If we take the premise that everything we read is true, never question anything, ask for facts, documentation, or try to even envision another point of view, then you have the very simple minded movie that is Dinesh D’Souza’s “America”. To say this film is insulting to the intelligence of the average watcher is an understatement. This is a one man show on why America is blameless, capitalism is the answer to everyone’s prayer, and those who need or expect anything from government are pitiful takers, or connivers with the far left whose sole mission is to destroy America.
D’Souza starts with a kind of “It’s a Wonderful life” idea, in which he asks what would have happened if Washington had died during the revolutionary war? What would America and the world have looked like? However instead of exploring this tantalizing idea, he uses this as a means to attack the left through scare fantasies and the charge of SHAME, which the right has historically said the left places on America.
What does he use as his basis for this? He cites a French aristocrat Alexis de Tocqueville who wrote a book “Democracy in America” circa 1830 as his evidence for America’s greatness. This book is so old it predates the civil war, and in addition he is somehow equating nineteenth century America to twenty-fourteen. If we follow this line of thinking, then the ideas of a French Christian nobleman about what America should be are those we should espouse.
He outlines several notions regarding shame that Americans supposedly believe. Number one is that we stole America from the Native Americans. This is a biased characterization of the political left’s assertion. However, during the film instead of exploring all the things which happened he cherry picks only those things which he thinks are important such as the notion that the Native Americans died from disease but does not say that the military issued blankets infested with smallpox. This is convenient and says to the viewer, America is blameless and so move on.
He does mention the trail of tears, yet neglects to say that President Jackson did this in direct contradiction to the orders from the Supreme Court, thus completely absolving the U.S. from any real culpability or ownership as to the outcome, the mass genocide of so many Native Americans.
Another thing he seeks to discredit is that slavery was wrong. He cites Henry Ellison who was a freed slave, turned cotton gin owner and then slave owner and breeder. From there, D’ Souza tries to postulate that there were hundreds of freed slaves who owned slaves, so since blacks participated and profited in slavery no one is to blame. From here he tells the story of Madame Walker who became a millionaire selling hair care products. However, she is one person out of millions of souls who lived their lives in chains.
You would think he was done there, however he then interviews an African American woman who was on welfare for three years. She says she stayed home and did not look for a job because she could just get her check and that what got her out of welfare was going to church, and from there she went back to college, created a company and wrote a book. He uses this one case to say the American dream is alive and well.
Another good example of only asserting what is convenient for your argument, is when he talks about writer, historian and peace activist Howard Zinn. While he is touted as being a radical thinker, the man they bring into counter him states that Zinn not only fabricates but is a liar, yet never cites any evidence. Zinn did speak about the treatment of Native American’s by the Europeans, and later African Slaves, yet, because one man who never tells us what his evidence is to say this is untrue, says it’s not true, suddenly slavery is absolved.
Now that we can be guilt free about the slave thing, he goes onto ask if we stole Mexico from the Mexicans, and then finally to Capitalism. It is when we finally get here that it becomes crystal clear where he is headed. There are many slaps at Obama, the ACA, Hillary Clinton, Bill Ayers and the Occupy Wall Street movement. They even go so far as to assert that President Obama’s world view and tactics are directly linked to Al Capone. This goes beyond spurious accusations to utter delusory thinking.
The problem with this entire movie is that it is all like the case which was built against D’Souza for being a ‘straw donor’ however here he is creating straw man theories to fit his fantasies. This does not mean that his film does not have some merit, however it never goes in depth on anything. He refers to Aaron Swartz the young man who was indicted on hacking charges and took his life, as well as the governments over reach into spying on American’s yet, he does not go into detail, site evidence, or discuss the ramifications.
This is the same for the charges that were filed against him. After this he says Americans commit at least three felonies a day without knowing it, however he never gives evidence as to what those felonies could be. Following this he was arrested, and the implication is that he was a victim of government over reach, and further that he was targeted. However, after an investigation the appeals court stated there was no evidence to support that claim and he was convicted of campaign violations.
While this is purported to be a documentary, it is clearly one which is set to persuade the electorate. That is it is buttressed by poorly conceived arguments and thin evidence which is chosen to prove his point, only further underscores this. One wonders what would have been the outcome if in fact this had been a film about what the world would look like without America. That is a film that would sell tickets indeed.