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FrackNation screening

biMy fellow columnist at the Daily Maverick, Ivo Vegter, has secured the rights to screen FrackNation in South Africa. If you’ve seen Gasland, you might think that the South African government would be giving Shell permission to destroy the Karoo, create flammable tap water, and murder a number of meerkats. If you’ve read any of Ivo’s columns, you’d know that he thinks these fears unfounded, and that fracking in the Karoo is instead likely to result in lots of cheap energy, jobs and so forth.

But regardless of which side of the fence you are on the issue of fracking, it’s important to be persuaded by evidence rather than by hysteria, unfounded fear, or emotional blackmail. And this is the problem with Gasland, in that Josh Fox simply makes stuff up (at times) in that highly successful documentary. Regardless of whether he’s right or wrong on the merits of fracking, he does his cause no good through playing fast and loose with evidence.

Well, one might hope that causes premised on hysteria and dishonesty pay a price. In this case, that hasn’t happened – in fact, Fox has been commissioned to make a sequel. Fox’s documentary did however prompt a thorough response – also in documentary form – by independent journalist Phelim McAleer. I’ve seen it, and it’s worth watching – not only because he counters many of the claims made by Fox, but also because he exposes how afraid Fox is of engaging with any critical questions.

So if you care about the issue of hydraulic fracturing – and also, care about your views on important matters being justified by all the (reasonably) available evidence, then try to attend next wek’s Cape Town premiere of FrackNation.

To quote from the press release:

The premiere will be screened at in Cape Town on 20 June 2013. Afterwards, there will be opportunity for a Q&A with me (Ivo Vegter, columnist for Daily Maverick and author of Extreme Environment).

Venue: The Labia
City: Cape Town
Date: Thursday 20 June 2013
Time: 18:00 – 20:00

Tickets are R200. You can book here:

A full house would be great, because it is important to combat lobby group propaganda, and I’d like to cover my own expenses. Please forward this to other people you think would be keen to hear an
independent take on the shale gas debate.

By Jacques Rousseau

Jacques Rousseau teaches critical thinking and ethics at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, and is the founder and director of the Free Society Institute, a non-profit organisation promoting secular humanism and scientific reasoning.

4 replies on “FrackNation screening”

Miriam Bale of the New York Daily News wrote “With many of McAleer’s facts coming from casual Internet searches (backed by boring shots of the computer screen), the accuracy of this crowd-sourced documentary — funded by small donations on Kickstarter — seems as reliable as a Wikipedia entry.”
Mark Olsen of the New York Times criticized the film as “unfocused,” with several moments that are “theatrical but irrelevant,” calling the film “a one-sided attack piece” that “doesn’t add much to the conversation.”

No substantive rebuttals, then? Thought not.

The screenshots are early on, to set the stage for what prompted the documentary. And Olsen is welcome to ignore the few scenes that wax a little emotive, for my liking too. However, the remainder — that is, most of it — remains pretty damning of all the major anti-fracking claims.

Sidestepping the irony of quoting a Wikipedia entry that questions its own reliability, allow me to quote the rest of the reactions section of that very same entry:

‘Critical reactions to of the film were polarized. Some positive reviewers regarded the film as well researched. Jeannette Catsoulis a journalist for Forbes, writing for the New York Times, noted that the movie was methodically researched and showed the “sheer complexity” of fracking. Variety said the film examined the process of fracking, giving counter arguments for the Gasland documentary, especially in regards to the flaming faucets scene. The magazine noted that the documentary did a thorough job of technical information and personal stories of farmers who live near fracking locations. The National Review noted that FrackNation did an excellent job refuting Gasland based upon the scientific research in the film.

‘Some positive reviews claimed that the film was able to successfully refute not only the factual claims of Gasland, but also some of the emotional testimonies. Christopher Campbell, from, said the documentary was “surprisingly engaging” and that the most interesting case against Gasland that was brought up was the easy acceptance by journalists of the film as fact, implying journalists have ignored their responsibilities of fact-checking all documentaries.

‘The review noted that because the film did not accept money for the
energy industry is gave the film more credibility, though some of the
donors were some of the farmers who were featured in the film. Kyle
Smith for the New York Post wrote that McAleer should have earned an award for taking on the “fear mongering” in Gasland. Smith also noted how Gasland testimonials were refuted based upon the reactions given when McAleer tried interviewing the same farmers.”‘

So, let’s quote both sides of the story next time, shall we?

Well I consider wikipedia more truthful that many doccies and prefer the
crowdsourcing aspect of this – especially when it is about big oil . At the moment I am against fracking, but would
love to be convinced that the benefits outweigh the negatives. Whatever one’s
feeling is about this, two things makes this movie interesting.

1. Arguments on both sides of fracking has got merit – one needs to
respect it.

2. This is very relative to us as South Africans. It can have a major
impact on our next generation. I do hope for the better.

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