Not Evil, Just Wrong reviewed: Guest Post by Bernie

Today’s guest post is by our very own Bernie, longtime reader and contributer.

Too confused and too nuanced to be effective

Phelim McAleer’s and Ann McElhinney’s Not Evil, Just Wrong targets the hypocrisy, self-righteousness and scare-mongering of Al Gore and the doomsayers of the environmental movement.  The movie primarily focuses on the inappropriate and unjustified use of scare tactics by those who want to do good but end up doing harm because they fail to sufficiently value human life and ordinary human aspirations. 

McAleer and McElhinney argue that Gore and leaders of the environmental movement divert attention away from current and real human tragedies, like the millions of children who die each year in Africa from malaria and onto “possible” problems in the distant future, most of which are marginal to the interests of the vast majority of human beings.  For most, the solutions proposed by Gore and other activists are worse than the problems they are meant to address.

Not Evil, Just Wrong

The filmmakers have taken on a difficult challenge. It is extraordinarily complicated to create an argument, not to mention a movie, which effectively criticizes those who want to make the world a better place by protecting the environment. McAleer and McElhinney make a well-intentioned effort to generate some counter-propaganda, but they do not pull it off. Their arguments are not sharp enough, their imagery is counter-productive, and they fail to create that iconic image around which people can organize their own real world experiences. Unfortunately Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth is a much more powerful and clever piece of propaganda.

The first part of the movie recounts the DDT scare story. DDT is the highly effective insecticide that helped to eliminate malaria and other mosquito-borne diseases. The movie tells this story from the perspective of a very striking woman in Uganda who lost her two-year-old son to complications from malaria. She is now actively campaigning for the reintroduction of DDT in Uganda.

Two white Americans confront this woman at a meeting and argue against the use of DDT. They are typical environmental activists who demonstrate how little they know when they confidently claim that malaria was never a problem in the United States! In the meantime, 300 plus children a day die in Uganda from malaria and its complications. The story is emotionally powerful. Alas, the directors do not drive home their message of destructive ignorance and murderous over-reach by well-intentioned UN organizations.

In telling the story of DDT, McAleer and McElhinney make a huge error when they use old footage of the spraying of DDT in the United States. The footage shows children being enveloped in a fog of DDT. I assume the point that they were trying to make is that even with this dramatically heavy use, subsequent research has not shown widespread problems. This line of thinking is too subtle. The images are so strong and the question marks that everyone has around insecticides are so potent that they serve to dramatically undermine the power of the malaria story.

The second part of the film addresses Gore’s claim of imminent catastrophic anthropogenic global warming (CAGW).  Despite excellent contributions and commentary by Steve McIntyre (Climate Audit), Ross McKitrick, Richard Lindzen and Patrick Moore, this part of the movie lacked punch.  The inherent complexity of the scientific arguments on Mann’s Hockey Stick and the actual impact of increased CO2 were too much of a contrast to the simple and extended story-line of what a ban on coal-fired electricity generating plants will mean to millions of families in middle America.  The result is confusion and dilution.

Most of the small college student audience (UNH) I was with had minimal understanding of the science involved.  Much of the discussion of the IPCC’s iconic “hockey stick” was way above their heads. They were left with one group of experts saying it is right and another set saying it is wrong—hardly persuasive. The presentation of the facts about warming has far less impact, for example, than Gore’s fraudulently misleading use of polar bears. 

One of the scarier arguments in Gore’s world is the impending inundation of our major cities as the sea rises because of the melting of the Arctic and Antarctic ice-sheets. This twenty-minute piece of sophistry needed to be handled head on—and could have been, with a simple realistic presentation of the actual time-line and probabilities before measurable impacts could have been displayed and discussed by knowledgeable experts.

As a counter-argument to those like Gore who are preaching imminent catastrophic environmental collapse Not Evil, Just Wrong is OK, but definitely not great.  It certainly should not be trumpeted as an antidote to Gore’s misrepresentations. It succeeded in conveying the feeling that Gore and other environmental activists really do not understand and have no real feeling for the impact their ideas have on ordinary people.  The movie’s low budget probably accounts for the lack of crisper messaging and more potent graphics.  The directors should have edited it down from 90 to 50 minutes. As it stands, I do not think it will gain much traction and will have a short half life. Bottom-line: It is worth watching, but not buying.

11 Comments

  1. If they chose to publish it for free, they would get some more affiliates. Perhaps even publish it on YouTube or Google Video. As it stands, and worse, with this rating that Bernie gives, I don’t think they will win many minds…

  2. Bernie,

    Thank you for the great review. The movie Capitalism: A Love Story, Michael Moore’s new documentary has also hit theaters. Moore certainly knows how to select his topics. I think I’ll wait until both of them come out on DVD.

    It sounds like there isn’t anything in this film that some of us don’t know already. Let me borrow what Schnoerkelman said: there are much heat and little light. May I say that it is just a reactionary propaganda? My guess is that the majority of people who watch it are interested in the GW debate. It probably will generate extreme reviews on both ends.

    Some of the documentary films bank on the fact that we are scared of the uncertainty of the future and want to know the truth. Yet, watching a movie surely won’t give us the truth.

  3. “It succeeded in conveying the feeling that Gore and other environmental activists really do not understand and have no real feeling for the impact their ideas have on ordinary people.”
    and
    “They were left with one group of experts saying it is right and another set saying it is wrong—hardly persuasive.”

    Unless that was the whole point of the movie: the science is not settled. If the filmmakers were successful in getting that one point across, then they will have given viewers cause to say “wait just one minute” the next time they hear another proposal aimed at fixing a problem that they now suspect might not even be real, and at enormous costs in both treasure and lives. As to the lives part of that, the use of the history of DDT is a wonderful way of showing that imposing wide ranging regulations without sufficient forethought can have extreme consequences.

  4. Bernie!
    Thank you for this. It’s clear that everyone has a different idea on how the subject should be tackled.
    I tend to agree with you that Al’s televisual themes should be addressed head on to show them up if you’re going to do a documentary on the subject at all. However, I get the impression that any film made to directly challenge the so-called scientific consensus has gone about the thing the wrong way. The facts are there for all of us to find as many of us spent time doing, but it’s not that type of person that needs to be convinced, it’s the ones who always trust the expert witness, the ones who never question. A different approach is required to speak to such an audience.

    I find it better these days to not watch anything on the subject as it brings on the vapours. One mention of the name Roger Harriban and I have to go and put the kettle on.

    Have you watched Apocalypse No!?

  5. Luis:
    I think that you are right. It would be better as short vignettes on YouTube or Google Video, especially the scene where the two entitled white AMericans confron the very regal Ugandan woman. Priceless..
    JH:
    This went straight to video Perhaps I should buy one and donate it to my local library. But even as a DVD, it is marginally effective.
    JA:
    One person in the audience commented afterwards that the members of her family were truly shaken after watching an Inconvenient Truth. I am unclear whether the film was designed to generate outrage or an ah-ha moment. It did neither for me nor for the 10 other people in the audience.
    Joy:
    That is a good point and perhaps the film-makers should have adopted that or a similar meme as their objective. It would have allowed them to tighten the whole thing up. It is their second movie. I was hoping for more puch.
    I will check out Apocalypse No!

  6. Thank you for the review Bernie. I liked their first political documentary “Mine Your Own Business” and will buy their latest DVD ‘cos its ” packed with lots of extras”…

    And on the subject of DDT: IMO storyteller Adam Curtis did a great job in “Goodbye Mrs Ant “. The strange thing is that most of my (R) and (D) friends think Curtis is full of sh*t . You can watch or download it here:
    http://www.archive.org/details/AdamCurtis_PandorasBox

  7. What’s the evidence that Al Gore isn’t evil? Both he and his father were on the take from Armand Hammer, who was certainly an evil bastard.

  8. Bernie,
    I’m sure you found it but just in case, and it’s long, very long, only hardened climate geeks like me can watch it all at a stretch!
    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=5206383248165214524#

    Evil is a hard word to grasp. If one doesn’t believe in divine goodness then one cannot believe in pure evil.

    Perhaps we should just stop at saying that Al’s actions are clearly wrong, and if he knows he is wrong, why does he not amend his speech? If he hasn’t realised he is wrong, on any of his points, and no scientist (on the AGW side) has corrected him then why?

    A British high court judgement ruled that his DVD must not be shown in schools without the nine errors or omissions being pointed out. (Perhaps he doesn’t read the newspapers?)

  9. Joy:
    I just spent 90 minutes watching the movie. It is an excellent summary of the fuzzy edges of the IPCC findings and Al Gore’s movie. It actually, in my mind, does a better job at addressing the issues than “Not Evil, Just Wrong” – but then it had a clearer case. It would be interesting to see the criticisms levelled against what Lord Monckton said.

    I couldn’t tell whether this was a talk to the Cambridge Union or some other “House”. Do you happen to know? When I was there Arianna Huffington was the head of the Union. It looks like it has recovered some of its dignity.

  10. Bernie,
    Yes, it was the Cambridge Union.
    Oh dear, what did she do! Do you think huffington will remember you?

    The video is the best I have seen so far. It is densely packed with facts and commentary.
    Christopher Monckton was there when this started and understands political machinations.

    On the climate sensitivity to CO2 issue, his critics tried to imply that his maths skills were lacking. The man is a professional mathematician!
    Did you read the APS article he wrote and the discussion that played out?

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