Editor’s Note: In the current issue of National Review, Jay Nordlinger has a piece called “Take Two: D’Souza films again.” It’s about Dinesh D’Souza, the conservative author and filmmaker, and his new movie, America: Imagine the World without Her. Nordlinger is expanding on his piece in Impromptus. For Part I of the series, go here.
Dinesh’s movie is two movies, I think — that is, it’s in two distinct parts. The first deals with the “shame narrative.” The second deals with today’s politics, and in particular presidential politics.
He portrays Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton as Alinskyites, i.e., followers of Saul Alinsky, the author of Rules for Radicals, and the original community organizer. There is now a right-wing smell about linking Obama and Hillary to Alinsky. But it wasn’t always so.
Consider this article from the Washington Post. It was published in March 2007, when Obama and Hillary were squaring off for the Democratic nomination. It was headed “For Clinton and Obama, a Common Ideological Touchstone.” And that touchstone was Alinsky.
Nothing spooky or right-wing about it, you see. Just reality.
I myself depart a bit from D’Souza on Alinskyism: I regard Obama and Hillary as mainstream Democrats, no different from Nancy Pelosi, John Kerry, and the rest of the gang. And this gang commands the respect, or at least the votes, of approximately half the country.
But I will say this: Obama has been deceptive about his past. He swore up and down that he did not belong to a radical organization called the New Party. When Stanley Kurtz said he did, Obama’s people called it a “crackpot smear.” The truth is, he did belong to the New Party.
Now, people outgrow radicalism all the time. Half the founding editors and writers of National Review were ex-Communists, and they were the best anti-Communists around. But they were open, truthful. How about O?
And Hillary Clinton — Hillary Rodham — worked for a frankly Red law firm, Bob Truehaft’s in Oakland. They were Communists (and when I say “they,” I mean he and his wife, Jessica Mitford). Our David Pryce-Jones, who knew them well, can tell you all about it.
Anyway . . .
‐Riding on the bus — that gleaming, luxury carriage — I ask Dinesh, “Do you think that Obama and Hillary are carrying out some Alinskyite plan, hatched long ago?” He says no, but they are pursuing a common goal. “Is that goal socialism?” I ask. No, says Dinesh. Classically, socialism means that the “people” own the “means of production,” and everyone gets the same.
“Their goal,” says Dinesh, “is to shift the fulcrum of power in our society away from the entrepreneur and toward a new group, which is an alliance of the political class, the intellectual class, and the media. Those are three camps that feel the same way, have the same skills, and so on. They also have equal resentment against entrepreneurs.”
I sometimes speak of the “media-academia-entertainment” complex. (I have variations of this, as regular readers may know.) Dinesh reminds me that Joe Sobran used to speak of “the Hive.” Same thing.
‐In this movie, Senator Rand Paul gets a lot of airtime, warning of the National Security Agency. Dinesh is apparently of this view, and I am not. But, hell, it’s his film, and the rest of us can make our own films, if we have the chops.
And overweening government is something that every thinking, responsible person ought to be wary of.
Furthermore, Dinesh has special reason to be wary of governmental eyes and ears. More on that in due course.
‐At that screening in Union Square, Dinesh did a Q&A. And there is no one better in Q&A. He is one of the best talkers there are.
He has great patience and finesse — with kooky questions, for example. Someone asks a kooky question about the U.N. Dinesh handles it with a smile, saying that the U.N. is too pathetic and ineffective to run the world.
Someone asks him about immigration, too. He says, “I’m an immigrant, and I have made a pro-immigration movie.” At the same time, he recognizes that we are a nation of laws, etc.
And he startles me by referring to himself as “a person of color.”
‐On the bus, I ask him about this. I say it must be an advantage — a political and rhetorical advantage — to be an Indian (or Indian American). It must be an advantage in approaching the Left for interviews, in debating them, in all sorts of ways. Indianness is a card that can be played, when such a card is needed.
He says, “My ethnicity is a matter of complete indifference to me, an accident, of no intellectual or moral significance whatsoever. However, in the politicized context of American life, with all the racial and ethnic taboos that surround us, I realize that having brown skin is in fact a tactical asset. I have a certain amount of ethnic immunity in addressing otherwise forbidden subjects. I see it as almost my moral obligation to use that immunity to raise the curtain on these issues.”
I find that wonderful, sort of thrilling.
‐In Union Square, Dinesh said something like this: “As a person of color, I know a shakedown when I see it, and I blow the whistle on it.” One of his most interesting contentions, I believe, is that “the shaming of America is related to the shakedown of America.”
If you can convince people that they are guilty, you can rob them of their stuff. If you can convince them that their gains are ill-gotten, you can get them to fork those gains over to you. That explains Jesse Jackson’s brilliant, disgusting, extortionist career.
Dinesh tells me something like this: When Luca Brasi (the brute and enforcer in The Godfather) shakes you down, he’s simply shaking you down. He doesn’t pretend he has the moral high ground. Jesse Jackson, by contrast, pretends he’s striking some blow for justice.
Which is really annoying.
‐Dinesh says, “What I resent most of all about the Left is that they exploit American decency.” I think of that Borat movie, in which the comedian and prankster exploits this very decency. Americans are too polite to tell him to shove it.
If you tell Americans they’re wrong, says Dinesh, they’re apt to say, “I’m sorry about that. How can I do better, how can I make it up to you?” And that decency, as Dinesh sees it, makes Americans vulnerable.
‐I have written about Dinesh before — in 2012, when he released his first movie. For that piece, go here. I’d like to excerpt a little:
D’Souza had come [to Dartmouth College] from Bombay, where he was born and raised. Ignorant, hippie-dippie students were fascinated by his name, his homeland, his otherness. “Oh, dude, I love India!” they would say. “Ever been there?” D’Souza would ask. “No,” they would say. “What do you think you love about it?” he would continue. “The dowry? Arranged marriage? The caste system? Poverty? Hopelessness?”
The second movie confirms for me that one of Dinesh’s great advantages is that he is absolutely clear-eyed about the Third World. While liberal Americans romanticize it, he has lived it.
In the new movie, he playfully asks a retired Border Patrol agent whether he ever saw anyone try to sneak into Mexico from the United States. (The answer is no, of course.) How many people would have asked the agent that question? Not many. But it is very D’Souza.
Should we knock off for today? Okay, I’ll continue with the series tomorrow, and conclude it. Till then (which is the name of a song).