Merchants of Doubt

Rated: PG-13

        I’ve already told you how much I love documentaries. I would gladly watch one a day if I had the time. The problem is in finding out about them in the first place. Documentary film makers don’t typically have the money or the man power to advertise the way that traditional films do. If they did I’m almost sure that at any given time there would be at least one documentary in theaters nationally. Unfortunately though, that lack of funds and people means that although there are an endless number of wonderful documentaries out there on any subject imaginable, most of them are only seen by a few people. (In this case I use the term “a few” a little lightly. I merely mean “a few” as in WAY less than the millions of people traditional films bring in.) Of course, sites like are helping to eliminate this problem, to an extent anyways. But then there’s the problem of how to get the word out about the crowdsourcing campaign. I suppose with the myriad of problems these film makers face it’s a wonder that any documentaries are released at all, ever. I am so very glad that they can overcome these hurdles and get their films out there though. I truly feel that the lives of us all are so much richer because of it.
        What Robert Kenner and Erik M. Conway attempt to do with
Merchants of Doubt is pull back the curtain to expose pundits-for-hire, and the industries and groups that hire them, in order to present the pundits as experts and scientific authorities on a wide variety of issues. The pundits then travel around giving talks and interviews in an attempt to skew solid data, public opinion and science that may go against what the industries want us (the public) to think.
        Although there are countless issues that industries use these pundits-for-hire for, this film takes a closer look at the three issues of tobacco use, fire retardants and climate change.  Kenner and Conway use the tobacco industry as the benchmark for propaganda and spin that they then compare the other two issues against. The funny thing to me is that many of the same people that attempted to put a positive face on the tobacco industry in the Fifties are still being hired to speak out against solid science and data, but in other industries.
        This is one of those documentaries that on the outside seems purely informative. What I mean is that by the end of it you’ve gathered all sorts of information about how industry creates their own disinformation and propaganda, but yet you will probably feel like there’s nothing you can do about it.  As in many of the better documentaries these days, the film makers have got you covered. Just before the credits role they present ways that you can help to change these misleading and damaging practices.
         But, for those who want a more passive experience and simply want the information this film has to offer it’s still well worth the time it will take you to watch it.

Merchants of Doubt is rated PG 13, was written and directed by Robert Kenner and Erik M. Conway. It features interviews with Naomi Oreskes, Bob Inglis, James Hansen and many more. Its available now on Blu Ray, DVD and digital download.