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Last night, I took my wife to see 2016, Obama’s America, the movie based upon the book by (and “starring”) Dinesh D'Souza. There have been some very thorough and accurate criticisms here of D’Souza’s slanted biography of Obama, allegations and predictions, to which I can add little.  Ian Reifowitz’s, angry marmot’s, and vyan’s DKos diaries challenge D’Souza and his work skillfully. Still, I wanted to see it with my own eyes, and to check out the other audience members. Here’s my report.

To be certain to lend no support - financial or otherwise - to D’Souza’s efforts to attack the President, we bought tickets for ParaNorman which started at the same time in the next theater down the hall. It was early Saturday evening in a small semi-urban area of North Georgia, and there were a few football games on cable, so I didn’t expect a large crowd. But there were maybe 14 people, seven couples, in the audience; not one was under 40, and most appeared to be in their 50s and 60s. I can usually read people pretty well, and I saw most as highschool-educated middle-class people, not immediately obvious as right-wing-nuts (nor as progressive-minded interlopers). Nobody looked particularly happy (as if they expected to be entertained or empassioned) before the film began, and the looks on their faces were essentially unchanged as the theater emptied. Apart from an occasional stifled “yes!” or “hah!” the meager audience was silent throughout.  

D’Souza’s main argument is that Obama grew up strongly influenced by anti-colonialists, and that his absent father was heralded as an exemplar of that doctrine; I suspect there’s a lot of truth to that argument. To his credit, D’Souza states quite clearly that Obama was born in Hawaii, not Kenya. But he nonetheless insists that, even today, Obama is primarily motivated by anti-colonialist dogma to which he was exposed during his youth, and that this has rendered him anti-capitalist and anti-American. D’Souza misrepresents Obama’s book, Dreams From my Father, as stating that, after his father’s death, Barack took on Obama Sr.’s dream as his own. Obama, depicted kneeling by his father’s grave, is correctly quoted as saying he feels as if he has come “full-circle,” but D’Souza’s suggestion that the father’s dream commandeered the son’s is unsupported, and probably fallacious. In suggesting this, the author/filmmaker really only adds one more label to the fictitious list of Obama’s flaws and failings (alongside Muslim, socialist, communist).  

A strong case is made for anti-colonialist ideologies and rhetoric having been present in Obama’s childhood and university studies, and we are led to believe that he never transcended these influences. But I found myself speculating that as Obama individuated from his mother in his adolescence and grieved the father he never really knew (but had been led to emulate) as a young adult, he rejected most of the more radical tenets of anticolonialism. The humanistic opposition to colonialism appears to have manifested as a powerful commitment to human rights, nurtured in a spirit of conscientiousness and responsibility in our president. But there is no evidence that he actually promoted or practiced their radical principles.

During the movie, I kept wanting to whisper to my wife “this is all he’s got?” Stuff I’ve seen/heard on Fox is typically much more outrageous, inflammatory, malicious. I found the retelling of Obama’s family history rather interesting, and concluded that his personal heritage is much more rich than most people realize. As a psychologist, I considered the hypotheses regarding the formation of Obama’s beliefs and motivations quite simplistic and shallow.  

So, what will this movie bring to the campaigning and election?  Currently it is at 79% among general audiences (preached-to choirs) but 30% among critics on Rotten Tomatoes. A few quotes from reviwers:

The film is a sleepy dud, a polemic that, like D'Souza himself, is at once both outrageous and deeply boring. Alan Scherstuhl, Village Voice
The film flutters to the ground like so much GOP convention confetti, all assertions, few facts and little substance other than the conspiratorial right wing talking points that are D'Souza's bread and butter. Roger Moore, McClatchy-Tribune News Service
. . . a sluggish film. Even its outrage falls flat. Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times
A nonsensically unsubstantiated act of character assassination. Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly
Viewers may do some headscratching. Mark Feeney, Boston Globe
It’s my guess that people who go to the film are far more likely to be Republicans who have had their minds made up long before 2012. But there are no earth-shattering revelations here, only another flimsy and flawed argument for voting Obama out of the White House. I predict it will do little to further empower the right-wing-nut base (with Fox News already seeing to that). Liberals, if they actually see it, may encounter more of Obama's biography and character that compel an even stronger committment to his support; few will be alarmed or concerned that their leader's candidacy will be significantly hurt by the movie. And undecided voters - if they still exist in this dreadfully toxic and polarized political environment - who see the movie are unlikely to take D’Souza’s dire predictions seriously enough to let them influence their perceptions of Obama meaningfully. In fact, I suspect many will take from it little of the intended paranoid doubt and fear, and may find greater appreciation and admiration for Obama.


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Comment Preferences

  •  Nothing to report. . . (4+ / 0-)

    as you were. . .

    •  neat trick! (tkts for diff movie, same time) (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      DocChap, WakeUpNeo

      Sorta 'changed your mind,' on the spot, as it were. hehe   I like that! I've been thinking of going, but didn't want to boost it for obvious reasons. Good idea!

      To be certain to lend no support - financial or otherwise - to D’Souza’s efforts to attack the President, we bought tickets for ParaNorman which started at the same time in the next theater down the hall.
      Virtually everyone educated in the 1960s-1970s had a pretty strong dose of anti-colonialism -- including conservatives and Republicans, who saw it as a triumph of American independence in which we led the way, American triumph over the UK, America as victor of WWII [vs. USSR], and a necessity for the US to support anti-colonialism as a Cold War counter-weight to the USSR.

      For Dinesh to somehow twist this into something unique about President Obama, is absurd.

      Scholars of all stripes have come to re-evaluate colonialism in the past decade, as the first generation passes and the pendulum of revisionism swings its course.

      And what is Dinesh insinuating, that anti-colonialism was all wrong? That everone was a Fanonite, advocating violence?

      Btw, Dinesh Disouza was at Dartmouth just a year or two behind Ari Fleischer and Barbara Comstock at Middlebury College -- part of an obnoxious nexus.

  •  It's four years too late! (5+ / 0-)

    You could say this about Obama the blank slate in 2008 but it's kind of hard to say it about Obama the (insert characterization here) in 2012.

    Romney '12: Berlusconi without the sex and alcohol!

    by Rich in PA on Sun Sep 09, 2012 at 04:50:15 AM PDT

  •  We are really torn because my first impulse was (5+ / 0-)

    to say that I'll never go to another AMC theater again, given that AMC (which has several locations near us) is carrying this movie.  But then I remembered my grandmother's counsel never to "cut off your nose to spite your face" and thought that if I condemned my family to never going to AMC again, we'd never again have the fun of going to movies we DO want to see on the big screen locally within reasonable driving distance.  

    I am sure that this movie had some subsidization by right-wing think-tank or organizing, to get such prominent placement in so many theaters.  It is a rank political hit job and you'd think that most theaters wouldn't want to show a film that only 20 percent of the population at most might want to see, and even then, not in great numbers.  

    But the biggest evidence for me that it's being subsidized to stay in theaters is that it's having such a long run at our local AMCs.  It's been around for weeks, as long as some of the blockbuster superexpensive to make and place Hollywood films.  This tells me that outside money is paying these theater chains to keep that movie there even when there isn't any financial incentive for them to keep it there.

    That's one more thing to add to my long list of small problems. --my son, age 10

    by concernedamerican on Sun Sep 09, 2012 at 05:03:06 AM PDT

    •  Damn! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I didn't know about the subsidizing of this movie.  My wife and I, rather frequent film-goers, are seldom in the AMC-type theaters.  We favor indie/offbeat/foreign films, and generally don't notice the drivel that fills the big theaters.  

      I often encourage my more reactionary acquaintences to actually see particular films by Michael Moore, and Stone's W.  Open your mind, I suggest, consider a different viewpoint.  (Seldom, but occasionally, they do.)  No one invited me to see 2016, but I decided to take my own advice.  

  •  Remind me again why anti-colonialism is bad (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DocChap, Red Bean, mkor7, elmo, JTinDC


    really, that's all they got?  did they offer fainting couches and smelling salts before the movie started?

    Thank you for the report.

    Have you hugged your Boeuf Bourguignon today?

    by wretchedhive on Sun Sep 09, 2012 at 05:13:28 AM PDT

    •  Indeed! (0+ / 0-)

      D'Souza seems to empathize with opponents of colonialism from time to time.  I get the idea (having never actually read any of his books) that he shares some anti-colonialist sentiments, but is loathe to challenge their association with capitalism, which I suspect he holds very dear.  I don't know enough about the relationship of colonialism to capitalism to have an informed opinion, although I deplore the former, and fear the latter.

    •  Because our founding fathers were (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

  •  Perhaps one of Obama's anticolonalist (5+ / 0-)

    influences was Eisenhower, who stood against Britain and France when they tried to take back the Suez Canal.

    "Balderdash!" - Mitt Romney

    by Red Bean on Sun Sep 09, 2012 at 05:36:49 AM PDT

    •  That had to do with oil politics specifically. We (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      did not have a problem supporting French and British operations against left wing insurgencies in SE Asia, for instance.  Anti-communism trumped any misgivings about colonialism.

      Where are we, now that we need us most?

      by Frank Knarf on Sun Sep 09, 2012 at 09:53:25 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Seems to me. . . (0+ / 0-)

    that in the grand hope that the citizenry of the US is populated by individuals who taken as a group possess average intellectual abilities (tee hee), then there is some hope that the right's grand efforts to paint O as a craziod will sap energy that could have gone in to reasoned arguments against his policies (which might have been more effective) and the hopes for his reelection will increase.

    On a separate, related point, I am hoping for a backlash against political ads this time.  Particularly in swing states, those poor folk are not going to have any idea what car, soap, or medication to buy for the next two months because they are going to be inundated by Superpac ads.  There is precedent in Linda McMahon's run for Senate in Conn - she flooded the airwaves and folks revolted.  Let's hope for another revolt to the revolting!!

    "People tend to persist in being themselves"

  •  Video of D'Souza and Bill Maher at C&L (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ahumbleopinion, DocChap
    Whether it was D'Souza pretending that President Obama didn't reach out to Republicans on their health care bill, when as Maher rightfully pointed out, it was Bob Dole's plan from the '90's, trying to blame the President for the gridlock in Washington rather than Republican obstruction designed to make sure President Obama is not reelected, to pretending that President Obama did anything much differently than other presidents when it came to stimulus, regulating industry or that he's somehow anti-capitalist, D'Souza just was no match for Maher.
    Bill pretty much ripped his ass open on his show.

    When you're born you get a ticket to the freak show. When you're born in America, you get a front row seat. George Carlin

    by Zwoof on Sun Sep 09, 2012 at 05:56:39 AM PDT

  •  I wonder how many of the other couples (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JTinDC, DocChap

    at this theater might have been, like you, doing recon "behind enemy lines."

    •  We wondered, too. . . (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      PeterHug, elmo

      . . . but the automaton facial expressions absent any eye contact made it pretty clear we were the only ones.  I would have thought my ponytail and black silk shirt would have given us away, but these theatergoers seemed utterly disinterested in what was going on around them.

      We live in a particularly redneck bible-thumping part of Georgia, with KKK and Trail of Tears histories, so we generally feel "behind enemy lines" all the time.  That is why we make the hour's trip to Atlanta - an oasis of culture and enlightenment by comparison - several times a month for movies.  (and for theater.)  (oh, and dining.)  (and . . .)

  •  I'm sure that anti-colonialism was the first thing (0+ / 0-)

    on a young African-American's mind in the 1970's.   Yeah.  That was the big issue for "those people," I understand.    

    If you want to understand President Obama's mindset as well we could understand any other person's, just read his first book -- which he wrote before he was a politican.  I recall nothing about colonalism.

  •  Because anti-colonialism is a core tenet of (0+ / 0-)

    neo-Marxist doctrine from the era of Obama's childhood, D'Souza is calling Obama a dirty commie without saying it outright.

    Where are we, now that we need us most?

    by Frank Knarf on Sun Sep 09, 2012 at 10:00:57 AM PDT

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