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I recently viewed this 2014 movie, rented from Netflix, called “Merchants of Doubt,” after it received highly rated reviews. It deserves those plaudits. In both an informative and entertaining way, it presents the facts about the deception practiced by polluting industries, leading with the tobacco industry which laid the groundwork for methods used by others, including more recently climate change deniers. It compares it with the deception practiced by a card trick performer, the only difference being that the latter is honest about his deception.
A two minute trailer is on-line at ‘Merchants of Doubt’ Trailer (2015)2:01’Merchants of Doubt’ Trailer (2015), but neither that nor this blog, nor “Merchants of Doubt” Part 2 which follows, really do justice to this movie.
After an introduction by an expert demonstrating a card trick, the movie begins by describing the tobacco industry’s deliberate tactic of creating doubt about the dangers of secondhand smoke (SHS), and how that was finally countered by science, helped by highly secret and damaging industry documents leaked anonymously to Dr. Stan Glantz at the University of California, Berkeley.
Glantz describes how he’s initially treated as a virtual pariah, with clips from one TV show in which he participates and is confronted both by a belligerent smoking host, and someone denying the dangers of secondhand smoke, whom he confronts head-on with study after study.
Here are screen shots from this segment of the movie together with a transcript. The host starts off by saying:
“What in the world is so wrong about smoking in the workplace. I mean, I smoke in my job every night and I’m not hurting anyone.”
Stan Glantz (SG) replies“That’s bullsh*t!” getting bleeped while arousing a strong audience reaction.
Cut to SG being interviewed for the documentary:
“One thing you’ve got to be willing to do when you’re doing science that is not in the interests of these giant corporations: when people come after you for baloney reasons you’ve got to be willing to stand up to them.”
As Glantz plonks another study on his lap, the opponent holds up his hand:
“WAIT, WAIT, HOLD IT.”
Back to Glantz, again being interviewed for the documentary:
“We spent a long time banging our heads up against the wall because these guys are rich, they’re politically powerful, and they’re mean.”
Glantz commentary: “But when you went to policy makers or media to talk about how dishonest and manipulative they were, people would kind of think you were a little paranoid delusional.”