This is the Big One – the winner-take-all, no-holds-barred fight to the finish. The conservatives are betting the farm on this year’s presidential election, and they don’t care what they have to do to win – or what anyone thinks of their tactics. One major strategy is demonizing President Obama.
They lie, of course. The Big Lie has been a favorite tactic of fascist propagandists for a long time, and it has been polished to a fine art over the years. Basically, though, it relies on a simple premise: You make up stuff and keep repeating it until people believe it.
You may have heard that Mitt Romney recently made a sly reference to the lie about Barack Obama’s birthplace, which has been thoroughly and repeatedly debunked. Thanks to relentless Republican propaganda, a significant segment of the American population believe Obama was not born in Hawaii. They insist he was born in Kenya (or Indonesia?) and that an elaborate plot was hatched to place birth notices in the Hawaiian newspapers and fake a Hawaiian birth certificate so that he could one day be president of the United States.
It’s the kind of implausible trash that spews incessantly from the conservative propaganda mill, funded by billionaires who hope to conquer America once and for all.
Now, a Hollywood “documentary” has been added to the assault. Titled “2016: Obama’s America,” the Dinesh D’Souza film promises to demystify the president but is really just a long attack ad.
Indian born D’Souza revives the dark theories advanced by people like Sarah Palin back in 2008, suggesting that Obama “palled around’ with Sixties activist Bill Ayers and nurtures a dark, hidden agenda that includes transforming the world into some kind of Muslim/Marxist society.
Washington Post critic Michael O’Sullivan calls the film “a slick infomercial.” He writes:
D’Souza’s one-sided argument ultimately stoops to fear-mongering of the worst kind, stating in no uncertain terms that, if the president is reelected, the world four years from now will be darkened by the clouds of economic collapse, World War III (thanks to the wholesale renunciation of our nuclear superiority) and a terrifyingly ascendant new ‘United States of Islam’ in the Middle East. These assertions are accompanied by footage of actual dark clouds and horror-movie music.
There’s nothing new or startling in D’Souza’s propaganda piece. And it isn’t even good entertainment. Los Angeles Times critic Betsy Sharkey sums it up this way:
That “2016” was built on a book is one of its fundamental weaknesses, its course determined before the first frame was shot. The film is not after new insight; rather, it’s intent on laying out the arguments of a man who has given the same lecture countless times. That makes for a sluggish film. Even its outrage falls flat.
The film begins with D’Souza, once a political advisor to President Ronald Reagan, drawing parallels between his life and Obama’s — born in the same year, Ivy League degrees earned at the same time, both politically engaged, skin equally dark. While D’Souza’s quiet, scholarly sensibility serves him well on the TV talk-show circuit, a relief from the intense rhetoric that reigns, it works against him on screen. As he sits, legs crossed, addressing the camera like a professor, the film begins to feel like a class you wish you had cut.
But its glaring flaws didn’t stop the film from being number one at the box office. Released in late July, it went from a handful of theaters to wide release with more than $6.2 million in ticket sales this past weekend. Reportedly produced for $2.1 million, it has made $9.3 million since its release, and has surpassed “Bully” as the year’s top-earning documentary.
Of course, the film’s appeal is largely due to the frenzied hatred of Obama that drives the extreme right. Those people could be counted on to flock to see it. But it is bound to have an effect on the wider public as well. By planting one more seed of doubt, however small, in voters’ minds, the propagandists hope to drive America’s first black president from the White House and convert America – perhaps irretrievably – into a rich man’s fiefdom.