In an interview conducted as he awaits sentencing for violating campaign-finance law, Dinesh D’Souza reveals the inspiration behind the “documentaries” he’s produced, such as 2016: Obama’s America (trailer above) and America: Imagine the World Without Her:
I went back and watched Roger and Me, which I think is [Michael Moore’s] best film. It’s got an interesting premise: General Motors closes down a big auto plant that his dad happened to work at, and he’s going to go find the CEO of General Motors and demand to know why. Now, it fails intellectually, because there is an obvious reason why General Motors might want to close that plant—i.e., it’s not making money. And one possible reason it’s not making money is General Motors has been paying people like his dad way too much and can make cars much cheaper in North Carolina or other countries. You can’t proceed without confronting that argument. But Michael Moore’s presumption is that the CEO of General Motors, Roger Smith, is just a mean guy who wants to deprive working people of their livelihood. So intellectually, it’s ridiculous.
But visually, cinematically, narratively, it works. This clownish Michael Moore showing up everywhere, the cops in dogged pursuit. All of that works. What Michael Moore understands is that a movie traffics in the language of emotion. The intellect is subordinate to that.
On the Obama question, D’Souza is actually copying Moore’s intellectually ridiculous oeuvre.
He starts, as Moore does, with a crude reductionist idea of a public figure – Obama as seeking revenge on a colonial America – undergirded by nothing but D’Souza’s own pop-psychologizing of Obama’s relationship with his own father. Everything else needed to explain the actions of a center-left president (who has waged more wars in more places than most American presidents) is moot. For D’Souza, a crude narrative of racial revenge is all that’s really necessary to understand the Obama presidency – and he then simply adds layer upon layer to this caricature, which feeds paranoia and conspiracy theories and glib ideology as powerfully as Moore once did.
D’Souza once believed in making serious arguments for a more conservative view of the world. It’s telling about his own evolution – and the degeneration of public discourse in America – that he has largely given that up in favor of really lucrative propaganda designed to monetize the polarized red state masses. He’s another example of the power of the right-wing media-industrial complex. Its ability to reward its propagandists with fantastic monetary awards without any need to engage critics has transformed conservatism in this country – for the gridlocked, ideological worse.