those against democracy."

To paint science in this way, not to mention the intellect, creates a toxic and insidious poison.

Albeit disturbing, Robert Kenner makes it all palatable with entertaining segments, including a moment from The Twilight Zone depicting a parallel world, and bits from the illusionist Jamy Ian Swiss.

To see this gallery of rogues is to be stupefied. Many of them change hats, at once working for a climate think tank and then the tobacco industry. All that matters is one kernel of doubt as if from genetically modified corn.

Encouraging though it is to see that conservative bedrocks Bob Inglis, John McCain and Newt Gingrich have now embraced the validity of science, much like the tobacco industry has, in finally admitting the danger of cigarettes and the knowing addiction of nicotine.

Politically and culturally, according to Bob Ingles, the heart of this fight is a "fear of change" As the senator asks, "what do we do when our culture is wrong?"

As if in answer, perhaps it is appropriate to recall the words of Neil deGrasse Tyson who once said that "science is true whether you believe in it or not."    

The final sting at the end of "Merchants of Doubt" is that Gingrich, McCain and John Boehner while at first concurring with the reality of science, now say that they "don't know".

As Naomi Oreskes (on whose book the film is based) says, "we can imagine that these men will arrive at science like the tobacco industry did...it took fifty years...with the environment we don't have fifty years..."

Suffice to say, it is earnest that if we do not take the real conservative choice and change our cultural orbit, all of us on this planet will be much worse than watermelons, we will most certainly be cooked to death, regardless of our right or left polarities.

Write Ian at ianfree1@yahoo.com

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