NYT: Heady Summer, Fateful Fall for D'Souza, a Conservative Firebrand

Originally published at The New York Times.

Nobody wants the summer to end, but especially not Dinesh D’Souza.

In June, he published, America: Imagine A World Without Her, which spent a week as the No. 1 book on Amazon, and is currently No. 2 on the New York Times nonfiction best-seller list.

In July, he released a companion film, which has grossed more than $12 million, already roughly the same as the total of such well-known documentaries as Hoop Dreams and Roger & Me, counting inflation.

But in September, he will stand before a judge in a Manhattan courtroom and face a possible prison term after pleading guilty earlier this year to a violation of campaign-finance laws.

“The whole experience has been undoubtedly traumatic,” Mr. D’Souza said of his prosecution. “But I’m determined not to let it deter me.”

Even with the prospect of jail time looming, Mr. D’Souza has emerged as the right-wing media star of the moment, a seemingly constant presence on talk radio and FOX News. During the run-up to the film’s release, he appeared at screenings across the country, arriving, rock-star style, on a tour bus emblazoned with a giant image of his face.

Animating both the book and film is Mr. D’Souza’s claim that America is under attack from within – and that the enemy is its own government, as well as its progressive collaborators in Hollywood, academia and the mainstream media. In Mr. D’Souza’s telling, their goal is to undermine the country’s self-image and standing by replacing the narrative of American greatness and exceptionalism with one of guilt and shame.

Mr. D’Souza has long been known as a conservative provocateur, but his latest incarnation as a right-wing Michael Moore represents a significant departure for a man who was once seen as the next William F. Buckley Jr. His success as a documentarian has also opened up the possibility of a new medium for conservatives, one that has mostly been dominated by liberals.

“With film, you have a grand platform to alter the national conversation in a profound fashion,” said the radio host Laura Ingraham, who has known Mr. D’Souza since college. “I think that’s more important in many ways than the daily television hits or radio shows.”

Mr. D’Souza’s surging popularity stems in part from his background. Born and raised in India, he graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Dartmouth and has been affiliated with some of the country’s most respected conservative think tanks.

Both his book and the film are rife with controversial assertions. “How, for example, did Obama get elected as a complete unknown?” Mr. D’Souza asks in the book. “There is a one-word answer: slavery. America’s national guilt over slavery continues to benefit Obama, who ironically is not himself descended from slaves.”

Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the House and co-host of CNN’s Crossfire, says Mr. D’Souza’s roots and scholarly bona fides give him “credibility” in right-wing circles. “A lot of conservatives feel comfortable being told things by Dinesh that they might not exactly feel comfortable being told by someone else,” he said.

After Dartmouth, Mr. D’Souza worked at the Policy Review, a conservative journal in Washington, before joining the Reagan administration in 1988 as an adviser. His first book, Illiberal Education, published in 1991, was at the center of a debate over so-called political correctness on America’s college campuses.

Since then, however, Mr. D’Souza’s career has taken a series of unexpected turns. His views have drawn criticism not only from the left but also from the right. His 2007 book, The Enemy at Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11, ignited outrage among some conservatives, who considered its thesis – captured succinctly in the subtitle – not only deeply flawed but irresponsible. And in 2012, Mr. D’Souza abruptly resigned as president of King’s College, a Christian school in Manhattan, after it surfaced that he was involved with a woman who was not his wife.

Mr. D’Souza, 53, said his foray into filmmaking began after a talk with the billionaire Joe Ricketts, a major donor to right-wing causes. According to Mr. D’Souza, Mr. Ricketts was taken with his 2010 book, The Roots of Obama’s Rage, and wanted more Americans to be exposed to its thesis, which argues that Obama is carrying out the anticolonial agenda of his Kenyan father.

“A book can reach 50,000, maybe 100,000, people,” Mr. Ricketts said, as recalled by Mr. D’Souza. “How do you reach a million people?”

“You have to make a movie,” Mr. D’Souza replied.

The result was Mr. D’Souza’s first film, 2016: Obama’s America, which was released during the 2012 campaign and is currently the second-highest-grossing political documentary of all time, behind only Mr. Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11. Mr. Ricketts invested in 2016: Obama’s America, but not in the most recent film.

In the process of becoming one of the most influential voices on the right, Mr. D’Souza has alienated a number of the conservative intellectuals who once looked up to him. Some accuse him of cynically using his academic credentials to advance false, reductive ideas in order to sell books and movie tickets.

“He was the all-star, the guy every student aspired to be,” said James Panero, who graduated from Dartmouth in 1998 and is now executive editor of The New Criterion, a conservative literary journal. “But I think the rewards of playing to the crowd, of throwing out red meat, have become too great.”

In a sense, Mr. D’Souza’s trajectory is emblematic of a broader shift in the conservative movement. The policy journals and think tanks that once played a key role in shaping conservative thought have been marginalized by the grass-roots populism of talk radio, Fox News, local political movements – and now, perhaps, documentary films.

“The idea that American politics is made by a kind of professional elite was always a bit dubious and is becoming less and less true,” said Mr. D’Souza.

A little controversy has also helped raise Mr. D’Souza’s profile. Costco carried his new book when it was first published, but decided to drop it several weeks later. The move provoked an outcry on the right, which accused the retailer of political censorship; the company’s co-founder, James D. Sinegal, is a major Democratic supporter.

Costco insisted that the decision had nothing to do with the book’s author. “We don’t do things based on political beliefs,” said Richard A. Galanti, the company’s chief financial officer. “The book wasn’t selling well, so we decided to pull it.”

Regardless, Mr. D’Souza exploited the opportunity, taking to Fox News, radio and Twitter to accuse the retailer of trying to silence him. The interest generated by the ensuing furor, coupled with the release of the companion film, drove up sales, prompting Costco to restock the book.

Mr. D’Souza also spied political motives behind his campaign-finance prosecution. Earlier this year, Preet Bharara, the United States attorney in Manhattan, announced criminal charges against Mr. D’Souza, accusing him of skirting contribution limits by arranging to have two people donate $10,000 each to the Senate campaign of a friend, with the understanding that he would reimburse them.

His lawyers accused the Justice Department of singling out Mr. D’Souza because of his condemnation of Mr. Obama – a claim the government vehemently denied. Mr. D’Souza pleaded guilty in May and faces up to two years in prison.

The criminal indictment makes a brief appearance near the end of Mr. D’Souza’s new film. Harvey A. Silverglate, a lawyer and outspoken critic of law enforcement, explains that on a normal day, the average American does three things that could be deemed felonies “by some ambitious Department of Justice prosecutor.” Soon after, Mr. D’Souza tells the story of the Internet folk hero Aaron Swartz, who committed suicide last year after being charged with computer fraud.

Enter Mr. D’Souza, in handcuffs: “the latest victim to be targeted by the Obama White House,” says the voice-over from the Fox News host Sean Hannity.

“Where will they stop?” Mr. D’Souza asks. “At the point where we stop them.”

Read more at The New York Times.

 

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15 Comments

  • Barbara says:

    July 25, 2014 at 11:04 PM

    Dinesh tells it like it is. America is the greatest so get over it all you liberals who get paid by this great country and make a name for yourself. You can’t have it both ways. Living on the largess and then bashing it. Hypocrisy at its finest.

  • gladys says:

    July 25, 2014 at 11:20 PM

    This man is loved! It’s so damn sad what’s happening to him and this country. His logic is 100% on target. I hope the judge isn’t an oobbuummeerr judge..I hope the judge who listens to his situation realizes the truth..We can’t ask for truth with this administration. It’s not only a very childish and evil administration but out for blood..Just as bad as the Clinton era..Heavens forbid Killary gets into office.

  • Joyce Clemons says:

    July 25, 2014 at 11:24 PM

    I now have my copy of your book in audio…can’t wait to see if I like it as much as the movie.
    I think of how you are doing, hoping you keep your strength and spirit up.
    My prayers are for you, and I want to the turn to the Word for specific strength and comfort.
    Revelation 12:10…..Esther 4:14
    And who knows but that you have come to your [..] position for just such a time as this?”

  • Jan Fredericks, Pres says:

    July 25, 2014 at 11:27 PM

    Liberal or conservative, if we truly believe that America is a ‘nation under God’, then we should respect all of God’s creatures instead of being silent and allowing evil to control them. The Bible states ‘the whole world is under the control of the evil one.’ 1 John 5:19 ….. and we will be held accountable for every one of God’s creatures. We are not truly pro-life, if we don’t respect all life. We have allowed billions of God’s creatures to suffer in dairy farms, factory farms, laboratories (see PCRM.org), circuses, rodeos, etc….. We have allowed evil to prevail. A great book by Matthew Scully, a former senior speech writer for President G. W. Bush, ‘Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy’ tells about how our government views and treats animals in a most revealing way. We all should have a copy and all newspapers and TV news should reveal the hidden truth. We have been brainwashed by commercials and ads promoting food and entertainment where animals live horrible lives. It’s up to us to stop the violence to all and allow love and kindness to rule our hearts and lives. Jan, God’s Creatures Ministry

  • Sage says:

    July 25, 2014 at 11:29 PM

    Dinesh is not just relevant to the millions of Americans who are reeling under the so called liberal onslaught, but for the millions of people of the “Christian traditions” being systematically wiped out across the world. I can understand why he would have the passion to explain America to Americans. If you live as a Christian minority in so called Hindu India or Muslim Middle East or Africa (forget about the fact that the middle east was Christian for 500 years before Islam, in lands where right wing govts abound, you will be aghast at Christian abdication, Europe that has been knowingly allwed themselves to be overrun by Muslims, Middle-East where the last Christians and been driven away, India, where churches are systematically destroyed .The thought of USA as the last bastion is something that any immigrant with his back ground would defend with his life. The posturing looks shady to me though

  • Sterling says:

    July 26, 2014 at 12:17 AM

    In the movie America there is a scene where the traveling Frenchman Alexis DeTocqueville is about to eat dinner with a bunch of rowdy Americans. True to his aristocratic background, he gets his gloves ready, prepares his napkin and examines his silverware… then he notices the music has stopped and everyone is watching him. They dont relate to him, they dont understand him, they probably dont even like him. But after assessing the situation, Tocqueville changes that. He stabs an oversized piece of meat with his knife and takes a bite out of it followed by cheers and applause.

    This is exactly what D’Souza has done. Brilliant as he is, he has realized that his Ivy league education and well articulated books simply havent connecting with middle Americans like they should. To the chagrin of some conservative elites, he has rolled up his sleeves and used film and public debates with liberals like Bill Ayers to reach his audience. And good for him! People are noticing and listening and agreeing with what they hear. I just hope more conservatives will follow suit.

  • Sharon says:

    July 26, 2014 at 12:39 AM

    Dinesh is a great patriot. I have never heard one harsh comment from the right about him. I think it’s remarkable that he would come to American and eventually make these movies on patriotism. The people and media making these comments should be ashamed, they were born here and don’t appreciate it. Look at Obama and his administration, trying to lower our country around the world, and he is supposed to have been borne here. Dinesh D’Souza is a far greater patriotic and prouder of America then all of them. We citizens are so disgusted with the Obama Administration.

  • B-real says:

    July 26, 2014 at 12:52 AM

    Man… I could hardly pick up ANY PETULANT LIBERAL BIAS in this” journalistic” piece. Lol

  • Connie says:

    July 26, 2014 at 4:57 AM

    You can really see the seething undercurrent of liberal bias in this piece. These liberals probably aren’t even aware of how much their bias shows and how much disdain we have for them. They try and pretend to be objective while beneath the surface trying to rip every conservative they write about. Sad, and proves Dinesh’s point about liberals. They have an agenda and it is to make Americans despise their own country and despise everyone who stands against that liberal agenda!

  • Phil DeSpain says:

    July 26, 2014 at 9:55 AM

    As far as the charges, I believe this is selective prosecution and is not allowed by law. Get everyone, or no one. Free Dinesh NOW!

  • heather hutton says:

    July 26, 2014 at 1:02 PM

    No one is surprised by the leftist, liberal elite tripe just spewed in this NYT article diminishing Dinesh. But beware Libtards…there is a huge movement underfoot…and it includes many more than just Conservatives. We the People are now well informed, and completely fed up. We will make our disgust known on many fronts, and the destructive agenda of our current one man wrecking ball, “Resident” Obama (hat tip, Dan Bongino), is about to be shut down. Just sayin’…Have a nice day.

  • Sarah Tinch says:

    July 26, 2014 at 5:10 PM

    Dinesh D’Souza did something that most Americans cannot do. He took what he learned from coming to America and put it to word and to a movie. I often compare what Mr. D’Souza to this analogy: you take a frog and put it in a pot of cool water. Over time, you turn up the heat. Soon, the frog is cooked. Since we Americans live here in America, a great majority of Americans have not really seen the changes happening to our government. Since Mr. D’Souza came from a different country, he was able to see the changes in our government, where we Americans…knowing things were changing…but did not see what truly was happening. I know that I have awoken and are now seeing the dangers of what is happening…(before it is too late, like the frog, unaware). I know, from the many posts that I have seen, that other Americans have awaken too to the changes that is happening in Washington. We TRUE Americans have no idea what those in power will do in the next two years. A lot of damage can still be done to the wonderful way our Founding Fathers set up our form of government. Yes, we may have made mistakes since the formation of this great country. BUT…we are still the best country compared to all the other governments. But, if we continue in the path we are going, we have no idea where we will be in the next two years. Will our form of government be at risk? And will pressure be put on those that are bringing charges against Mr. D’Souza to put him in prison? That is one way to keep Mr. D’Souza quiet. Even if he hires the best attorneys there are, if Washington is upset with him, he could be convicted and sent to prison. And we have so many threats against us now; more then any other time in our history. We have open borders, allowing terrorists to cross over. I am afraid we will be attacked again by the terrorists…the question is not ‘if they will attack’ BUT ‘WHEN will they attack’. Our nation is at great risk and it appears that those in charge in Washington do not care.

  • Kevin Peterson says:

    July 26, 2014 at 5:43 PM

    Obama by example or instruction and his party has ruled by fiat against the will of the people – misused the IRS against conservatives ——insulted conservatives on the Supreme court in a state of the union address and elsewhere —–made a mockery of the press with his secret agendas and half truths and targeting those he fears —-insulted all Christianity with Obamacare regulations and southern Christian voters clinging to their bibles and guns —-attacked free enterprise the system of commerce of the United States —-attacked our religious rights – attacked and disparaged Fox news and used vulgar terms about those that love America most , the Tea Party —-He had overreached , and underachieved , and lied , and emboldened and aided the enemies of freedom and security while failing to protect our borders or follow our constitution ! This patriot Mr D’Souza will be blessed by God for his stand —-in this land ——A land where freedom will still ring out loudly ! –Those promoting tyranny will be exposed and rejected !

  • John Wesley Nobles says:

    July 27, 2014 at 2:00 PM

    I am proud to be an American, a veteran and son of a World War II KIA! The film “America” should be seen by all Americans, in fact it is a must see. I have seen the film twice and purchased the book at Costco because the story is about US and it calls to mind why America stand. Dinesh D’Sousa has done a great job on this film and makes the point that we are under attack. Buying the book and a ticket to the movie also sends out the message that we care! On October 14, 2014 a film called “UNFAIR: EXPOSING THE IRS will be released and I would encourage all citizens to see that film as well. “We The People” have the responsibility to be involved with our government. So many have given the ultimate price to defend our way of life and continue to do so today. Not being engaged citizens would be an insult to their sacrifice. If you have not seen “America” take your family and see it today while it is still on the BIG screen.

  • Alyssa says:

    July 28, 2014 at 11:11 PM

    D’Souza said in 2016 that he can get away with her undeterred quest to expose Obama for his lies and deceit because he’s foreign. Unfortunately, he wasn’t 100% correct, because they’re trying to discredit him and literally persecute him because of it. However, he’s a smart man who takes massive risks in order to help the people understand what the hell’s going on. I respect him so much.

    Plus, I find it funny that liberals try hide his outrageous success with a BS trial.