Posted by: theoptimisticconservative | August 25, 2012

2016: Effective, well done, a caveat or two

2016:  Effective, well done, a caveat or two

I was surprised to discover that Dinesh D’Souza’s 2016: Obama’s America opened in my little town on Friday.  I wasn’t expecting that, given the limited release and our off-the-beaten-track charm.  But there it was, so I went to the very first showing at 12:30 PM.

The effectiveness of 2016 comes from its use of imagery to overlay the narrative.  It’s one thing to read D’Souza’s thesis on Barack Obama (Jr. and Sr.).  It’s another thing to see images conveying its elements.

D’Souza starts the narrative with himself, which is a questionable composition choice.  I know one of his chief themes is contrasting Obama’s biography with his, since they were born in the same year and both came from a background steeped in anti-colonialism.  But it might have been more powerful to begin by painting Obama, and then bring in the contrast with D’Souza.

The sequence comes off like D’Souza presenting his life as the ordinary standard from which Obama, Jr. deviates.  I believe what he means to convey is that it is possible – and in fact better – to overcome your philosophical roots in anti-colonialism: look what Dinesh D’Souza did, as opposed to Obama, Jr.  That’s a valid point, but it could be made more explicitly.  The passage with the brown hands – D’Souza observing that he and Obama, Jr. are the same color – comes off unfortunately like a cheap, throw-away impression.  If it had been paired with an outright statement that “brown people” don’t have to obsess over race and a history of colonialism that is now 50 years in the rearview mirror, it would, for me, have been more effective.

D’Souza’s thesis is basically the narrow one that Obama, Jr. is an anti-colonialist like Obama, Sr.:  that that is the “dream” from the president’s father, and it animates whatever Obama, Jr. does in politics.  The film is very good at putting the viewer in the milieu of Jakarta or Nairobi, which continue to feel “different” enough to engage the American viewer’s sense of distance and wonder.  Conveying the difference of Obama, Jr.’s childhood and his idea of cultural roots – the difference from American life – is the movie’s most effective accomplishment.

Insofar as he makes his own point about Obama, Jr. and anti-colonialism, D’Souza does it well.  I think it would have been useful to develop the idea of “anti-colonialism” more, so that it was clearer how it relates to the president’s current policies.  An important point is also begging to be made, and isn’t in the movie: that anti-colonialism is a dead idea, like all the others Obama and his advisors work from.  It is an antique, like Marxism, with its spirit gone and nothing left but a deformed death mask: suitable for museums but not for modern use.

Not only was anti-colonialism never usefully descriptive of reality – it doesn’t even matter anymore.  The fight against colonialism was won half a century ago, and two generations have emerged that never knew it.  As with the themes about “war on women” and “racism” and other rhetorical campaigns waged by Team Obama in the language of 1960s radicalism, anti-colonialism is a dead letter.   It is pathetic and sad to think that policy for America today might be made on the premise of it.

Imagine carrying the elaborate grudge inside yourself for 40-odd years, as reality forges ahead around you, making it ridiculous.  Obama is surrounded by practitioners who have made a set of outdated grudges their life’s work, and they are still battening on the people with their financially costly themes of anger and vengeance – none of them updated from ca. 1968.

The film predicts, in broad strokes, what America will look like in 2016 if Obama is reelected.  The pattern of “grudge-holding battening” will simply drive up the national debt.  2016 suggests a figure of $20 trillion, which is perfectly reasonable.  The film makes the point that if America’s monetary solvency collapses, there is nowhere else in the world to go: no refuge from the chaos.  That’s true, and it’s why even our enemies are sticking with the dollar and waiting to position themselves better for the aftermath.

D’Souza’s other major prediction is that a “United States of Islam” will emerge across North Africa and the Middle East by 2016.  With this, I do not agree.  The emerging Islamist governments of Egypt, Turkey, and Iran will continue to compete with each other for primacy.  Saudi Arabia will remain on her path of sclerotic “leadership.”  Other Muslim nations will coalesce around them and loose “blocs” will form and fall apart.  The prominent Islamist nations will profess friendship and unity on a regular basis, but that won’t be the governing dynamic at the deck-plate level.  To unite a caliphate, you need a caliph, and there won’t be one by 2016.  There will still be several aspiring to the job.

That won’t make the Middle East less volatile or potentially threatening.  If Obama is reelected, the issue of state-Islamism will indeed be at the top of our concerns in 2016.

There is a personal element to D’Souza’s treatment of the Obama story that is both endearing and the basis for a caveat.  D’Souza is right, I think, that the personal approach – the comparison of two lives that started in 1961; two “brown” lives steeped in foreign culture and ideas – is compelling.  It will get and hold moviegoers’ attention.

It may also blind D’Souza to an analytical point that I, for one, would like to see developed.  D’Souza has overlaid the narrative in Dreams from My Father on the story of Obama, Jr.s life, looking for the consequences of a son’s search for his father – an engrossing theme for any man.

But Obama, Jr. created a narrative about his father.  He lived with his mother, and was heavily influenced by her.  He lived with his grandparents in Hawaii.  He was taught by teachers at his Indonesian madrassa, at the Punahou School on Oahu, and by professors in college.  He didn’t create the influence of these people on his life; their influence created him.   None of these people left the political record Obama, Sr. did, but they are the ones I want to know more about.

 

Bonus material from the same theater visit:  Baz Luhrmann (Strictly Ballroom) is out there making an over-the-top mess of Gatsby even as I type, and I can tell it’s gonna hurt.  I’m as down as the next person with the “Redford can’t act” criticism of the big, slow-paced 1970s treatment with Mia Farrow, but come on: Leonardo DiCaprio?  He did an interesting turn as Howard Hughes, but he – and Howard Hughes – are the anti-Gatsby.

The pulsating frenzy depicted in the trailer – glitz, shvitz, wild glamour, sexual innuendo (and a hilarious, sophomoric “diversity” vibe) – is all Moulin Rouge, with no F. Scott Fitzgerald in sight.

J.E. Dyer’s articles have appeared at Hot Air’s Green Room, Commentary’s “contentions,Patheos, and The Weekly Standard online.

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Responses

  1. Excellent commentary on the film, which we also saw last night. Thanks!

  2. excellent commentary re Gatsby.

    D’souza is much better than Robert Spencer, not being unhinged, but is still a coupla bricks short …..

    http://townhall.com/columnists/dineshdsouza/2007/02/26/rethinking_abu_ghraib/page/full/

    and prone to simply making shift up.

    ” Abu Ghraib did not reflect the shared values of America, it reflected the sexual immodesty of liberal America. Lynndie England and Charles Graner were two wretched individuals from Red America who were trying to act out the fantasies of Blue America.”

  3. D’Souza is all wet… His heart is in the right place, but he’s clueless because he’s invested in the Elite Establishment Swallowing of the BS narrative of The One…

    Barack H. Obama of Kenya isn’t remotely related to “The One”. He’s was a poor, broken zippered, foreign student who needed some sort of cover to keep him from being deported, and keep some cash in his pockets to stay in school… and maybe a foot in the door at HAAAVAAD. He served the purpose of explaining the delicate situation of a illegitimate birth of a mixed race baby to an underage teenage girl. (remember this was 1961).

    I have my very well founded suspicions for where and when he was born. (no it wasn’t Hawaii… ) and I have my suspicions as to whom the paternity test would have pointed if it had ever been available.

    Only time will tell, but what the ersatz BHOII is, is a dedicated Marxist with the intellectual depth and intellect of your average teenage dope smoker.

    Also… JE.. .I have to disagree.. about his mother. Barry (whatever his name really is) was never raised by his mother. He was raised by his Grandfather and Grandmother. He was abandoned by his mother. He was abandoned by his father. He is the product of a dysfunctional home, and an upbringing by an odd assortment of characters. The kinds of people who in early life are abandoned by their parents are rarely well adjusted.

    The Elite Establishment gives him far too much credit, because it is SOOO UNFASHIONABLE to suggest otherwise.

    “Dreams From My Father” is a ghost written fraud. Funny, just like its purported author.

    r/TMF

    • — I have my very well founded suspicions for where and when he was born. (no it wasn’t Hawaii… )—–

      please DO explain why this isn’t merely horsesh1t and is soooo well-founded.

      • Obama claimed for TEN years that he was a Kenyan foreign exchange student, which given the advantages of making that claim doesn’t preclude that he wasn’t lying about that but until a political career arose, that was his claim.

        So, either he was lying then or he’s lying now…

        But that he is a liar is established beyond dispute.

        It turns out that there’s a thriving industry in Hawaii to purchase a birth certificate, with little to no oversight by the state.

        The Hawaii State Registrar will not verify the authenticity of Obama’s birth certificate.

        Multiple experts have stated that the Obama birth certificate released over the internet is unequivocally a fake.

        Those are the facts.

        Those facts do not prove that Obama isn’t a natural citizen.

        They do raise reasonable doubt. Doubts that Obama could easily lay to rest, if in fact he is a natural citizen by birth.

        So, now its your turn, why won’t he do so?

        What can he possibly gain by allowing the doubts to languish?

  4. “D’Souza’s other major prediction is that a “United States of Islam” will emerge across North Africa and the Middle East by 2016. With this, I do not agree. The emerging Islamist governments of Egypt, Turkey, and Iran will continue to compete with each other for primacy. Saudi Arabia will remain on her path of sclerotic “leadership.” Other Muslim nations will coalesce around them and loose “blocs” will form and fall apart. The prominent Islamist nations will profess friendship and unity on a regular basis, but that won’t be the governing dynamic at the deck-plate level. To unite a caliphate, you need a caliph, and there won’t be one by 2016. There will still be several aspiring to the job.”

    You may well be right J.E. and I sincerely hope that it is you, rather than I, who proves the more accurate prognosticator.

    That said, Iran and Turkey have been quite friendly as of late;

    “Iran’s President Ahmadinejad referred to the two countries’ broad scale comprehensive relations, noting, “Events and developments occur and pass by, but our two countries and nations remain side by side of one another and we must work and live with each other.”

    Arguing that Iran favors establishment of justice and demands respect, [within the Ummah] Ahmadinejad added, “Resorting to force, no one can achieve victory and prosperity and even if they would, on the day after victory he would not be able to maintain legitimacy and independence.”

    Ahmadinejad referred to the plan proposed by the Egyptian President Mohammad Morsi, arguing “President Morsi’s proposal was good, but we intend to find a solution based on which the majority of people would have participation in the decision makings in their countries.”

    I must also point out that Saudi Arabia will remain on her path of sclerotic “leadership”…provided that the Royal House of Saud continues to rule Saudi Arabia… which leads to the obvious question; if the Saudi’s fall, around whom will the smaller Muslim nations coalesce?

    “the governing dynamic at the deck-plate level” is hate for the little and great Satans…that is an unavoidable theological imperative and, for religious fanatics (that would be Iran, now Egypt and arguably, Erdogan as well) theological imperatives supersede any other consideration.

    Ironically, if the House of Saud falls, the entire M.E. falls into the hands of the jihadists… we may be sure that the Muslim Brotherhood is well aware of that dynamic…

    Since nature cannot tolerate a power vacuum, history demonstrates that if the major nations of the M.E. fall to the jihadists, a charismatic leader will emerge to fill the vacuum.

    In such a case, will it matter whether its Ahmadinejad, Erdogan, Morsi or someone not yet on the horizon? Will it matter if D’Souza’s prediction is off by a few years?

  5. “While the world persists in looking for signs of pragmatism in the Egyptian president, Mohamed Morsy is quietly taking over all the power bases in the country.

    Having gotten rid of the army old guard, he replaced them with his own men – officers belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood or known sympathizers. Then he turned his attention to the media, replacing 50 editors working for the government’s extensive and influential press empire – including Al- Ahram, Al-Akhbar, Al-Gomhuria. He is now busy appointing new governors to the 27 regions of the country.

    Morsy is hand picking party faithful. At the same time upper echelons in government ministries and economic and cultural organizations are methodically being replaced. The Muslim Brotherhood is fast assuming total control. For many observers, the deployment of army units in Sinai is more about proclaiming Egyptian sovereignty in the face of Israel than actually fighting Islamic terrorism.”

  6. GB — my prognostication about divisions in the state-Islamist world doesn’t mean that I think any of the main leaders — the Iranian mullahs, Recept Tayyip Erdogan, Mohammed Morsi — is somehow not a problem. Of course Morsi is consolidating power in Egypt, and of course he’s doing it under an Islamist ideology. I know that.

    But none of these leadership entities is going to join with the others in what the West would think of as a voluntary confederation. I am absolutely certain I will turn out to be right about this. Each one is on a path of evil — repression of his people, hostility to Israel and America, aggression of one kind or another in the region — and these characteristics cannot — CANNOT — produce a congenial confederation.

    I have no doubt that it will occasionally look like that’s what they’re doing. Morsi is reaching out to Iran right now, not because he wants to align Egypt with Iran, but because Iran isn’t Turkey. It’s been flying under the radar in Turkey, but Erdogan has been consolidating his own power. In the last couple of months, his government has charged and incarcerated members of the IHH — the Muslim Brotherhood entity of which Erdogan himself has been a long-time member. This move is pure Bolshevism, weeding out dissent in Erdogan’s own ranks. He and he alone will head the Muslim Brotherhood in Turkey.

    Morsi will also make nice with Erdogan, however. He needs to balance his alliances between the “Ottoman Muslim Brotherhood” and the “Shia Islamic Republic.” Morsi himself is the uncrowned but obvious leader of the “Arab Muslim Brotherhood,” now in charge of Egypt’s 70 million people. He has no intention of taking a back seat to either of his new pals.

    Groping toward a state-Islamist union will be a matter of internecine conflict — mainly political; I don’t foresee a lot of military activity, at least not in the near future. It will not be a matter of “kindred spirits” uniting. Of course they all hate us and Israel (not the people, but their leaders).

    But they have reached the stage where their priority is recreating the caliphate. Morsi, the mullahs, and Erdogan have all spoken in those terms, whether elliptically (e.g., Erdogan) or straightforwardly. They see a big prize in view, and their guiding idea is not fighting Israel and America, but consolidating the Islamist world first. Each of them sees holding Jerusalem as the key to establishing the caliphate. But only Iran has overtly expressed a vision of a military conquest of Jerusalem. The Sunni leaders in Turkey and Egypt are less explicit, and are likely to prefer political maneuver that would cause the “world community” to drop Jerusalem into their hands.

    But none of this is envisioned as the triumph of a confederation. These guys are going for all the marbles. Any confederation among them will be as evanescent as the “United Arab Republic” of yore. Movements and politics based on hatred cannot unite for long-term purposes. They may come together briefly from wholly utilitarian motives, but they will fall on and attack each other quickly, because there is no lateral respect, with these movements. There is only the will to partisan power.

    • opticon,
      It never occurred to me to suppose that you did not recognize the problem that Morsi and Erdogan pose, nor did I mean to imply such.

      “none of these leadership entities is going to join with the others in what the West would think of as a voluntary confederation. I am absolutely certain I will turn out to be right about this.”

      I hope you’re right but am not nearly so sanguine at the impossibility of a voluntary, if ultimately temporary confederation. The theological imperative, shared dream of a renewed Caliphate and hate for the little and great Satans are powerful incentives.

      I agree that at some point, the disparate elements of a wholly utilitarian union (which I agree it will be) will fall apart but as you yourself say, “they have reached the stage where their priority is recreating the caliphate. Morsi, the mullahs, and Erdogan have all spoken in those terms, whether elliptically (e.g., Erdogan) or straightforwardly. They see a big prize in view, and their guiding idea is not fighting Israel and America, but consolidating the Islamist world first”

      Yes, of course that is the case.

      However, after a wholly utilitarian union forms, purporting to be the recreation of a new Caliphate, that entity will look toward Jerusalem. A viable strategy would be for a ‘stolen’ nuke from Iran or Pakistan to find its way into the hands of a terrorist group. A nuke loaded on board a suitable vessel and sailed into Tel Aviv’s harbor and detonated would devastate Israel.

      With plausible deniability established and while Israel is reeling from the successful decapitation of its government along with the deaths of at least hundreds of thousands, Egypt might well attack across the Sinai with Syria joining the attack across their border as well… such a strategy, executed properly would stand a reasonable chance for success.

      If successful, the destruction of Israel would act as a tremendous boost to continuance of the Caliphate. The urge to then turn toward the US would be a powerful argument for the need to maintain unity.

      • GB, I suspect you are a little optimistic(?) about the Muslim world surviving the destruction of Tel Aviv. I forget its name, but there is a war plan in place in America that covers what the military will do if the leaders of the American government are suddenly killed (say a nuke hits DC during the State-of-the-Union address). I can guarantee the Israel, being surrounded by nearby enemies that willingly and frequently blow themselves to bits, has similar plans in place. It must include the scenario of an atomic attack on Tel Aviv, with or without an accompanying ground attack. If this were to happen, I doubt Israel would remain viable. A large percentage of her population, her national bureaucracy, her industry and her civilian infrastructure would be destroyed. This would be a “Doomsday” scenario, where mortally wounded Israel lashes out to ensure her enemies do not survive her.

        She has considerable tools at her disposal. Over and above what biological and chemical weapons she may have available to her, at last leak from the Obama admin, she has at least 200 nuclear warheads. I would image that any city (belonging to anybody who’s ever invaded or threatened to invade Israel) in range of her bombers will be flattened (and they’d probably dump symbolic plane-loads of salt in the case of Mecca and Medina). They also have Jericho II & III IRBM’s w/ranges of 1300/4800km and payloads of 1000/1400kg. I doubt they are as accurate as bombers, but they are a lot more difficult to stop (besides, how accurate does a nuclear missile need to be to be effective?). This doesn’t even include her submarine-launched cruise missile capability.

        No, if Israel is destroyed, her people will ensure that no one w/in 5000km of her will survive either, and the rest of the world will have a hard time of it if the Middle East suddenly became a nuclear wasteland.

  7. Well the argument is that Wright, and DE Unger who figures in the book, and Ayers translated this neocolonist dependency theory, to an American context, along with Derrick Bell and Lawrence Tribe,

  8. While I think D’Souza’s recognition of President Obama’s anti-colonialist sympathies help explain many of Obama’s strange foreign policy decisions, I’m not sure they’re as all-encompassing as the author suggests. Personally, I believe Obama is a conventional (and predictable) leftist at home (how anyone can look at his record and come away believing he’s a moderate is beyond me), but to the extent he’s diminishing America’s role in the world, he’s doing it by accident. From Chamberlain to Carter, national self-effacement has always been the left’s preferred international strategy.

  9. Thought you’d be interested.

    Pop! Goes another pipeline folks.

    http://www.euronews.com/newswires/1636854-fire-shuts-iraqi-crude-oil-pipeline-to-turkey/

    • Its stated that sabotage is suspected and jihadists attacking oil supplies to the west is an obvious move but due to Bush II’s foresight, none of our oil imports come from the M.E. Substantially cutting off Middle Eastern oil supplies would raise the world oil price but won’t affect oil imports to the US.

      Thus the tactic is of limited usefulness to the jihadists. Closing off the Strait of Hormuz would greatly raise oil prices and we would be forced to militarily intervene, so before acting, the Iranians will wait until they have nukes to enforce their seizure of the Strait.

      Closing off the Strait would be a problematic tactic but as soon as Iran feels it has a good chance of pulling it off, I believe the temptation to do so will overwhelm any sense of caution.

  10. Iran Official: Egypt’s Morsi to visit Bushehr nuclear plant

    “Iran and Egypt can switch on their joint activities in the nuclear field and Iran is ready to transfer its know-how and experience to Egypt.”

    The Saudi’s have recently increased their financial aid to Egypt, an obvious bribe and attempt at creating financial dependence.

    The obvious strategic move for Morsi is to use the Saudi money, along with our $1.5 billion yearly aid to buy nukes from Pakistan. Failing that, Morsi will use the Iranian technology and Saudi/US aid to develop his own nukes.

  11. —– I was surprised to discover that Dinesh D’Souza’s 2016: Obama’s America opened in my little town on Friday.—-

    I wonder, is your “my little town” the same one that Paul Simon wrote about?

    • Simon was born in Newark, NJ. Before his first birthday, the family moved to Queens, in NYC…where he grew up. He graduated from Queens College. Simon never lived in a small town before writing that line.

      • Well, he didn’t live in my little town, at any rate. But I don’t think any American of my age could write the expression “my little town” without thinking of Simon’s song.

  12. You are nit picking! No the movie is not made as you would have made it. Then again you are not Dinesh D’Souza.


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