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The Independent Critic

Naomi Oreskes, Sam Roe
Robert Kenner
Kim Roberts, Robert Kenner
Rated PG-13
96 Mins.
Sony Classics

 "Merchants of Doubt" Released by Sony Classics 

There's something about Merchants of Doubt, a criminally underseen documentary, that should make you incredibly angry. Therein lies the problem - you probably haven't seen Robert Kenner's revealing and disturbing documentary.

Merchants of Doubt is a solidly researched and argued takedown of America's spin doctors, those professional liars, twisters, pseudo-scientists, and wordsmiths who've managed to muddy the waters of the scientific debate around global warming largely using well developed techniques created by the tobacco industry years ago that have proven to be still effective years later even if smoking rates have somewhat declined despite an almost universal acceptance of the actual dangers of smoking.

The film, which projects the sense of admiration for these perversely seductive professionals that many Americans likely feel in falling within their hypnotic charms, will nonetheless likely leave you feeling outraged, angry, or just plain hopeless.

While the film doesn't deal exclusively with climate change, Kenner does give the majority of his time to quite specifically pointing out the techniques used by the oil industry to stall efforts by the government to build a better public policy that recognizes climate change, The most fascinating part of the film is how Kenner constructs the methodologies that are used in great detail, though certainly there's no doubt he would receive some sort of official denial from those representing the organizations and corporations whose methods he essentially rips apart.

Kenner also nicely captures the scientific response to all of this growing awareness that spin doctors are having their way with what most scientists consider to be irrefutable evidence that climate change is caused by man's actions. The scientists, it would appear, believed that the facts would be enough to sway the public but, of course, we've learned that soundbyte social awareness often wins the day and spin doctors have mastered the art of the soundbyte. At a social justice conference I recently attended, there was even a workshop on media training - learning how to deliver your message in a way that recognizes this growing soundbyte approach to social justice, social issues, and issues impacting the American public. In response, scientists are now becoming just as skilled in debunking the debunkers and the real fight for the truth is unfolding.

Merchants of Doubt was given a limited arthouse run by Sony Classics, a run that was far too limited given the importance of the information provided. One can only hope the film will find a longer life on home video.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic