Merchants of Doubt

As a reader points out, there’s a terrific interview with Naomi Oreskes available on YouTube. It’s valuable enough to recommend in its own post:

16 responses to “Merchants of Doubt

  1. Wow… ‘Terrific’ is right. Naomi is clearly very smart and very articulate. We could do with a couple of hundred like her.

  2. Yes–if you believe in the value of history, a history of denialism is valuable too, if a bit “disturbing,” as Dr. Oreskes terms it.

  3. Indeed, very worthy.

    I had not followed this link the first time (or two) I encountered it. After all I read the book and listened to other Oreskes interviews.

    She has polished her condensed version of their work well.

    Powerful stuff.

  4. The chief value of Oreskes’s remarks is to illuminate the linkages between the standard Tobacco Industry thugery and the current whackball denialism.

    The Marshall Institute’s love of its own defiance of communism and its inability to manage any other response to the world after the fall of the Soviet Union made them easy pickings for the money-grubbers. This was novel for me. The money-grubbers wound up poaching on the Marshall Institute’s noble intents and scrupulous methods. What a tragedy for us all.

    • “The money-grubbers wound up poaching on the Marshall Institute’s noble intents and scrupulous methods.”

      Yes, that too is of great value.

  5. I’m with arch, here. I thought I’d heard what she had to say.
    But this analysis showing well-meaning people starting out on a path which, though we might not agree with it, they pursued in a fairly reasonable way. I’d certainly not picked up on the fact that the Marshall Institute originally stayed away from seeking funds – as a deliberate strategy – before this.

    And the social/psychological problems they faced when their lifelong enemy just evaporated – they just had to keep on fighting. Finding enemies, creating them out of thin air really, where there were none. If only they’d become like those poor misguided Japanese soldiers hiding out in tropical jungles for 30 years after WW2 ended. I never realised how old the ‘watermelon’ expression was.

    Everyone should see this. Not just because of the global warming/ tobacco/ politics linkages, but as an object lesson in how lofty (in your own estimation) purposes can be subverted by others exploiting your ideals, treating them as weaknesses to be subverted rather than overtly challenging them as strengths. Journalists take especial note.

  6. I haven’t watched that yet, but:

    Seitz’s tobacco work @ Rockefeller preceded founding GMI…
    and they long got funds from R.M.Scaife and L&H Bradley, etc.
    See p.93 of

    Of course, the current CEO WIlliam O’Keefe was an exec at the American Petroleum Institute for 25 years…

  7. For those short on time (or who don’t do video), rough notes from watching it are here:

  8. Roy Spencer is on the board of directors of the George C. Marshall Institute.

  9. I want to see this on “60 minutes”

  10. I think it’s also true that number of anti-Vietnam war activists (people I knew) transferred their need for activism into the environmental movement. I’ll bet this could be traced as well. So we’ve got people fighting leftover battles over new territories. …. and in the meantime the planet keeps getting hotter.

    • “I think it’s also true that number of anti-Vietnam war activists (people I knew) transferred their need for activism into the environmental movement.”

      I bet a lot of the shoe-wearers and food-eaters did too.

      We’re rarely discrete entities. What changed from the earliest Marshall Institute days was an ethos. The original campaigners kept their hands out of the cookie jar. For those who came after, the Marshall Institute was just another cookie. What Oreskes talk doesn’t say is how long the original members maintained their “purity” after the fall of the Soviet Union. Or were they only too willing to equate money with freedom?

  11. I first became familiar with her work when I saw her in an panel discussion on the environment together with co-author Erick Conway on CSPAN a while back an excellent discussion there too. The historical perspective she so clearly elucidates in this interview shows precisely what we are up against. Green is the new red (to quote the title of a book), the new “communist plot to destroy our freedoms” and this includes climate science. We have seen examples of the right wing persecution already e.g. Michael Mann and the State of Virginia. The number of commercials for fossil fuel corporations show the mainstream media can no longer be depended on to provide a valid source of honest journalism on the subject of climate change. Chevron, EXXON and Monsanto are big contributors to PBS.

    So we see the garbage that comes from the Marshall Institute was and is basically designed to obstruct progress in understanding the consequences of the ozone hole, acid rain and now AGW. That strikes me as nothing short of criminality or treason and they should be treated as such.

    That is why sites like this one are so important. They provide a direct response in refuting the claims of those aligned with the likes of the Marshall Institute and serve as rallying point for the exchange and understanding of ideas on these issues. The corporate media is no longer needed. Other outlets are becoming available for the expression of these ideas to reach mass viewers, RT is one example. In addition people are slowly becoming mobilized on these issues. We recently saw this with the 2 week Tar Sands protest in DC. The economic protest that is occurring in NY right now and the upcoming protest in DC in October are not independent of the environmental/climate protests as they both pertain to the travesties of corporate elitism. They are baby steps now but they are fueled by a youthful energy that is really just awakening and that is very knowledgeable and concerned about the issues of climate and the environment and see their lives mortgaged away to the warfare state and corporate elites from the day they were born. The seeds of an “American Spring”?

    Anyway a great interview by Naomi Orestes!

  12. Phillip Helbig

    I know this is off-topic but maybe I’ll get a response here. I would
    really like a separate RSS feed for comments. Many of my favourite
    blogs have them. Especially on a blog with many comments like this one,
    one needs some method of following new comments which is better than
    looking at (in theory) all old posts.

    If I just can’t find it, someone point me to it. If there isn’t one, why not?

    Also, can you have a link to the previous and next posts at the top and/or bottom of each post?

  13. Ta for the video, good stuff. And thanks Anna for the writeup.

    I’m an Oreskes fan from a while back – when my mum asked me ~5years back about global warming and I said I had no idea, I’ll have do a literature survey I guess, and I found it had already been done and published in Science. And since then I’m amazed at how successful deniers have been in creating doubt on the science.

    I’ve got a few older videos/lectures given by her at