Cinema in the information war around pesticides

Target[i] in the recently released Goliath movie, it seems quite obvious: it’s about influencing the audience, shocking them, so that they become aware of this problem. In this regard, the timing of the release of the film is relevant, since the issue of the use of pesticides by candidates in the presidential elections is not touched upon.

To convey his message, the director turns to the laws of American cinema as he pits Goliath (the pesticide industry) against David (those who oppose him). His film, however, remains less effective than dark waters in particular because the director rudely points the finger at the immorality of the lobbyists, using the Good Cop/Bad Cop duet with a regretful lobbyist. It also highlights the wealth gap between the protagonists to highlight the disparity in the balance of power. This balance of power clearly favors the “weak” in the eyes of the viewer, who therefore comes out of this film with a “hate” for the lobby.

Information warfare strategies

Let’s now look at the strategies used by the two sides in the logic of information warfare.

Strategy and tactics of defenders

As mentioned earlier, the “defenders” are in a difficult position because they are not being listened to by politicians and because they do not have the financial means necessary to fight for their cause. Therefore, their goal is to take legal action to obtain changes. However, this is very slow and not necessarily favorable. Therefore, human rights activists seek to mobilize the civilian population to support the struggle, and then influence political power. Therefore, it is precisely because they are prisoners of these physical realities that the protectors are forced to take subversive measures.

The first step in this fight is to collect physical evidence for scientific research that may be related to pesticides. However, advocates quickly realize that this tactic will not work because funds are scarce and pesticide manufacturers harbor doubts about scientific research.

Faced with the failure of this first step, the director shows the radicalization of some of the militants. Seeing that peaceful protests are of little effect, the hard core of activists is turning to more offensive and violent actions. With this approach, the location of the image is extremely important, and the defenders play on this, dropping police charges against the demonstrators in order to, once again, shock the audience.

However, the real information offensive comes from the ability of this hard core of demonstrators to take pictures to demonstrate the conflicts of interest that bind scientists and lobbyists. Thus, they attack the legitimacy of their opponent. Thus, this approach is a real operation of influence and psychological warfare, allowing to sow doubts in the minds of civil society and lobbyists, which will ultimately lead to the leakage of documents.

Finally, it should be emphasized that all these information offensives are based on moral arguments, such as “denial of democracy”, to justify the actions of the demonstrators and the use of physical force.

Strategies and tactics of lobbyists

Knowing full well that this violence can work against the “defenders” in the eyes of public opinion, the director does not give them a monopoly on physical violence. The lobbying tactics aimed at discrediting a lawyer actually starts with administrative pitfalls (tax audit) and, again, goes through a gradation, since the lawyer is a victim of intimidation and harassment. Her friend is then beaten on the street to send her a message.

Another tactic used by lobbyists is to skillfully sideline issues raised by “lawyers”. In this way, they manage to contrast statements about the pesticide ban with the situation of French farmers who have no choice but to use pesticides if they want to continue to survive.

In addition to this strategy, lobbyists ridicule their opponents and caricature them in order to portray them as extremists and ignorant sides of reality. This tactic allows them to make “false concessions” that they don’t really care about.

It remains clear that the main strategy used by lobbyists is to directly approach political decision makers, using tactics that sometimes border on corruption. Other tactical maneuvers are alluded to in the film, such as postponing polling day and belated voting on measures to keep the opposition out of the way during voting.


Finally, it is interesting to note that the director points to the main contradiction put forward by the pesticide lobby: it seems impossible to feed the world’s population without artificially increasing crop yields. This contradiction seems to me all the more relevant because the war in Ukraine could have serious consequences in terms of nutrition on a global scale, because grain exports will be hit hard this year[ii].

This contradiction gives rise to two problems: moral and economic.

Europe is in captivity of the main contradiction: it is impossible to have a reasonable agriculture without punishing the consumer with a price. Europe is really competitive on prices and with countries (Brazil and Australia in the lead) that are much more liberal in their use of products that are harmful to health and the environment…

Paul Margaret


[i] In this feature film, a lobbyist in the pesticide industry is trying to get a license renewal for the use of “tetrazine,” which is similar in design to glyphosate. To confront him and prevent this recurrence, Gilles Lelouch plays the role of a lawyer prosecuting a “tetrazine” firm for poisoning.

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