This week's essay is a departure from the norm. On Wednesday I attended a screening of Dinesh D'Souza's "America: Imagine A World Without Her" followed by a Q & A with the author/producer in San Francisco. The documentary itself and the reaction to it are worth several comments.
First, some brief background:
- Since college days at Dartmouth D'Souza has been a friend of Harmeet Dhillon, the SF GOP Chair and the Vice Chair of the California Republican Party. He has spoken at the party's annual fundraiser and knows the San Francisco audience. In person he is mellow and charming. In politics he is fearless.
- This is D'Souza's second film after 25 years of conservative writing and lecturing. The first, "2016: Obama's America" was released before the 2012 election, and dealt with the background of Barack Obama. Despite criticism from the media, it took in $33.5 million in revenue and was among the top viewed documentaries of all time.
Without giving away too much of the new film, it addresses the premise of the Left that America has stolen its success - from the Indians; through the 1840's war with Mexico; through slavery; through foreign imperialism; through abuse of the working class. For each claim he allows a prominent progressive thought leader to make their case, then proceeds to fill in the rest of the history to conclude with that the idea of America and the evolving social and political system has been a tremendous force for good in the world. That sounds trite, but the film is not, and it contains a number of "gosh, why didn't I know that" moments - like the connection between the anti-establishment radical Saul Alinsky and Hillary Clinton.
As interesting as the book and the movie are, the reaction of the gate keepers of American political culture is more so:
- Just before the launch of the movie in 1100 theaters, Costco - run by a major Democrat donor - abruptly discontinued sale of the book which had been released a month earlier. Faced with substantial consumer backlash - and the book reaching #1 on Amazon - they reversed course two days later claiming that the decision had nothing to do with politics and was due to inadequate sales.
- In late June the book was left off of the New York Times best seller list for hardcover non-fiction which included less well-selling books by Elizabeth Warren and Timothy Geithner.
- In the arcane world of "Search Engine Optimization", Google searches to find where the new movie is playing have been coming up with his prior film, a 1929 silent movie, or a 2009 Rosie O'Donnell film. Technical issues to be sure.
One sour note - D'Souza recently pleaded guilty to reimbursing two associates for their political contributions and faces up to two years in jail at the discretion of a (hopefully Republican) New York judge. Such is the world of hardball politics in 2014 America.
So, the call to action - try to find your way through the Google maze to locate one of the 1100 theaters playing "America: Imagine a World Without Her" and go with a group of friends.
Here's a Texas Democrat Congressman discussing President Obama's response to the border crisis on MSNBC - shortly before he was told by the White House to shut up.