Notes and Notices

On art, architecture and design


"Merchants of Doubt" shines the light on lazy thinking

Posted by Carren Jao Pineda |

When I left the darkened movie theater showing Robert Kenner’s latest documentary “Merchants of Doubt” is based on the 2010 non-fiction book, I realized there is one valuable lesson my child would need to learn--to face the truth with courage and to do something about it.

In Kenner's documentary, many lobbyists and (sadly) scientists play on their audience's fear simply by casting doubt on an uncomfortable truth. They go to such extent that they even fund supposedly unbiased "citizen groups" such as Citizens for Fire Safety (backed by the three largest makers of flame retardants in the world) to back their case.

This doubt-casting technique provides that tiny, precious foothold one needs to avoid an issue altogether. It works scarily well.

Big corporate funders have been doing this forever, it seems. In the 50s, Big Tobacco scientific studies figured out that there were conclusive links between smoking and lung cancer, heart, disease and other diseases, yet their official press stance was that it "could or could not cause harmful effects. We don't know enough." I'm just paraphrasing, but the same statements crop up again today, in an age when global temperatures are rising and we're seeing a lot of anomalous weather.

While watching, I asked myself, "What would we lose by ensuring that we do something earlier rather than later?" Nothing. Corporate interests would lose millions, but as regular people trying to make the best decision for our future survival, we would lose nothing. We would, in effect, be playing it safe by acting as if climate change is real. Yet, we continue to talk ourselves into doing nothing, simply because it is an easier pill to swallow.

With that, I realized, I would like my child to be the kind of person who can think for himself and to act based on his findings. I would like him to realize, just like Chris Hardwick of the Nerdist that we "are warden rather than the prisoner of [our ]emotions. The interesting thing about our minds is that if we don't actively seize control of them, they default to autopilot." His message is beautifully illustrated here at Zen Pencils.

Yes, it is easier to do nothing, to let your immediate society dictate your beliefs, but at what cost? Our survival, our planet, how about our simple human dignity?


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