Inspired by the book of the same name, Merchants of Doubt follows the trail of tactics used by public relations companies, and originally developed by the tobacco industry to protect and promote their product. These tactics have extended to other areas, including global climate change.
One of the tactics includes the cultivation of scientists and other pundits, whose role is to support the product and generate confusion and doubt. The film touches on how these tactics have been used for issues such as smoking, toxic chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and the effects of global warming.
While the inclusion of a magician doing tricks as a metaphor for how the industries try to mislead the public is gimmicky and distracting, and the film has its own bias, it’s a useful film for revealing some of the powerful strategies industries use to protect profits over people.
Use Merchants of Doubt to help students think critically about the connection between politics, public relations, and public health.