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.Â 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.Â
McAleer and McElhinney argue that GoreÂ and leaders of the environmental movement divert attention away from current and real human tragedies, likeÂ 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.Â Â For most, the solutions proposed by Gore and other activists are worse than the problems they are meant to address.
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 Goreâ€™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 imminentÂ catastrophic anthropogenic global warming (CAGW).Â Despite excellent contributions and commentary by Steve McIntyre (Climate Audit), Ross McKitrick, Richard Lindzen and Patrick Moore, this part of the movie lacked punch.Â The inherent complexity of the scientific argumentsÂ onÂ Mann’s Hockey StickÂ 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.Â The result is confusion and dilution.
Most of the small collegeÂ student audience (UNH)Â I was with had minimal understanding of the science involved.Â Â Much of theÂ discussion of the IPCC’s iconic “hockey stick”Â 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 ofÂ the factsÂ about warming has far less impact, for example, than Gore’sÂ fraudulently misleading use of polar bears.Â
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.Â It certainly should not be trumpeted as an antidote to Goreâ€™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.Â The movie’s low budget probably accounts for the lack of crisper messaging and more potent graphics.Â The directors shouldÂ have editedÂ itÂ 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.