Last night, a conservative student group at St. Michael's College screened a film called "Not Evil Just Wrong," which promises to deliver information about "the true cost of global warming hysteria." The screening took place as global leaders are gathered in Copenhagen for worldwide United Nations climate talks.
Seven Days' correspondent Kevin J. Kelley attended the screening at St. Mike's, and send this report. Kevin is an adjunct professor in the St. Mike's journalism department.
Climate-change deniers and Obama birthers clearly have much in common politically, but on the evidence of a film shown Monday night at St. Michael's College, the "we're-cool-with-the-climate" crowd may be less wacky – and thus more influential.
Displaying a talent for timely scheduling, the St. Mike's Conservatives Club sponsored the showing of “Not Evil Just Wrong” to coincide with the opening session of the United Nations' climate conference in Copenhagen.
Snickers were heard only a couple of times as a full house of 80 students watched the new 90-minute documentary attacking Al Gore and other advocates of steep reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
"There's a lot of one-sidedness on this issue on campus,” Dan Bower, a Conservatives Club member from Virginia, complained after the showing. But St. Mike's students are “for the most part respectful," Bower said, noting the absence of heckling on the part of filmgoers.
Some signs advertising the film had, however, been ripped off walls in academic buildings, he added.
"Not Evil Just Wrong" mixes reasonable skepticism with loopy hyperbole. It's being shown all over the country in an attempt to discredit Gore's Oscar-winning "An Inconvenient Truth," which has helped inject a sense of urgency into the negotiations at Copenhagen.
The film scores points by highlighting the global-cooling consensus that prevailed among scientists as recently as the 1970s and by ridiculing the big media freakout over mad cow disease just a few years ago. End-of-the-world predictions have proved popular – and wrong – for millennia, the narrator observes.
Dissenters speak earnestly and calmly in the movie as they take issue with climate data that has been interpreted to indicate that the world is warming rapidly and alarmingly. The hottest year on record in the United States was not 2006, as is generally claimed, but rather 1934, these contrarians contend. And although the film was completed in advance of the recent theft of email messages from supercilious climate scientists, it convincingly suggests that some eco-minded jet-setters are as hypocritical as they are elitist. "Let Al Gore stop flying around the world in his private jet before he lectures me about climate change," one woman in the film declares.
Irish filmmakers Phelim McAleer and Ann McElhinney borrow heavily from the cinematic tactics of their ideological opposite, Michael Moore, in this agit-prop assemblage of professors, activists, journalists and hard-done-by working-class Americans.
In their most shameless lift from Moore, the “Not Evil” team follows Tiffany McElhany, wife of an Indiana coal plant worker, as she drives to Tennessee to hand-deliver a protest letter to Gore. McElhany fears that her family's tenuous hold on lower-middle-class status will come undone as a result of Gore's campaign for a moratorium on construction of coal-fired power plants in the United States.
(A Gore assistant politely receives the letter after explaining to Tiffany that the former vice president isn't at home. A postscript to the film ominously announces that Gore never did reply to her handwritten appeal.)
The movie undermines its credibility by presenting baseless assertions as facts. Its main premise is that those campaigning for curbs on carbon-dioxide emissions want to put an end to industrial production and to air travel. The narrator says at one point that the environmental movement is out to stop the burning of coal, oil and gas.
Besides, there's nothing wrong with global warming anyway, argues Patrick Moore, a founder of Greenpeace who's defected to the other side. "Ice is the enemy of life; frost is the enemy of life," Moore maintains as the film shows commuters battling their way through a snow storm. "I don't think it would be a bad thing for the planet to warm up," he opines.
Carbon dioxide is actually our friend, adds MIT meteorology prof Richard Lindzen. He describes CO2 as "essential to life" while observing that "we control real pollutants at levels many say have gone beyond rational."
There's also a lengthy digression on the impact of proto-environmentalist Rachel Carson's efforts to ban DDT. Roy Innis, an African-American right-winger, claims in the film that millions of Africans have died from malaria because Carson's followers managed to halt the spraying of DDT to kill mosquitoes. This controversy has no connection to the issue of global warming – except through the filmmakers' insistence that environmentalists cause disaster by acting rashly.
No opportunity was offered for debate following last night's screening of "Not Evil Just Wrong," despite the St. Mike's conservatives' contention that they want to promote debate on the liberal-minded campus. "We hope to get speakers in the future on health care, abortion and other social issues," says Steven Zelubowski, a member of the Conservatives Club
A first-year student from New Hampshire, Zelubowski adds that he's surprised by the prevailing political view at St. Mike's. "I'd expected more of a conservative Catholic influence," he said following the show.