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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

An Inconvenient Truth

Well, Al Gore's movie was inconvenient to watch, and that's the truth. That was primarily because Blockbuster rented me a scratched up copy which stuttered and stopped many times. I figure I missed two or three minutes spread throughout the flick because of that, but that'll just have to do - there's no way that I'm watching the whole thing again just to catch a couple of minutes.

With all the awards, publicity, and build up from some of my friends I had high expectations for the flick. I didn't necessarily expect the science to be particularly good, but I did expect it to be extremely compelling and masterful propaganda. I didn't expect it to be compelling to me, but I am usually able to view or read things from different perspectives and understand how and why it could be compelling to someone else.

I was thoroughly disappointed. In my opinion, it was yet another bumbling, boring, wonkish, pedantic and condescending performance by Gore, reminding me yet again of some of the reasons why I didn't vote for him for President in 2000. The format was a slide show (presented by Gore) interspersed with seemingly irrelevant clips about Gore's personal life and why he entered into his fanatical quest against global warming.

I'd find it surprising if anybody except the very young and/or very naive was swayed even one iota by this film. If, prior to viewing the movie, you hadn't yet formed any opinion whatsoever regarding climate change (perhaps because you've been living on Mars for the last few years and hadn't heard of it), and you have no inclination to be skeptical about anything, then maybe you'd be tempted to adopt this movie's story as your opinion. Otherwise, there just wasn't all that much information presented (after all, just how much science can one present in a bit over an hour?) and it was very dully presented (this is Al Gore, after all).

If you idolize Al Gore and hang on his every word, or you're an apocaholic whose current apocalyptic drug of choice is climate change, I can understand why you might like this movie. But if you don't fall in one of those two categories, I'll bet that you won't particularly enjoy it. This film won an academy award for "Best Documentary". That being so, I don't think I'll bother watching many documentaries in the future - they must all be terrible.

I won't comment much on the science part, because that's not why I watched it. I expected the science to be misleading and wrong. However, I will say that there were far fewer blatantly wrong statements than I expected. There was plenty of misleading stuff, but what do you expect in a piece like this? That's called marketing license - even a documentary is allowed a bit of marketing license! An example or marketing license was when Gore talks about the oceans rising twenty feet. By the sequence of statements during the presentation, you might've ended up with the impression that he said that the oceans would rise twenty feet this century, which would be blatantly false. But he didn't actually say that. He only said that the oceans could rise twenty feet sometime (which might be plausible, I suppose, if every last bit of ice on earth melted, including the cubes in your ice trays in your freezer), but he didn't say when. There was lots of stuff like that - not actually false, but put forth in an misleading manner.

The biggest disappointment to me was that near the beginning of the film, Gore said that Global Warming is a moral issue. I expected him to discuss why he thinks it is a moral issue. He repeated that statement other times during the movie, but never bothered to elaborate. For him, it's clearly a given that it's a moral issue. It's almost as if anti-Global Warming Environmentalism is a religion or something.

In case it's not obvious from the above, I would strongly recommend not bothering to watch this movie. I wanted to see it because many schools are showing it and I'm generally concerned about showing propaganda to children in schools. But now that I've seen it, I confident that there will be little long lasting damage caused by this film. By the time the school age children are old enough to do something about it, the world will have moved on from caring about global warming.


Harry Eagar said...

In what sense is such a statement 'not actually false'?

Even if we grant a lot more than evidence suggests we should, it's false.

It's like saying, in the context of public policy, which WAS the context, that in umpty-trillion years, the heat death of the universe will make all the works of man very, very cold.

I have a strict rule as a reporter: You get to mislead me once.

If we assume -- big assumption -- that Gore realizes the statement is true only in the sense you allow, then for what reason, other than to delude, did he make it?

Jesuitical statements are lies.

Bret said...


If you want to consider such statements to be 'actually false' as opposed to just intentionally misleading, I don't have a problem with that. The distinction isn't particularly important for many purposes. I personally prefer making that distinction, but it's subjective.

Certainly, as a reporter who wants to remain in the factual realm, I agree that people like Al Gore make your life a lot harder and avoiding him and his ilk whenever possible is a good policy. However, as a reader, I'm completely skeptical of everything so you and other reporters needn't bother staying factual for my sake. I assume that everything I read is BS and I ignore it unless I gets loads of confirmation from other sources.