Friday, April 5, 2013

The Sweet Smell of Failure: Dinesh D'Souza, Colonial Apologist and Right-Wing Loser

Note: Today, we, the good people of Et tu, Mr. Destructo? turn for insight to our Managing Editor General Rehavam "Gandhi" Ze'evi, former Israeli Minister of Tourism. Having faked his assassination in the Mt. Scopus Hyatt Hotel, the General has been in deep cover, in Judea and Samaria. He last joined us for a look at Big Mark Brendle's Radio Fragments.

Dinesh D'Souza: Portrait Of The Failure As A Done Man

In the pantheon of hard-right holy rollers who have spectacularly strayed on the road to New Jerusalem, Dinesh D'Souza—the Indian Mr. Bean—is a pitifully dull case. But Jesus wept all the same, anguished as he was by Dinesh D'Souza's wayward penis.

The lodestar of suck, the one that propelled this greased weasel to fame on the right-wing rodeo circuit, shines even on his tepid excuse of a sex scandal: he showed up at some Bible-thumping conference with an extramarital companion—the also-married Denise Odie Joseph—introducing her as his fiancee, before retiring to a shared Comfort Suite. This induced a collective case of "the vapors" among the Board of Trustees at King's College, the barely accredited evangelical diploma mill where D'Souza served as president. A marathon Board meeting, and it was all over: D'Souza was fired, stripped of his six-figure salary (he only took a vow of intellectual poverty), and booted back into the GOP scullery from whence he came.

A rising star in the conservative movement was shunted into obscurity after a whirlwind of praise. The erstwhile "Michael Moore of the Right" finally reemerged just a few weeks ago, in much reduced circumstances: a tight nine minutes at the annual convention of the worst swine in America, CPAC, jammed in two hours before the end and after an Ann Coulter book signing. It was a sad performance, delivered to a mostly empty auditorium, the "zingers" perfunctory, as D'Souza shilled for his next project: a movie entitled, simply, America. As D'Souza droned on about the "self-made man" in the USA, it was all too painful a testament to failure—specifically, that of the enormous loser speaking, his insights all but singlehandedly disproving that moronic notion of "American exceptionalism."

He should have been riding high: this slithering gurnard, a hack pundit best-known (if at all) for blaming 9/11 on liberals, had rocketed to fame this past summer as director of the paragon of birther agitprop, 2016: Obama's America. A "documentary" purporting to expose the aggrieved, radical President Obama we "don't know," it metastasized from a July opening at one Houston theater to over two thousand in wide release. It is the top-grossing documentary of 2012, and the second-highest grossing political documentary of all time.

As an anti-Obama screed, 2016 is a burnt failure that doesn't make sense—Christ, his fans wish Obama were a radical anti-colonial socialist and not some ardently neoliberal drone king. No, the movie is hideously stupid regarding Obama. But as the harrowing life story of disgraced, third-string Republican token Dinesh D'Souza, it presents compelling material. In light of D'Souza's fall from grace, the documentary's true concern—the psychic pain an Indian immigrant endures seeking the love of America's nativist hard-right—is more relevant than ever. D'Souza's bizarre shadowplay with a non-existent, revolutionary Obama serves not merely to acquit the West of the crimes of empire, but to acquit D'Souza himself, a bootlicking toady, of his collaboration.

D'Souza's attempt to expiate himself of his water-carrying succeeds on the silver screen. It is in the real world that he failed—pilloried by the very same "patriots" he wasted his adult life flattering.

Voyage In The Dark: Confronting A Celluloid Nightmare
If you feel a scintilla of sympathy for D'Souza, you can disabuse yourself of the feeling by renting 2016: Obama's America. Forget facts—D'Souza massages the rancid root chakra of the silent majority, dog whistles at the top of his lungs and cranks the "Real America" charismata to eleven. That is to say, the movie is strikingly racist. It is breathtakingly, crudely, and proudly racist.

Take, for instance, how D'Souza constructs the smear that Obama is seeking to destroy America. Ominously hinting that Obama isn't one of us is a rite of passage for any GOP hack. D'Souza's been peddling this garbage long enough to hone his pitch, as he clambers to extract $27.95 from every racist grandparent in America. There are a lot of mutants in the far-right media Thunderdome, and not enough AM radio minutes for all of them; if you want a career, you'd better find a niche, just like Posh Spice, Baby Spice, and Sporty Spice did. Dinesh "Scary Spice" D'Souza explained his chosen gimmick in a 2010 interview:
The conventional theories—he's a Muslim, he's not an American, he's a socialist—I don't think really work, so I'm putting a new card on the table, and look, I'm a college president, I'm not trying to bash Obama in a crude way, I'm trying to give an explanatory framework, and I think the anti-colonial framework explains his domestic policy, explains his foreign policy.
Read: I, Dinesh D'Souza, would feel icky going déclassé Freeper and simply calling Obama a raghead—I am was the president of a college, after all! D'Souza's goal is to lend a patina of scholarly inquiry and investigative rigor to 98 pre-election minutes of rolling that beautiful Muslim Marxist Luo tribesman cannibal savage bean footage. This movie doesn't so much speak as growl, marinating in some animal hormone. Armed with a vague awareness of the general thrust of human events over the last four years, it became like watching The Usual Suspects for a second time—with "Verbal" D'Souza, intrepid truth lover, braving the darkest reaches of Africa to spin the yarn that Barack Obama might, in fact, be black.

The opening credits are very similar to those of Se7en. As stock footage rolls of Kenyans and Indians fighting their colonizers in the streets, Obama's portrait appears, surrounded by question marks, like the Riddler. "WE ARE ALL SHAPED BY OUR PAST…and carry it into the future," Dinesh intones over these BBC b-rolls. "BUT NOTHING CAN THREATEN THE FUTURE…as much as the debts of the past." Sustaining this Zoolander "moisture is the essence of wetness" riff, D'Souza rattles off a list of bygone empires, which seems like a bad idea… until he qualifies that America isn't a fading empire, "because we are an empire of ideals, if we're an empire at all."

This is as much of a theoretical framework as D'Souza musters, as the movie descends into the abyss. "Obama came out of nowhere. Nobody knew him." D'Souza's proof? Some red carpet footage of Billy Baldwin, regretting his vote for Obama. "I saw Obama make decisions no ordinary Democrat would make." Such as? Obama returned a bust of authoritarian butcher Winston Churchill to the British Embassy.

And then, 40 minutes in, in the confident tone of a literary detective, D'Souza blurts out a damning, undeniable truth about Obama's memoir: "Note that it says Dreams From My Father, not Dreams Of My Father."

Whoa. Game over, man! Game over! Dumbass idiot Obama—he blew the whole gambit by fucking up his prepositions! This is no minor slip: see, according to D'Souza, "The U.S. is being ruled according to the dreams of a Luo tribesman…this philandering, inebriated African socialist." The dreams are from the father: "America today is governed by a ghost." The dreams are coming from inside the house! She's my sister and my daughter! It's a COOKBOOK!

It was then I noticed the soundtrack—a tribal war drum. Dinesh is a maestro during this sequence, helpfully pointing out that Barack Obama Sr. met Ann Dunham when she was only 17. D'Souza gives us just a moment to savor the notions of miscegenation and statutory rape, as we shoot across the world, to Kenya! Hawaii! Back to Kenya! There's a lot of emphasis on all the sex Barack Sr. had with white women, the many children he sired, and his bigamous marriages. The audience members around me in the theater grunted approvingly.

D'Souza's argument makes no sense—his inimical claim is that the "airbrushed father's" absenteeism cast more of an influence on Barack than if he'd, uh, lived with him—but what're facts when you've spent 20 minutes crudely depicting a lecherous Kenyan drunk, picking up white women to a bongo beat? Ann Dunham is depicted as "attracted to third-world guys"—the harlot—and as so disturbed by her second husband's pro-American beliefs that she sent Barack out of the country… to Hawaii. Oh yeah, they were living in Indonesia at the time. D'Souza, logician of some note, interprets a return to America as the ultimate rejection of America. Whatever. Here are some photos of Obama smoking pot.

D'Souza's professorial, genteel brand of race-baiting is odious, and not subtle; he got a big laugh from the audience I sat with when he headed to a Kenyan village with several goats in tow. See, D'Souza wanted to interview Barack Obama Sr.'s relatives, and was surprised when they refused his kind housewarming gift. Ho ho ho, those delightful savages! Why ever did they ever start killing their Western "guests"?

Mad Dogs and Englishmen: Or, 'Three Cheers For The Raj'
After all this slapstick race-baiting, what little insight the movie offers is not into the craven mind of sleeper jihadist Barack X, but into that of the twerpy auteur himself. I finally realized what D'Souza was doing when he interviewed George Obama, Barack's half-brother. D'Souza hilariously fails to get George to say anything critical of Obama. But then Dinesh asks George about colonialism, to which George answers, "I don't think colonialism is to blame with the problems of Kenya."

See, as Dinesh says, anti-colonials like Obama "don't believe we made our wealth through hard work, but through taking" it from the colonized. (This remind you of anyone else?) These modern-day anti-colonialists aren't like our good, American ones, like proto-terrorist Sam Adams; they "hate capitalism, Christianity, and America."

And here we have the crux of the movie—an Indian immigrant and trollop to the Republicans, assuring dark ages America: you never did anything wrong. D'Souza knows he's an apologist and a liar, eliding not only the killing of hundreds of thousands of Kenyans in British gulags, but those of tens of millions of his countrymen, in entirely preventable famines caused by the Raj's iron-bound, Irish-style duty to export all of India's grain. See, Tea Party Patriots! I'm literally filming myself pissing on Barack Obama Sr.'s Kenyan grave! I'm not like those other, restless wogs, whether they're in Mumbai, Nairobi, or Chicago!

And that's the real plot of 2016: the denigration of any colonial subject who said "no," rather than run into the arms of the oppressor, the same way the far-right and pseudo-left always bludgeon anyone who ever says no, from unionized teachers to sexually active women. Ineptly grafted onto 2012 America, D'Souza's collaborationist sentiment coheres as a vicious, unhinged assault on Obama—the beige centre-left community organizer whose success rips the scabs off a whingeing, deracinated suck-up like D'Souza. Obama must be an intellectual foreigner, screams Dinesh, an immigrant who, wading through a crowd of furious, violent Islamophobes, would fare no better than any other minority. Those bigots buy his books and see his movies—yet if they saw Dinesh D'Souza ambling out of the Park 51 Islamic community center, they wouldn't recognize him as the author of Ronald Reagan: How an Ordinary Man Became an Extraordinary Leader.

Scholar Ashis Nandy, in analyzing the colonization of India, notes that British "subjects could not collaborate on a long-term basis unless they had some acceptance of the ideology of the system, either as players or as counterplayers." This, Nandy argues, "is the only way they could preserve a minimum of self-esteem in a situation of unavoidable injustice." As the movie tells us, D'Souza's grandfather reacts with horror when young Dinesh enrolls in Dartmouth. A retired Raj bureaucrat, he would have spent his career bleeding from a thousand tiny cuts, inflicted in the casually cruel manner only the British can muster. The old man begs him not to go: "It's all white over there."

I wonder, as his fair-weather friends abandon him, whether Dinesh has had any dreams from his grandfather lately.