Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

July 31, 2015

Merchants of Doubt

Filed under: Counterpunch,Ecology — louisproyect @ 12:49 pm

Manufacturing Denial

Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming”, the 2010 book by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway, is required reading in order to understand the threats to our health and overall survival posed by the well-funded pseudo-scientific think-tanks that have their origins in Cold War anti-Communism. As unlikely as it might seem, the very scientists who ExxonMobil and the Koch brothers pay to cast doubt on climate change are part of a network that got started in the 1950s when scientists, including those who worked for the tobacco industry, were at last coming to the conclusion that smoking causes cancer. The tobacco companies needed “experts” to obfuscate the issues just as they need them today to cast doubt on climate change.

How and why this kind of bogus science was rooted in the anti-Communist crusade of the post-WWII era is laid out in compelling detail in “Merchants of Doubt”, a book that combines investigative reporting by a couple of science historians with a flair for detective work that would impress Agatha Christie.

As a companion piece, I can also recommend the 2014 documentary of the same name that the book inspired. Ably directed by Robert Kenner, it can now be seen on Amazon.com streaming. Both the book and the film will leave you with the conclusion that some of America’s richest and most powerful corporations prostituted a group of scientists into betraying science to boost their patron’s profits. But on further reflection, it is likely that these men would have lied even if they had never received a penny since their ideological predispositions made them the perfect tools to carry out the corporate mandate. And on even further reflection after that, it probably does not make sense to refer to prostitution since it is an honorable profession compared to what these scientists were up to.

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1 Comment »

  1. Louis, your writing is always excellent and intelligent, even in instances where one might not totally agree with you.

    And Counterpunch is generally an excellent resource online. I think that this illustrates the problem with JVP’s and ETO’s statements on Weir. I think that one can reasonably object to some of Weir’s statements or decisions, but the larger problem is that most of the grounds used to ban Weir could be applied to other leading activists. The reasoning goes that Weir’s work has been published on sites like Veterans News Now (VNN), and that therefore she condones objectionable content on VNN by failing to challenge it. Based on this criteria, other brilliant writers for outlets like Counterpunch could similarly be criticized for allegedly “condoning” writing that they also find objectionable on Counterpunch, as Hendricks laid out in her latest essay.

    Comment by Raccko (@racckoff) — July 31, 2015 @ 6:35 pm


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