It takes 90 minutes for Dinesh D’Souza’s rambling, mistitled “America: Imagine the World without Her” to get to its real point. There’s D’Souza, arch-conservative Ivy League immigrant, creator of the popular anti-Obama screed “2016: Obama’s America,” in handcuffs.
“I made a mistake,” he says to the conservative choir he’s preaching to. We’re supposed to know he pleaded guilty to felony federal campaign finance law violations back in May, and that he faces prison time when he’s sentenced later this year.
Snippets of assorted Fox TV commentators link that conviction to his earlier film criticizing Barack Obama. The implication is that he’s a martyr to the cause. And for those a little slower to catch on, he cuts to an actor playing Abe Lincoln, giving his “farewell address.”
“I now leave, not knowing when, or whether ever, I may return.”
Cut to John Wilkes Booth, an assassination, and a great Republican lost to history.
What doesn’t matter is that Lincoln actually gave that address as he left Illinois for Washington in 1861, four years before his assassination. What does is D’Souza’s almost comical gall at daring to make the comparison.
“America” sets itself up as a piece of documentary counter-history. Where would the world be if America wasn’t here?
But D’Souza abandons that as he posits his main thesis – that a conspiracy by academics and activists has created a culture of “shame” about American history. He lists five “indictments” that have been sold the American public – that we stole Indian land, Mexican land, African slaves, global colonies (and oil) and that capitalists are stealing from each and every one of us, even today. Then he sets out to dismiss each of those indictments.
D’Souza takes issue with the notion that keeping “conquered lands” was something we invented and punctures the use of “genocide” to describe the impact of disease on Native American populations in the early years after European settlement.
D’Souza whines that “capitalists are under fire” and flings the usual hero entrepreneurs up on screen (Steve Jobs, et al) while avoiding mentioning rapacious corporate compensation culture, Wall Street chicanery or high finance gambling.
He dismisses the notion of any lingering impact of slavery on African Americans and sidesteps the fiasco of Vietnam by interviewing a pilot who was shot down, held prisoner and tortured by the Vietnamese.
What he’s doing, it turns out, is lowering the viewer’s standards of proof for a vigorous return to “2016” territory, a hatchet job on Obama and Obamacare.
D’Souza cannot help himself. He’s discovered a way to get rich hurling Obama-baiting red meat to an audience that cannot get enough of that, so he abandons any pretense of making a movie about how this country should have a more vigorous debate about its image, its principles and just what the truth is about its history.
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