For a documentarian whose films concern the evils of the food industry (“Food Inc.”) and those who distort the science on climate change (the new “Merchants of Doubt”), Robert Kenner is a jolly person. Granted, he’s dealing with subjects that are, in a sense, absurd, if ultimately also dangerous for human civilization. And though “Merchants of Doubt” does concern climate change denial, that’s not really its main subject.
This could read as being a stealth climate change doc, but it does view it from the angle of deniers as deceivers.
It’s really about deception. It could be about any subject. It happens that right now the big subject is climate. It used to be tobacco and pharmaceuticals. I bumped into this behavior on “Food Inc.” and that’s how I became interested in it. I went to a hearing on cloned meat, and someone stood up and said, “I don’t think it’s in the interest of the consumer [to know how it’s made]. It’s way too confusing.” I found out the group was called “Citizens of Consumer Freedom,” which was funded by the fast food and soda companies. They try to do everything to stop you from knowing what’s in your food. And I love the name. I ran into a hundred other Orwellian groups, and the names are hysterical.
Probably the most engaging person in the film is also the most evil: Marc Morano, who runs a climate change denier site and regularly goes on television to shout down scientists. But he’s very charming. How was he in real life?
He’s absolutely charming. He’s really funny, very quick. At the same time what he does leads to horrific consequences. It’s tricky to know to cut [his footage], because you want to show Marc as who he is, which is charming and entertaining, but also show the consequences of what his actions lead to.
You also give time to the likes of scientist Fred Singer, who also speaks out against the veracity of climate change.
Fred wouldn’t leave the interview! He was having such a great time! [Laughs] He’s writing a book about how plastics and pesticides will save the world. He thought I should join him. I was like, “We sort of see the world differently.” He’s always fishing for allies. But he was a major scientists, who had turned his back on science to go with his ideology, which is fear of any kind of regulation. When Ronald Reagan was putting through ozone treaties, Singer was attacking him for it, because he saw any form of regulation as communism. If he was attacking Ronald Reagan then everyone is fair game.