Is it morally permissible to allow “climate deniers” to appear in print and televised media?
Columbia University journalism students wrestled with this question recently at a screening of the new documentary, “Merchants of Doubt.” “Merchants,” based on the 2010 book by science historians Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway, endeavors to smear skeptics of anthropogenic global warming as the henchmen of the fossil-fuel industry. The film is light on evidence, as I show here, but heavy on verve. Director Robert Kenner (“Food, Inc.”) traces the stories of sly 1950s tobacco reps who hired scientists to cast doubt on a growing consensus that smoking was unhealthy. The film’s implication, insinuated rather than demonstrated, is that global warming doubters are likewise mercenary.
If you buy that argument, then it makes some sense to keep “deniers” from deluding the public. In a room full of journalism students in training to ask tough questions and root out the truth, everyone bought it.