Casting Light on the Dark Side of Politics

How to Create Doubt

greenhouse-gasTonight marks the final formal debate between the two presidential candidates and I’m asking my students to consider the question: How do we create doubt?

When you listen to the debate and hear arguments about “truths,” how are the truths created?

Some filmmakers examine the question in Merchants of Doubt, a 2014 documentary that peels away the layers of truth-construction between scientists and politicians.

The film artfully shows how truths are manufactured.

I’ve dusted off my blog from last October to revisit the film because truth-construction will crystallize in tonight’s debates.

 The  documentary Merchants of Doubt knocks down lies one by one.

And then the film knocks down assumptions, one by one.

But it’s hard to know what’s worse: the lies we tell each other, or the lies we tell ourselves?

Merchants of Doubt shatters the first lie by exploring the scientific, peer-reviewed studies about global warming.

Wide-spread rumors that scientists disagree is actually false.

Nearly all scientists agree that the earth is warming as a result of human activity.

So when the movie-makers decided to explore the science published about global warming they found no disagreement: no one had published in peer-reviewed journals a study that challenged the fact that we are wrecking the planet.

Once the lie crumbles, what’s left to deny?

If the science is right, then why do folks cleave to their beliefs that the globe isn’t warming?

According to one view examined in Merchants of Doubt, folks simply don’t want to part with their political beliefs.

Several of the opinion leaders interviewed for the documentary dispute climate change on political grounds.

For example, Paul Gallo, a talk-show host in Mississippi, questions how any conservative can share a belief with a liberal.

“To me every fiber in my body is saying [if] you’re a conservative, you can’t believe this,” Gallo says about climate change.

“I don’t believe humans are creating this—and neither do a vast majority of climate scientists.”

And neither do die-hard conservatives.

But you’re wrong, Mr. Gallo: scientists do believe human actions affect the environment.

On camera, when his guest tells Gallo he is wrong about the science, Gallo simply ends the conversation.

Clearly we humans have our blinders covering our eyes, and the shades go down when a bright light shines the truth.

Sometimes we’d rather cling to our beliefs than wrestle with truths.

Photo from Plantations International











About Cynthia Coleman Emery

Professor and researcher at Portland State University who studies science communication, particularly issues that impact American Indians. Dr. Coleman is an enrolled citizen of the Osage Nation.
This entry was posted in american indian, Climate change, film, global warming, politics, propaganda and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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