Unfortunately, the title of director/writer Craig Rosebraugh’s new film will likely keep away the people who most need to see it. Those who already suspect professional climate deniers willfully ignore or prevaricate the truth to keep the donations and lecture-circuit money flowing don't need convincing.
Also, the fact that director/writer Craig Rosebraugh’s political activism has included stints as spokesperson for the Earth Liberation Front won’t make the film any more alluring to climate skeptics.
"Greedy Lying Bastards" opens with a tornado, fire and flood montage of spectacularly biblical proportions. Footage of mass destruction looks like WW III – a stealth war against civilization, if not Earth – waged not with directed missiles, bombs and super weapons, but by malignantly criminal neglect.
Then Rosebraugh asks: “What if I told you all of this is preventable?”
The best edit in the film shows Mitt Romney speaking at the 2012 Republican convention: “President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans, and to heal the planet; my promise is to help you and your family” – followed by a cut to a Colorado neighborhood destroyed in the Waldo Canyon fire last summer. It looks like Hiroshima minutes after the bomb.
At its best, “Greedy Lying Bastards” is a sad commentary on how even the least fact-based, most dangerous ideas find traction simply because they are stated repeatedly. Where the film struggles is in trying to explain a complex phenomenon like climate change.
"Just the facts, ma'am"
Facts are facts, or at least they used to be. Why, Rosebraugh asks, are the folks without facts more effective at convincing the public that climate change, or even secondhand tobacco smoke or processed-food laced with high-fructose corn syrup – are either harmless or inevitable? Two techniques, according to PR man James Hoggan: assertion and repetition.
When someone asserts, “The globe is cooling,” a proper rebuttal requires a lengthy, TV-unfriendly response.
Fox “news” and most talk radio are the most obvious points of entry for manufactured doubt stated over and over. Even the truth, spoken once, withers amid the barrage of a lie repeated a thousand times. And it’s not just climate change.
Rosebraugh includes footage from the1994 U.S. Congressional Hearing on tobacco product regulation (see “Director Charles Evans Jr. & Victor DeNoble talk about 'Addiction Incorporated'”). Twelve of the top executives were asked, “Do you think nicotine is addictive?”
Take a wild guess how they responded. Hint: Somehow the execs hadn’t heard about the U.S. Surgeon General 1988 report stating, in part: “Cigarettes are highly efficient nicotine delivery devices and are as addictive as drugs such as heroin and cocaine.”
Send in the clowns
Then there are the professional skeptics like Lord Christopher Monckton, who is neither a scientist nor a professor, but plays one on TV and the lecture circuit. Monckton is as much a “Lord” as was the late Shakespearian-spoofing hipster, Lord Buckley.
Professor Dr. Ian Plimer of Mining Geology at the University of Adelaide blames global warming on 700 gas-spewing volcanoes around the globe. While it's true they emit 200 million tons of greenhouse gases annually, the good professor neglects to mention that human activity accounts for 31.6 billion tons every year. Did I mention the good professors is the Director of four Australian mining companies?
At this point it might occur to some audience members that the source of the most toxic gaseous expulsions might be biological rather than geological in nature.
Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute says it’s almost certain we will not suffer any ill-effects caused by climate change – and brags about not having any scientific credentials. At least he opens the door to an argument that needs far more discussion than it’s getting now when he warns that mandatory federal policy to reduce energy consumption would affect our standard of living. He’s right, but so will doing nothing.
A sense of disaster fatigue begins to set in after listening to a recap of a decades-long argument that wouldn’t exist if one side were not propped up by multi-billion dollar companies whose CEO's have the resources to insulate themselves from the worst effects of increasingly riotous weather conditions.
The next documentary about climate change should show the costs and benefits of various coping scenarios and explicitly unravel explicitly the complex web of cause-and-effect chains that cause extreme weather. The subject wasn’t even mentioned during the 2012 Presidential election campaign, and it will require more than 30-second soundbites.
The weather is going to get worse, probably sooner than later, and for many more people. The United States can’t solve the problem alone; the whole world has to respond in concert.
See playdates and locations for “Greedy Lying Bastards” HERE and click on THEATRE LIST.
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