America: Imagine The World Without Her (dir. Dinesh D’Souza and John Sullivan)

Posted: October 27, 2014 in Uncategorized

“America: Imagine The World Without Her” (hereafter simply referred to as “America” for simplicity’s sake) is a myopic and naïve filmic essay espousing the greatness of the United States in much the same way a third grader’s essay would likely do so.  It is built upon poorly-staged reenactments, anecdotal evidence and argument from authority.  No hard data is cited and most sides of an argument are presented as showing a single person for and a single person against the issue, often times leading to a false equivalency between two opinions w/r/t history.   To call the film propaganda is to give it too much credit.  Unlike Dinesh D’Souza’s previous film, “2016: Obama’s America”, this film fails to even give us some juicy, absurd conspiracy theories to ridicule.  The film’s about as entertaining, even ironically, as watching a cowboy waiving a flag and shouting “’MERICA!!!” for an hour and 45 minutes.

Yes, this film is brought to us by convicted felon Dinesh D’Souza, who has to keep making films to try to influence public opinion since he’s now lost his right to vote by pleading guilty.  Does that sound like a cheap shot to you?  Perhaps it would be, if the film didn’t provide us with a (staged) shot of D’Souza in handcuffs as he pretty much blames Obama and the National Security apparatus for him being there.  Never mind that he had people donate money to a candidate he supported and then reimbursed them to get around campaign finance laws.  Oh no.  he was singled-out, you see, because he made a film that tried to stop Obama from being reelected. The film didn’t work (much as “Fahrenheit 9/11” failed to oust George W. Bush), and I think Obama has more important things to worry about than going after D’Souza for revenge…especially since D’Souza was guilty and admitted guilt in court.  I mean, Obama’s not Chris Christie, who will shut down a bridge for petty revenge. But if nothing else, D’Souza’s films reveal the man’s ridiculously huge ego, and I have no doubt he truly believes that Obama lies awake at night  seething with rage about D’Souza and plotting ways to get back at him for making his previous film. Delusions of Grandeur, thy name is Dinesh.

In addition to Obama, this new film takes aim at Howard Zinn, Saul Alinsky (who many Conservatives despise even as they make use of his rules in their own campaigns and political careers), Hillary Clinton, and Matt Damon.  Not since “Team America: World Police” has Matt Damon been taken to task on film for no real reason.  Trey Parker and Matt Stone, who are largely Libertarians and have a beef with Left-Wing Hollywood, at least spread the criticism around to any famous person who talked about politics publicly during the Bush years (and yet don’t see the irony of taking famous people to task for expressing political opinions while they, themselves, are famous people expressing their political opinions regularly).  Dinesh decides to just pick on Matt Damon because in 1997’s “Good Will Hunting” he name checked Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States” in one line of dialogue.  Damon has gone on to talk about politics since 1997, and has made a few political movies such as the 2012 anti-fracking Gus Van Sant film “Promised Land”, but Dinesh really only cares about the Zinn shout-out.  Later, Dinesh interviews a man in an attempt to refute Zinn’s book simply by claiming Zinn isn’t a historian.  No evidence is given to back up this assertion, and no specific passages or false claims from his book are presented to be refuted.  The film merely stops at the ad hominem attack.  D’Souza likes ad hominem because it is easy and requires no research.  For instance, rather than cite examples of why this film is bad, I could merely try to discredit D’Souza by telling you that despite his credentials as a Conservative Christian, he was cheating on his wife and, while still married, brought his mistress to public functions, introducing the mistress as his fiancé.  I could then claim that this film is bad because D’Souza is a cheating, hypocritical scumbag.

That’s the thing, though.  Whether D’Souza is a bad human being or not doesn’t automatically mean that his film is bad or that its assertions are incorrect.  If I was playing by D’Souza’s handbook, however, all I would do is show a clip of D’Souza saying something he believes, deliver a snarky yet pompous voice-over that basically boils down to me saying “oh really?”, and then play a longer clip of another person, who I introduce as an expert of some sort (Argument from Authority), telling me D’Souza is wrong but not citing any evidence to the contrary. There, I’ve just taken you to the Dinesh D’Souza School of Documentary Filmmaking.  Oh, and if you want to be like D’Souza, you have to insert many superfluous shots of yourself while you interview someone, with your brow furrowed and your lips slightly pursed, because that will make you look interested and pensive.  Oh, and you have to shoot your interview subject with part of their face cut off and off-center from the frame, so your film looks cutting edge and important (or sloppy, whatever).

When he’s not resorting to Argument from Authority or ad hominem, D’Souza’s basic argument is that of a kid who wants to stay up past his bedtime and, when their parent refuses, responds with “but so and so at my school gets to stay up.”  In response to the criticism of America stealing land from the Native Americans, the film argues that this is okay because different tribes conquered different tribes to acquire land, so it’s okay because Chief so and so did it.  Apparently D’Souza’s mother never scolded him by saying that just because everyone at school jumps off a bridge, it doesn’t mean it’s right for you to also do it.  The other argument here is, of course, that might makes right.  If you kill the people on top of the land, you somehow deserve the land.  This is D’Souza’s main argument when it comes to the criticism of America taking land from Mexico.  We fought a war, we won that land fair and square, suck it, Mexico!  This is followed by D’Souza bravely attacking the idea that Mexico is a better place to live than the United States, an assertion made by no one, anywhere, ever.  No one fearlessly takes down a straw man like D’Souza.  It also showcases one of the film’s weird blind spots:  it has a weird black-and-white thinking in which people can only be divided into America-Lovers and America-Haters.  The truth, apparent to anyone who is not either a child or D’Souza, is that people can love America without thinking it’s perfect and either whitewashing and ignoring its flaws and wrongdoing, and people can hate America but still believe it’s better than a many other countries on Earth, and would prefer to attempt change it and make it better from the inside rather than jump ship and give up on it.  That’s right; we can add another logical fallacy to D’Souza’s bag of tricks: False Dilemma.

Let’s not even spend too much time on D’Souza’s handling of slavery.  He shows us one woman who overcame slavery to become a self-made millionaire, points out that there were many Black slave owners as well as White ones (I guess his point is…I don’t know, exactly, as that doesn’t exonerate America from its slaveholding past, but is perhaps to assuage White Guilt?  Dinesh is Indian-American, which makes it odd if he’s concerned with modern Whites feeling undo guilt over slavery), points out that other nations in the world had slavery too (so that gives America a pass?), and then champions the Civil War as showing America is awesome because it was willing to fight a war to end slavery.  Okay, except many nations were able to end slavery without wars.  He also gives the Founding Fathers a pass on allowing slavery while proclaiming liberty because PRACTICALLY they couldn’t hold a new nation together if they outlawed it.  Never mind that pragmatic concerns don’t absolve someone of being morally reprehensible, but it also reveals that D’Souza seems to believe that the Founding Fathers actually had a desire to free the slaves (some likely did, it was a rather large group of people, but then some like Jefferson had a lot, raped a few of them, and made no effort to free their own) and believed they would be free eventually.  D’Souza makes no effort to whitewash the Founding Fathers only giving rights to white, land-owning men, though.  The movie can only be so long.

D’Souza tries to make Vietnam sound like a good idea, and claims that Iraq wasn’t an imperialist war because America didn’t take the oil for itself.  No, but it took it away from a country that had it nationalized and delivered it into the hands of private corporations.  D’Souza also ignores a long history of the United States sticking its nose into the private affairs of other countries and CIA-backed missions that resulted in democratically elected leaders being ousted in favor of totalitarian thugs that were west-friendly.  D’Souza spends the least amount of time defending the claim of America as an imperialist country perhaps because he knows he has no leg to stand on here.  He also has recreated scenes of a solider in Vietnam being tortured, but makes no mention of the United States torturing its prisoners in the early 2000s.  Does that mean another country has the right to invade us as we did Vietnam?  He also ignores the atrocities the South Vietnamese government also committed but, hey, we don’t have time for details like that.

Lastly, D’Souza makes an effort to defend Capitalism by showing that many countries are embracing it, especially in the third-world.  Sure, when you can get labor at 1 cent an hour you can make a lot of profit.  D’Souza is more concerned with looking at the “entrepreneurs” at the top, though, and not the sweat shop workers.  He also ignores inherited wealth, and money that is not made on entrepreneurial labor, or the fact that most of the really rich under capitalism make money off of capital (stocks, bonds, dividends, real estate, etc) and not by “working hard” or any of that American Dream stuff that Dinesh still believes in.  I also question his math in a scene where he claims a burger shop will make a mere 16 cent profit per burger (which can add up to a lot if you sell a lot of burgers, though) and that a person can’t make a cheaper burger by going to the supermarket (which ignores the discount a burger place would make in bulk orders, as well as the fact that an individual buying their own lettuce and buns can make more than one burger  with those materials, thus making their homemade burgers individually cheaper even if the grocery bill to buy the materials is more than the price of a single burger).

When all is said and done, “America” is a slapdash collection of logical fallacies, ad hominem attacks, straw man arguments, poor recreations, D’Souza’s naval-gazing, and childish arguments. This film does a disservice to the country is it named after.  D-


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