In the current issue of National Review, I have a piece called “Take Two: D’Souza films again.” As you can gather, it’s about Dinesh D’Souza’s second film, now playing in theaters. It’s called “America: Imagine the World without Her.” There is a companion book to it: America: Imagine a World without Her.
There is a slight difference in those two titles. Did you notice? The film says “the World” and the book says “a World.” Curious.
Dinesh’s first movie was 2016: Obama’s America, which appeared right in the middle of the 2012 presidential election campaign. Michael Moore’s movie Fahrenheit 9/11 appeared right in the middle of the 2004 campaign.
Neither filmmaker could defeat the president he despised — in Moore’s case George W. Bush, in D’Souza’s case Obama.
Fahrenheit 9/11 is the highest-grossing documentary of all time. No. 2 is March of the Penguins. (Can’t go wrong with penguins, or Morgan Freeman.) No. 3 is a Justin Bieber flick. And then comes Dinesh’s 2016, at No. 4.
Dinesh is the anti-Moore: taking to the big screen to press conservative points.
Here in Impromptus, I’d like to expand on my piece in the current NR. Dinesh D’Souza is an interesting man — and a lavishly talented one — with interesting things to say.
I began my piece by talking about Dinesh’s bus — I rode on it with him and his posse from New York to Philadelphia. He was touring the country, rolling out his movie.
It would be hard to imagine a nicer, swankier bus than Dinesh D’Souza’s. “It’s a lot better than Tom Cruise’s,” says Jerry Molen. He would know. Molen has been in Hollywood for many years, and knows everybody. He was the producer of several Spielberg movies, and he is D’Souza’s producer as well.
Dinesh travels like a rock star — or did in this case — and is sometimes greeted like one. This is extraordinary, for an intellectual and book author. Of course, he is a filmmaker now — and the (onscreen) star of those films.
In the past, he says, he was recognized now and then, from scattered TV appearances. You don’t get recognized from articles and books — not on the street. You do get recognized from television.
But after his first movie, he found a whole new level of fame. He was recognized, not just by a few political nerds, but by the public at large: store clerks, TSA agents, and so on.
How does it feel? Darn good, of course.
I must tell you, it was a blast being on that bus — my taste of stardom, or at least of groupiedom. Happy groupiedom.
The night before, there was a screening of America in Union Square — New York’s Union Square. This is not a conservative stronghold, let me tell you: It is hard by Greenwich Village, and New York University.
Dinesh’s audience included many young people, and young people of various hues (for those keeping racial score — as many people do). Dinesh tells me, “It’s not that young people have rejected conservatism. It’s that they have not been exposed to it.”
There is at least one distinguished conservative who lives in Union Square: Richard Brookhiser, the NR senior editor and historian. (I should probably have put those two in the opposite order — historian first — but I’m being partisan, in a magazine sense.)
Dinesh’s movie begins arrestingly: with the words “September 11th.” That’ll certainly get your attention. The first words are “September 11th.”
An American soldier in the Revolution is writing home to his wife on September 11, 1777. He is telling her about the wonderful commander, George Washington.
And the movie proposes a what-if: What if Washington had been felled by a sniper’s bullet, before completing the Revolution? What if America had never gotten off the ground?
It is unnerving, watching the movie, seeing Washington fall from his horse. Dead.
Also, what if the Nazis had gotten the Bomb before we did? Dinesh ponders that too, and, again, it is unnerving. History is not inevitable (unless you’re a super-deterministic type).
Early in the movie, Dinesh says, “I love America.” He sure does. He loves it as only an immigrant can. (Dinesh came from Bombay.) He loves America without embarrassment, without apology.
When I was growing up — and where I was growing up — you could not really talk this way. You had to remember America’s sins. Indeed, you had to stress them. You were loath to be a jingo, an Archie Bunker. We were raised on Norman Lear shows (I exaggerate, of course). There was hardly anyone dumber or less respectable than a flag-waver.
Dinesh knows all about America’s sins, I assure you. But he knows about the rest of the world’s, too. And he does not slight America’s virtues. (On the contrary.)