Yesterday, I checked out a matinee showing of 2016: Obama’s America, the sleeper hit documentary from conservative commentator Dinesh D’Souza, which presents his theory on how Obama’s early life influences are shaping his decisions as president. It was one of the strangest $13 I’ve spent in my life.
(To be fair, it was 1:30 on a Monday afternoon, and the crowd — nine people — was comprised of older white people with the exception of a teenage couple who spent the movie making out in the back of the theatre.)
The film is based on D’Souza’s book, The Roots Of Obama’s Rage, and most of the claims in both works have been dismissed and/or debunked by a variety of fact-checkers and news outlets. But that hasn’t stopped the movie from grossing $26 million, making it one of the most successful documentaries of all time. D’Souza cites Michael Moore as an influence, and the production values are very slick, even with the cheap $9 million production cost.
The narrative of the documentary is pretty disorganized and meandering, but basically, the idea D’Souza tries to present is that Barack Obama Senior, the Kenyan economist who fathered the president, was a radical anti-colonialist, a worldview that D’Souza characterises as anti-American.
Obama’s PsychologyD’Souza makes his case through a series of interviews, including one with New York University psychology professor Paul Vitz, who claims that Obama is coping with the childhood abandonment by his father by aspiring to impress, become, and surpass him.
In doing so, D’Souza theorizes, Obama has adopted radical views of anti-colonialism, which manifest themselves as anti-capitalist, anti-Christian, and anti-American policies. Basically, he argues that Obama is trying to impress his father he carrying out anti-colonial retribution.
Obama’s “Founding Fathers”
According to the film, Obama’s anti-colonial worldview was cultivated in his father’s absence by a series of mentors, who D’Souza terms these men Obama’s “Founding Fathers”
- Frank Marshall Davis, described as a Soviet
- Edward Said, described as a Palestinian radical
- Roberto Unger, described as a Brazilian revolutionary
- Bill Ayers, described as a terrorist
- Reverend Jeremiah Wright, described as Obama’s surrogate father.
In reality, a lot of the ties that D’Souza draws between these men and Obama are tenuous at best:
- Davis was a liberal journalist and labour activist who befriended Obama’s maternal grandfather
- Said was a Palestinian-born Columbia University literature professor who is said to be the founder of post-colonial literary theory though it is not clear what, if any, kind of relationship Obama had with Said
- Unger is a Brazilian philosopher and longtime Harvard Law School professor who helped co-found Brazil’s Democratic Movement Party when the country emerged from military rule in the 1980s
- Obama’s relationships with Ayers and Wright have been well-documented.
Photo: Youtube Screenshot
Obama’s ‘Retribution’According to D’Souza, these influences have resulted in Obama attempting to bring down the United States to compensate for Western colonial abuses abroad.
Practically, D’Souza argues that this has manifested itself in Obama’s policies, although the only specific policies mentioned in the film are his decisions to stop development of the Keystone Pipeline, and to export oil rights to Brazil and Argentina.
D’Souza also explains that Obama’s motive for removing a bust of Winston Churchill from the White House was because he wanted to symbolically rid the White House of a great British colonialist.
In the film, D’Souza also travels to Nairobi, Kenya and interviews Obama’s half-brother George. D’Souza claims Obama has allowed his half-brother to live in poverty and has not sent money to George — whom he met for a few hours in the eighties — because George is not an anti-colonialist.
In the end, the only two outright predictions in the movie for what Obama will do if he is re-elected in 2016 are that he will allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons, and that he will turn the national debt into a “weapon of mass destruction,” although the film doesn’t explain how Obama would go about accomplishing these goals.
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