Merchants of Doubt – Book, Movie, Action

Merchants of Doubt – Book, Movie, Action

When Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe threw a snowball onto the senate floor on March 2nd 2015, he was using a classic technique – create a sense of uncertainty around science and its roll in decision making by using simple and contrary (typically false) facts delivered via entertaining/compelling tactics to deceive and distract audiences.

I’ve been working on environmental communications for more than 20 years and when I read Merchants of Doubt, the book by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway, it provided me with new insights into the worldviews of political and business leaders who oppose environmental progress and the approaches they use.

Today, the Merchants of Doubt movie is being released in Los Angeles, New York and St. Petersburg and it is a must see for climate and environmental communicators. Directed by Robert Kenner, who is known for the powerful Food, Inc., Merchants of Doubt not only promises to be riveting but if it delivers on the key themes in the book, will also clearly illustrate the deception tactics employed by tobacco, chemical, fossil fuel and other industry associations and the people in power they pay the bills for; and how these tactics are repeated again and again. By understanding these patterns, we can begin to develop new approaches to framing rather than fall into the same traps that have been set for decades.

This is critical for climate communications because while the ongoing manufactured debate around climate change science may be losing some steam (for example, the media coverage around the IPCC and NCA reports released last year was more productive than in the past when we saw Climategate), it is still a major factor holding back progress. Yale and George Mason Universities show that while most Americans trust climate scientists, they are unclear on whether scientists agree with one another.

Merchants of Doubt is not just a movie. Participant Media, the Poynter Institute, Columbia Journalism Review and the Omidyar Network have joined together to create a training program for journalists, educators and students on how to identify misinformation aimed at distorting scientific truth and influencing policy and debunk it. Climate Access is excited to partner with this effort to provide the training to our members. Check out the movie and stay tuned for the training!

image via (cc) flickr chiawalla