Merchant of Disinformation – the movie. Part 1

This 3-part series is for the congressional investigators / attorneys defending energy companies in “ExxonKnew” lawsuits / objective, unbiased reporters: — when a person appearing before you has been portrayed as an ‘expert’ while only facing softball questions designed to exalt that person’s ‘expertise,’ you need to have absolute hardball questions at the ready, like a pile driver, so that you can show the public what they’ve never been told: where this person’s credibility implodes.

I’ve slogged through Naomi Oreskes’ “Merchants of Doubt” movie …… so you don’t have to.

In my just-prior blog post, I concluded it would be wise for such investigators to ask why “Merchants of Doubt” documentary movie star/book author / ‘historian’ Naomi Oreskes can’t keep her personal history narratives straight. In my December 8, 2023 blog post, I suggested these same investigators should explore why Oreskes’ movie was brought up within efforts in Eric Schneiderman 2015-era New York Attorney General’s office concerning plans to launch their own “ExxonKnew” lawsuit – the movie contains nothing actually damaging to either the fossil fuel companies nor skeptic climate scientists; it instead reinforced the appearance that if there is any actual conspiracy to deceive the public about the climate issue, it appears to be the efforts of a core clique of enviro-activists to convince the public that skeptic climate scientists are ‘industry-paid crooks’ via worthless ‘leaked industry memos.’

At an hour 36 minutes long, the climate segments of “Merchants of Doubt” are inadvertently a gift on a silver platter to Oreskes’ opponents, and fortunately (albeit inexplicably), around a third of the movie concerns irrelevant material having nothing to do with the issue, which can be ignored. However, if a person is not familiar before watching it what its central climate issue / accusation faults are, and who exactly the other ‘climate issue co-stars’ are in the movie, the opportunity to reveal key disinformation within the movie can be lost. I knew what those faults were when I saw it just the one time in 2015, I noted a few of those in my then-current AmericanThinker review of it. I recently found both a transcript of the DVD release of the movie and a person’s (likely surreptitious) Youtube video copy of it, which allows my line-by-climate-line analysis of it. Knowledge is power: when investigators fully comprehend the enormity of these faults, an obvious question arises: why is Oreskes putting out disinformation in this movie and elsewhere, and why is she involved in the climate issue at all?

Two setup items: First, let me remind everyone of an overarching situation nobody should forget: one of the main hallmarks of far-left liberalism is psychological projection. That’s seen even before the movie starts, only 6 seconds into the official movie trailer for it. When people in this movie purport to ‘expose’ alleged fossil fuel industry disinformation, they themselves use disinformation.  The theme throughout the movie using clever visuals of a magician explaining deceptive sleight-of-hand, which is spectacularly ironic as it relates to the climate issue sections of the movie; the ‘climate stars’ aren’t the truth-tellers, they are instead the ones pushing deception. Second, despite Naomi Oreskes’ book of the same name being devoted to the climate ‘disinformation’ topic, this movie strangely brings in unrelated topics of questionable industry tactics to hide knowledge of product harm in a vain attempt to bolster the idea that the fossil fuel industry did exactly the same thing. Apples ’n oranges comparisons, with the false premise that proof exists of fossil fuel industry disinformation. The magician / deception theme is very effective for those other industry problems. It crashes and burns on the climate sections. So, I leave the unrelated segments of the movie to others to analyze.

56 seconds into the movie – deception theme magician Jamy Ian Swiss: The thing that sets magicians apart from con men and other kinds of thieves and liars is that we’re honest liars.

The ‘climate stars’ of the movie want you to keep your eye on the one mesmerizing hand waving around the ‘fossil fuel industry are the con men / thieves / liars … and never spot the other hand pointing at themselves as the actual villains. He continues with a statement of huge irony, since it is the makers / backers of this film who used him to do exactly what he described:

1:45 point:it offends me when someone takes the skills of my honest living, if you will, and uses it to twist and distort and manipulate people and their sense of reality and how the world works.

And now, on to the feature attraction. Tobacco companies knew smoking was harmful but hid it; the apples ’n oranges comparison:

6:11: Faced with undeniable evidence that smoking was killing people, they did what any self-respecting big corporation would do. They hired a public relations firm.

That’s Stanton Glantz, a participant in Naomi Oreskes’ 2012 La Jolla CA workshop on how to sue the fossil fuel industry. I covered how his Legacy Tobacco Documents Library had document scans about ye olde “reposition global warming memos” (which had literally nothing to do with the tobacco industry) in a pair of blog posts here and here, and noted in a more recent post how his now disingenuously-named “Industry Documents Library” works with Kert Davies, the proprietor of the Climate Investigations Center / Climate Files websites. Remember that name, Davies, it will come up again in quite a damaging way.

7:46: The 1969 Brown & Williamson Tobacco memo “Doubt is Our Product” memo is shown on the screen.

Al Gore utilized Naomi Oreskes’ 928-to-zero results from her 100% science consensus survey of global warming papers in his 2006 “An Inconvenient Truth” documentary movie as a segue to launch into his own accusation less than a minute later about the “reposition global warming” memos, where he compared them to ….. wait for it … the “Doubt is Our Product” memo. The tobacco industry did indeed know about the harm of smoking and tried to cover it up. The fossil fuel industry knew no such thing about global warming harm, and never directed anybody to reposition anything.

The film then wastes the next 6 minutes on the flame retardant industry. Then, Glantz reappears.

13:49, Glantz: The only way these guys are actually effective is if the public thinks they’re an independent voice.
Glenn Beck: Steve, first of all, are you in bed with big oil, and if so, how good in bed are they?
Steve Milloy (laughing): Not in bed with anyone, just trying to do the right thing on climate change.

Thirty years of the climate issue, and it still boils down to two talking points – “settled science” and “industry-paid shill experts you must ignore.” Who’s the ex-head of Greenpeace USA in bed with? John Passacantando has been paid nearly $20 million as a contractor after leaving that organization. Remember that name, Passacantando, it will come up again in quite a damaging way.

15:04, Jamy Ian Swiss: The idea of how to mask the shill, how to make the shill look legitimate to the audience, so that they’re not suspect when they’re playing the game is all part of the psychology. The game does not work without that concealment.
James Taylor, Heartland Institute president: The evidence does not support the notion that humans are causing global warming.
Lord Christopher Monckton: There is no scientific basis for alarm.

If challenged to debate both Taylor and Monckton in person, whether in an formal discussion setting or as witnesses at a congressional hearing, Naomi Oreskes would be unable to dispute the science-based viewpoints of both, and would not be able to offer proof that either are paid shills of the fossil fuel industry if her reputation depended on it.

17:10, NASA climate scientist James Hanson: The CO2 that we put in the air by burning fossil fuels will stay in the climate system for millennia. It’s like putting a blanket around the planet. It holds in the heat.

Atmospheric physicists will say the greenhouse effect is no where near this simple. More CO2 does not equal exponentially more heat. Even doubled, still not life threatening. Note that Oreskes’ screen shows billowing clouds of steam, an intellectually dishonest portrayal.

18:31: So in 1988, Jim Hansen testifies, and the news media reports it. … John Passacantando, executive director of Greenpeace. I just trundled into this fight as really just another earnest environmentalist. I’ve worked on this for 20 years.

Trundled? Elsewhere, he spiritedly said he wanted “in” on the action, no matter what it was. 2015 – the date of this movie’s debut – minus 20 years equals 1995, when he was the head of Ozone Action, the place where the “reposition global warming” memos first got their ongoing media traction. Kert Davies was his #2 man there. Passacantando even worked that awkward phrase into common language at least twice, feeding this to newspaper outlets as big news stories. But his narratives on when exactly he started working at Ozone Action don’t line up right.

His appearance here is what is damaging to Oreskes. As I noted in my 12/8/23 blog post, what I had initially found when I tried to track down where the accusation about the “reposition global warming” memos first appeared, I saw two lines of flow back: one through Ross Gelbspan / Ozone Action, and the other seemingly entirely separately through Naomi Oreskes, with no connection between those two lines. Gelbspan / Passacantando “obtained” the memos, Oreskes was alerted to them by former Gore-associated Senate staffer Anthony Socci. No apparent connection. These people don’t mention each other at any length concerning those memos. The only thing I’d found linking them possibly together at all was a strange circumstance in 2016 with Oreskes’ appearance at a U.S. house Congressional Progressive Caucus “practice run” hearing where Kert Davies was seen in two separate appearances lurking in the distant doorway with smiling approval. That – and what I could only recall as a fleeting appearance of Passacantando in her 2015 movie. It would be fleeting if theater goers only saw this one instance. There’s more on the potential connection here – I’ll detail that in Part 3 of this series.

18:53, Passacantando: Environmentalists, we thought this was a fight about science. Get the science out there, into the media, politicians will listen, we can solve this. … Politicians, even President Bush, say, “We’re gonna tackle this.”
President George HW Bush: Those who think we’re powerless with this greenhouse effect are forgetting about the White House effect.

Get half the ‘science’ out there, minus the other half comprised of rebuttal by skeptic climate scientists. The science is settled.

19:15, John Passacantando: So the fossil fuel industry realizes it has an enormous problem.

Again, psychological projection. In the face of their inability to debate all of the science with PhD-level climatologists and atmospheric physicists, enviro-activists realized they had an enormous problem. Thus the tactic of inventing a way to prompt the public not to listen to those scientists – they’re oil industry-paid shills.

19:19, PBS NewsHour host: Bill O’Keefe is executive vice president of the American Petroleum Institute. He’s also a board member of the Global Climate Coalition, made up of oil and electric companies, automakers, and others.

William O’Keefe confirmed to me that the notorious API “victory will be achieved” memo was never implemented. It is nevertheless touted by Naomi Oreskes in her Friends of the Court briefs as evidence of fossil fuel industry running disinformation campaigns (her source is Kert Davies’ ClimateFiles site), while the current “ExxonKnew” lawsuits tout that same API memo, except they hide their source behind an innocuous-looking anonymous “document cloud” link which, with just 4 changes to the link, reveals it to be a file uploaded by Kert Davies when he worked at Greenpeace. Alongside John Passacantando.

19:35, William O’Keefe: I think that it’s unfortunate that the science is so distorted and misstated.
NASA climate scientist James Hansen: The science is complicated, and there are lots of factors. You have to understand the whole picture.

See what just happened there? Hansen, who previously said the climate problem was as simple to understand as putting a blanket around the Earth … just dismissed O’Keefe’s not understanding the whole picture by saying the science is complicated.

20:11, John Passacantando: Others put out ads saying more pollution is gonna be good for us.
Dr. Sherwood Idso: A doubling of the CO2 in the atmosphere will produce a tremendous greening of Planet Earth.
Ned Leonard, Greening Earth Society: CO2 benefits plant life. It’s increasing the bounty of the planet, our ability to feed populations.

Nobody ever said anything about actual pollution being good for us. CO2 is not a pollutant, commercial greenhouse growers use CO2 generators to make their flowers, shrubs, and tree saplings to grow bigger, faster, stronger, and NASA itself put out a report in 2016 citing how more CO2 was indeed greening the Earth, just like Dr Idso – a climate scientist – said 20 years earlier.

But what “ads” were Passacantando talking about? Did they end up on the movie editor cutting room floor? Dr Idso was appearing 15 seconds into a half hour documentary video, and Ned Leonard was appearing in a TV discussion with Passacantando (identified there as being with the Ozone Action group) who immediately followed Leonard’s statement with,

20:25, Passacantando: What you see from the coal industry is analogous to what the tobacco industry used to do. They refuse to change. They’re trying to convince us that it’s good for us.

The 20:50 point is where Naomi Oreskes, the headline act of this movie, first appears. What she lays out on her personal history is one more narrative that does not line up with her others regarding her discovery odyssey was on who the “merchants of doubt” were who attacked her.?
Coming in Part 2: It gets thicker. “A few people began to say to me, ‘Other people have also been attacked in a way that seems similar.’” + the evil Dr Singer & The Spice Girls