Michael Moore’s new film is a bullshit look at clean energy. Why?

  • Published on April 26th, 2020

Last August, the AP published a story about the premiere of Michael Moore’s latest documentary at Michael Moore’s Traverse City film festival, which he tweeted out jokingly as his “August surprise.” Titled “Planet of the Humans,” it reportedly took a critical look at clean energy and the environmental movement, which is probably why Breitbart quickly posted the story. This was the first, of many, red flags indicating that this would ultimately be an unhelpful waste of time.

Michael Moore "Planet of the Humans" clean energy film

By Climate Denier Roundup

At the time the movie had yet to be picked up for distribution, meaning that Moore couldn’t find anyone who would pay to actually put the movie in theaters. Given that Moore has a pretty good track record of successful documentaries, the fact that no one, not even Netflix or Amazon, wanted this one was another big red flag.

While we noticed deniers kicking it around then, we didn’t mention it here, because any attention to it could have been used by Moore as evidence that it’s controversial, and therefore worthy of a wide release.

Moore never did find that distributor, but instead took his apparently poorly-researched and highly misleading video to a no-barrier-to-entry venue rife with poorly-researched and highly misleading videos: YouTube.

Despite the fact that the movie premiered at his own film festival back in August, Moore’s tweet announcing it this week also called it a surprise, and described it as “a brand new feature film, right now, just finished and just posted minutes ago” to YouTube. We’re happy to grant that “time” does feel like a flat circle these days, but Moore promoting his eight-month-old film as having “just finished” is another red flag that he may not be operating entirely in good faith.

With an Earth Day release, Moore was clever to capitalize on the hunger for contrarian takes, and sure enough, deniers ate it up.

James Delingpole, king of racistovertly sexist and just plain stupid or dishonest takes, declared Moore his “new hero,” while his employer, white supremacy central Breitbart, lauded the movie. Steve Milloy took a break from attacking Greta and journalists and erasing indigenous identities to tweet his “fav clip” of the movie, claiming it “proves Milloy’s Law [that] Green = Fraud,” and telling his followers to watch it “for a takedown of Gore’s profiteering from the climate scam.” Climate Depot linked to multiple pieces in denier outlets. A veritable sea of red flags.

And sure enough, for every denier who praises the film, there are a handful of actual experts and even a prominent documentary maker who looked up to Moore being disappointed how “so brazenly anti-science, so deeply incorrect, so unvetted, negligent and untrue” it is. But of course that hasn’t stopped TV producers from booking him, and Moore’s been doing the rounds on comedy news and MSNBC.

To get to some of the core claims of the movie: sure, solar panels and wind turbines use resources like literally everything else in the universe, but are they cleaner than fossil fuels? Undoubtedly. Yes, there is sand in the desert, and no, no one has ever claimed that solar panels last forever. Is biomass a mixed bag? Absolutely, something that Climate Central did a great job of exploring — back in 2015. Not exactly groundbreaking stuff here, to say nothing of the borderline eugenics underlying the film’s problematic population control message.

And that really gets to the heart of the problem. As Emily Atkin put it in a characteristically perfect piece in HEATED, we are “tired of having to spend hours consuming and debunking messy-yet-blockbuster climate reporting from dudes who seemingly woke up a few mornings beforehand and decided they were climate journalists.”

Atkin calls this cycle “the wheel of first time climate dudes.” When a guy who hasn’t done any climate journalism “decides he’s going to be the one to do a Big Climate Journalism Moment,” but “because neither the author nor editor has not done much climate journalism before… [it] suffers from factual inaccuracies and misleading tropes.” Then, those who have spent time on the subject need to go back and clean up the mess.

And that’s almost what appears to have happened, except for the fact that Moore’s film wasn’t a blockbuster. He couldn’t even find a distributor.

What’s true about Moore’s movie is that energy is complicated. These are issues policymakers and advocates have been wrestling with for years, and actual environmental journalists are well aware of and accurately report on. The rest is just recycled climate denial and energy industry talking points that seem clever if you have no idea what you’re talking about.

Which is probably why no companies wanted to distribute it in the first place.

(Crossposted with DailyKos.)

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