Tuesday, October 23, 2012

DVD Review: 2016: Obama's America

2016: Obama’s America
Directed by: Dinesh D'Souza & John Sullivan.
Written by: Dinesh D'Souza & John Sullivan based on the books by D’Souza.

I would be interested in seeing a documentary critical of President Obama’s first term as President. When he was elected in 2008, a wave of hope swept America that Obama would actually be able to change things in Washington for the better – that he was a different type of politician and that his election signaled the end of politics as usual. Now, four years later when Obama is running for re-election that hope has changed – even for many of his die hard supporters – into simply saying that he is better than his opponent – Mitt Romney. Part of this disappointment was practically inevitable – expectations for Obama were impossibly high, and the Republicans in Congress and the Senate certainly did not work with Obama to solve anything. Yet, Obama is not above criticism, and there is a real case to be made about the disappointments of his first term. Unfortunately 2016: Obama’s America, which has become the highest grossing documentary of the year, is not really interested in making a serious case against Obama and his policies or his failures during his first term. Instead, it is a documentary that deliberately misstates facts, and in the films second half goes off into crazy conspiracy theories – pretty much arguing that Obama is not simply misguided or incompetent or wrong in his policies – but that Obama is deliberately trying to sabotage America from within and to destroy the entire country. Are there really people who believe this crap?

The film was co-written and co-directed by Dinesh D’Souza, based on two of his books – Obama’s Rage and Obama’s America. D’Souza was born in India, and came to America to attend Dartmouth, where he joined up with the Conservative group on campus, and became a Reaganite in the 1980s. D’Souza is obsessed with Obama, apparently because he sees a lot of similarities between himself and Obama and their upbringing, even though the two of them have taken such radically different paths during their lives. Despite all the inaccuracies in the film’s first half, this is where the documentary is at its best – when D’Souza compares and contrasts himself to the President. His theory that Obama’s entire worldview was shaped by the father he only met once in his life doesn’t really hold much water, but it is sort of fascinating to see him try and make his case. In fact, the most fascinating person in the movie turns out to be D’Souza himself, and not Obama. What it is about Obama that makes D’Souza so obsessed with him? He’s kind of like Bizarro Obama.

I could waste a lot of time listing the inaccuracies of the movie, but enough people have already done that, so I don’t think there’s much reason to do so. What I will say is that D’Souza’s theory about Obama’s anti-colonialism, and his radical socialism bordering on communism doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense, and is based on nothing other than D’Souza’s wild speculations, backed up by nothing other than his own theories. He ties himself into knots trying to tie all of his theories together. In D’Souza’s mind, nothing is a simple coincidence, but evidence of a large effort that shaped Obama’s worldview. When his mother remarried an Indonesian man, this is because he reminded her of first husband, Obama’s father, because he was also a dark skinned man from the third world (this is a nice way of saying his mother had jungle fever). And when she sent him back to Hawaii to get an education instead of staying in Indonesia, this is because her second husband had a more pro-Western attitude than she was comfortable espousing young Barack to – not because the schools in America were better than in Indonesia. And because some in Hawaii are still angry at the way their country was annexed by America 100 years ago, this means Obama was taught a lot of “oppression studies’ in school there, and of course, believed it all. Because he had contact with some controversial people – from a card carrying member of the American Communist party who was a friend of his grandfathers, to being the student of some radical professors at college, who Obama was friendly with even after graduating, to the more well-known examples of Bill Ayers and Jeremiah Wright, that must mean Obama agrees with everything all of them have ever said. D`Souza even brings up a paper than Obama Sr. wrote in the 1960s saying that in theory there was nothing stopping the government from taxing people at 100% as long as they provided everything the citizens needed, and wonders aloud if this is what Obama means by the rich paying their “fair share”.

But if D`Souza`s strange speculations in the first half are half baked at best, it`s the second half of the movie that really bothered me – when D`Souza tries to predict what will happen if Obama were to win a second term. Well, according to this movie, you might as well shoot yourself in the head if Obama is re-elected, because it will most likely bring upon a virtual apocalypse where everything America has done during its history would effectively be destroyed, and the Muslim world would become a new superpower, and America would be left so deep in debt that the country would be destroyed, and everyone in the world except America would have nuclear weapons, so America would have no way to defend themselves. This would make a great science fiction dystopian movie, but since this is a documentary, there is nothing really to back any of that enough. D`Souza has a few actual facts in the movie, but the conclusions he reaches based on those facts are insane.

The success of 2016: Obama`s America shows nothing if not the fact that a large number of Americans are not satisfied with the job he is doing as President. Those people, and even Obama`s supporters, deserve a real commentary about the man and his politics – not the insane speculation and ranting that makes up most of this movie.

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