Prescient in its vision of a society divided, the cinema of the 21st Century strayed from its vocation as mass-scale opiate, honing in on niche markets under the guise of grassroots rebellion. Employing Christian and conservative ideologies as an alternative to Hollywood’s prevailing mores, studios like Pure Flix Entertainment and Affirm Films have created a Second American Cinema, placing praxis at the forefront and abandoning the supposed superficiality of aesthetics, technical innovation and erotic stimulation.
As the marquee documentarian of this burgeoning movement, Dinesh D’Souza’s work strategically balances between prescribed doctrines, constantly contorting to maintain its position beneath its sacred benefactors, repackaging capitalistic ideals as contemporary morality. In a structural sense, his agenda-heavy essays only differ from those of his left-wing peers in their political outlook and Dinesh stretches beyond his pre-designated audience with obvious appeals to the tech savvy and surveillance weary, making attempts to increase the flock from the ever-swelling pool of the disenfranchised.
When not mired in pallid reenactments of the Revolutionary War, facets of D’Souza’s America: Imagine the World Without Her even border on plausible, nearly ushering revisionist history up to legitimacy from the philosophical ghetto of white nationalism and paleoconservatism. An inquiry into the perpetuity of the “conquest ethic” and a spiritual approach to the cutthroat world of free enterprise are the most compelling arguments, but precious few of Dinesh’s bounty of broad notions coalesce into a coherent thesis statement and the lopsided pomposity of his oversimplified logic winds up ostracizing the secular audience he so desperately wants to indoctrinate.
D’Souza’s abridgment of archival sound clips is also suspicious, betraying the integrity of the form by drawing parallels between antithetical ideals like armchair liberalism and Saul Alinsky’s methods of political extortion, illustrating all dissent as traitorous in contrast to his own rose-hued vision of patriotism. At his most dangerous, D’Souza is even willing to manipulate fact as a weapon against his opposition, treating the vitality of the abstract “American Dream” as a license to define the borders of free speech and whitewash injustice.
Utilizing a framing device to address and justify atrocities committed by the United States since its inception, D’Souza sketches a short outline of “Indictments,” treating his slant on historical evidence as a defense of the republic. Concentrating on slavery, theft of Native American and Mexican property, foreign policy and free market economy as points of contention, D’Souza uses sweeping generalizations to vindicate and gloss over malfeasance, treating Barack Obama’s presidency and expansionist rhetoric as a cure-all for the disgrace surrounding racism, consumerism and appropriation.
The key orchestrator of this “narrative of American shame” is Howard Zinn, author of A People’s History of the United States and D’Souza’s scapegoat for the ascendance of a self-loathing, immoral America. Labelling Zinn as a celebrity and opportunist (not unlike President Obama and Hillary Clinton), D’Souza excoriates his investigation of the elitist exploitation of the working classes as libelous smear campaign, favoring the dated and overtly-religious chronicles of Alexis de Tocqueville as the bona fide American origin story.
Though Tocqueville’s outsider status provides an even-handed depiction of the slave economy, it does represent the American experiment as one with religion at the heart of its politics, which is the antithesis of James Madison’s Establishment Clause and decidedly unconstitutional. Despite his amiable nature, D’Souza willingly buys into religious oligarchy, thinly masking bigotry beneath a self-righteous disdain for atheists and agnostics, whom he aligns with corruption and anarchism despite their ability to objectively consider his plutocratic rhetoric.
As an educator and political journalist, Dinesh D’Souza acts a mouthpiece for a treacherous brand of ideology, but the singularity of his perspective can’t be denied or cast aside whole hog. Seeing “The New World” as sanctuary for the merchant class and project worthy of continued effort and adaptation are core concepts any viewer can empathize with, but his inclination to pervert social issues as a hinderance to progress is a diversion worthy of the craftiest slave master. By basing his argument on faith instead of fact, Dinesh D’Souza muddies the truth in favor of a “greater good,” smothering any flower of an inspired idea beneath the edicts of his prevailing “isms.”
America: Imagine the World Without Her (Lionsgate Films, 2014)
Directed by Dinesh D’Souza and John Sullivan
Written by Dinesh D’Souza, John Sullivan and Bruce Schooley
Photographed by Ben Huddleston