Robert Kenner’s documentary Food Inc. introduced us to the underbelly of the food industry and exposed its lies, cover-ups, and politics. Seven years later, Food Inc.’s semi-sequel Merchants of Doubt takes a somewhat comedic look at the “pundits” hired by gas and oil industries to allegedly intentionally confuse the American public about health issues like toxic chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and climate change. The documentary is inspired by the 2014 book by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway, which looks at climate change and the people who doubt its existence.
Kenner’s thesis is that there are so-called “experts” out there who are hired to spread the seeds of doubt about global warming — and other public health concerns.
“I went to a hearing on whether we should label cloned meat,” Kenner told the Washington Post. “There was someone there who stood up and said, ‘I think it would be way too confusing, for the consumer, to give them that kind of information.’ I thought, ‘I’ve never heard something like that before.’ It was the representative of some meat company. I looked up and thought, ‘Who could this be?’” As it turned out, the man in question, though Kenner doesn’t remember his name, had been hired to state this opinion in the court room.
With Merchants of Doubt, Kenner wants to open the eyes of the “vast confused middle,” as he calls it: the average person who really isn’t sure whether to believe in climate change, or if certain chemicals in our foods could be dangerous.