16 July 2013 | StevePulaski
A bad storm on the rise
Greedy Lying Bastards opens with frightening shots of a wildfire that has gotten out of hand in Colorado Springs. The shots come from a woman's phone and, while she remains unseen, her sobs as she sees it approaching her home are polarizing and deeply emotional. We then cut to numerous weather catastrophes that have been happening in recent years. Astronomically large tornadoes, extremely high floods, rushing water reaching unpredictable magnitudes, and so on.
We spend the first part of Greedy Lying Bastards watching interviews of locals who have had their homes destroyed by storms of high magnitudes and whether or not they believe climate change played a role in it or not. During this time we see our director/narrator/documentarian Craig Rosebraugh, who has made quite the name for himself, writing books, drumming up social activism, and even writing three books, one of which commanding Americans to start a social revolution. For such a charismatic man, he allows little of this personality to infuse on screen. He remains mainly a political commentator, talking over talking heads and news interviews edited together in the documentary. One thing you want to do in a documentary that attempts to ignite a firestorm of responses, controversy, and, most importantly, action, the least you could do is give yourself an identity and explain why you picked this topic.
Nonetheless, the documentary explores the ideas of climate change denial and tells us that the talking points the political right have been filling our heads with ideas that global warming is a hoax perpetuated by the political left. It explains how Koch Industries (which is profiled boldly in the documentary Koch Brothers Exposed) is the biggest company we've never heard of, and while simultaneously controlling much of the natural gas and oil industry, also is responsible for numerous non-oil related products in our home. Rosebraugh also states that other companies like Exxon Mobil have funded numerous dollars to organizations such as "Americans for Prosperity" to give people the illusion that global warming doesn't exist so that while they're preaching an untrue philosophy they are helping the natural gas industries thrive.
"What bastards, right?" could be the film's thesis and response to every single fact it presents. The most interesting scenes come from the townfolk of coastal regions, who remind us - or maybe inform us - that climate change doesn't necessarily just mean warmer weather. In fact, it means fiercer weather, with hurricanes becoming more frequent, mass-flooding imminent, and wildfires soon to be the societal norm. "We are, literally, losing the ground we walked on," one man says, when talking about the massive erosion a beach nearby his home has faced.
Regardless of how you view the film, it does an admirable job at explaining some key facts that one must watch out for when reading about political issues, one of which being "astroturf" organizations, which are named that because of their artificiality towards the real issues and used simply as mouthpieces (IE: "Americans for Prosperity"). That, and the film explains the psychological effects echo-chambers and repetition have on a population, as it plays us numerous news clips all through the years that echo popular climate change denalist talking points.
I can't deny Greedy Lying Bastards in the regard that it is well-made and sure to spark debate with its delivery of information, but, as film critic Sean Kelly states in his review, "this is left wing propaganda on right wing propaganda." It isn't until the end of the film does it reveal that this is all part of an enormous activist plot to push an agenda and attempting to drum up social activism, as Rosebraugh is known for doing. While I can understand and respect the notion, it would've been more appealing and less heavy on its own didacticism if it would've taken more of a neutral point of view on the topic. It would also help if it didn't refer to the opposing side as "bastards," for the sake of maturity.
I can't fault Rosebraugh for being dedicated to material and I can't fault him for at least doing something about a problem that, true or not, does need some serious attention. And it's nice to be given thinking points without being instructed on what to think unlike Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth.
Starring and directed by: Craig Rosebraugh.