“2016: Obama’s America” will only impress the low/no information voter predisposed to accept its principal theme: Obama is an instrument forged by his father’s hatred of all things American.
It is getting lots of play in the right wing’s media machine, will be front and center at the Republican Convention, and is one of the favorite conversation starters among the Tea Party faithful.
The film has the feel of the “Manchurian Candidate.” – a book to film (in 1962 and in 2004) that I very much enjoyed. But this film presents itself as a documentary and it very much has the look of one.
Dinesh D’Souza, whose had made a career of going after liberalism/progressivism in all its forms, creates a pretty nicely packaged infomercial here. The best liberal comparison for “2016” is probably the films of Michael Moore, who like D’Souza acts as the guide through documentaries that are meant to persuade us to his way of thinking.
D’Souza is smoother than Moore who is often openly sarcastic, usually overbearing, and occasionally a bully. D’Souza is a calm, cool, reasonable presence. It is tempting to trust him, even when he’s asking questions that make it clear that he envisions a second term for Obama as an overthrow of American life as it is supposed to be.
His man/woman on the street question? “What would you worry about if America was no longer America?”
D’Souza’s guiding principle is that Obama is an agent of an anti-colonial conspiracy. He first suggested this in a 2010 Forbes magazine article and then upped the ante in two subsequent books. He moves from Obama as anti-colonial to anti-capitalist to anti-American. His father, who was estranged from the family for virtually all of his life, was Obama’s “compass,” as D’Souza calls it — anti-colonialist, anti-white and anti-Christian shaping the radical politics of Obama and his supporters. He even uses an interview with a psychologist to point how absent fathers often have extraordinary influence on their sons.
The first hour of the 90-minute “2016” has a calm and rational veneer- what I think of as bashing with a fist wrapped in a velvet glove and a kindly, almost sad expression on the attackers face.
There’s a brief history of colonialism which focuses on Africa (and tellingly leaves out our own experience of it) and a quick bio of Obama, focusing on his legacy from the father he barely knew and with whom he hardly ever communicated. He uses Obama’s own biography, “Dreams from My Father” as a device to tell the story with footage of himself poring over Obama’s memoir like a psychological detective, while visiting Indonesia, Hawaii and Kenya.
D’Souza obsesses about some very odd events. The return of the bust of Winston Churchill, on loan from the National Gallery in London to George W. Bush as a token of friendship by Prime Minister Blair. By mutual agreement, the bust was to be rtuned at the end of that administration. D’Souza claims this was an Obama decision and a sign of his hatred for the British Empire and by extension colonialism.
Of course, the charge ignores our national foundations in a revolt against colonialism. Even so, much of the first 60 minutes is a decently argued, highly skeptical look at Obama written and presented as Fox would do an Obama retrospective.
But…..The last half-hour is…..well, really crazy tin-foil hat kind of stuff.
D’Souza, in a sincere and serious tone, says the following: Obama got elected to his first term so he could wait four years, get elected again and then, like some Manchurian candidate, shift the world’s power to Second and Third World countries. If the president is reelected, he says, the world four years from now will be darkened by the clouds of economic collapse, World War III (thanks to the wholesale renunciation of our nuclear superiority) and a terrifyingly ascendant new “United States of Islam” in the Middle East. These assertions are accompanied by images of stormy clouds interspersed with scenes of Muslims massed and protesting and lots of horror-movie music.
He makes no case in support of this at all- he knows there is no need. His audience was with him from the start. He has a few people who agree with him building a case of guilt by association (often three and four steps removed from Obama). There are no primary sources; no documentary evidence; no interviews with those who might offer first hand insight. At the end he gives credit for the turning of Obama to a group of radical “founding fathers”: communist Frank Marshall Davis; former Weather Underground member Bill Ayers; academic Edward Said, whose views are described as anti-Zionist; liberal Harvard professor Roberto Unger; and the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, a proponent of so-called black liberation theology.
I saw the film for free with several of my friends who are GOP (although several are wavering). They paid for it. We went to lunch to discuss it. My friends are a pretty rational crowd and after an hour of discussion even they agreed the film was a weak stick. Most supporters of the President will find the film irritating in its first 60 minutes and infuriating in its last half hour.
As these things go, the movie seems destined to irritate the president’s supporters while mobilizing his detractors, but doomed to win precious few converts. It’s a textbook example of preaching to the choir in some mad Dominionist Church of American Supremacy.
How is the film doing? It was released on July 13 but in limited showings to select audiences. It has moved in 1,091 theaters in the last week and has made $5,093,000 for an average of $31,160 per theater. Production costs have not been provided as the films financing was “privately underwritten.” The billionaires’ club at work again?