I came to see this film a little concerned. Not concerned about what I would see in the film, but rather how people would see me for attending it. I expected to be judged for watching the conservative counterpart to Michael Moore (Dinesh D’Souza) make outrageous claims about our president.
In that respect, D’Souza impressed me a bit. He is nowhere near as annoying to watch as Michael Moore. In fact, rather than paint himself as Johnny Everyman out to figure out what everyone obviously knows but doesn’t want to admit, D’Souza compares himself in many ways to Obama (childhood spent outside of the U.S., knowing developing world poverty, college education, etc.) and then tries to proffer forth a portrait of the forces going into the ideologies of a young Obama.
Really, that’s about where my respect for D’Souza ends. (Warning, spoilers(?) ahead!)
The 87 minute film asks the question “If Barack Obama wins a second term, where will we be in 2016?” and claims “Love him or hate him, you don’t know him.”
I was going to try to analyse the film as a whole, but I managed to find someone who actually watched this film twice and did a much better job with the details than I could have. So rather than detailing a full analysis, I wish to only point out some of the logical flaws and propaganda techniques that should be obvious, but based on reviews I’ve seen, aren’t.
Obama’s father (painted evil, both on a traditional family level, politically, and economically) – throughout film, Obama is made out to be a carbon copy of his father. At some point, D’Souza goes to Kenya to “follow in the footsteps” of Obama. However, even after giving Sarah ‘Granny’ Obama three goats (a HUGE sum), something about his request or presentation still seems false enough that D’Souza is escorted off the premises.
D’Souza then goes on to find someone claiming to be an old drinking buddy of Obama Sr. In addition to recieving this man (who has never met Obama, the President)’s word (after a leading question) that the U.S. President and his father are “the same*,” D’Souza manages to exploit the names (here and throughout the movie) by intentionally not clarifying which Barack Obama is being referred to (Sr. or the U.S. President).
This inappropriate conflation of Obama and his father into one ideology that can easily be knocked down is a logical fallacy known as a straw-man. Obama’s father’s life and politics (what has really been attacked through this argument) fall quite readily, and D’Souza now creates the illusion that the same has happened for Obama the U.S. President.
Obama’s child-hood mentor, professors, and friends (communists, Marxists, terrorists, RADICALS, frequently fighting neo-colonial powers) – in a similar attempt to create more straw-men to knock down, D’Souza targets the ideologies of several of Obama’s childhood influences. These include some with communist and Marxist leanings, a co-worker while in Chicago that claimed responsibility in terrorist acts in the 70s, and the Reverend Jeremiah Wright (YouTube famous for a speech ending with “God-Damn America as long as she tries to act like she is God and she is Supreme.”).
And all of this might seem kind of scary, if A) they were all Obama’s stated beliefs and not mere inference based on association, B) we were rigidly frozen in the (ignorant**) fear that anything other than pure capitalism will fail and should thus not be researched, C) we believed that ignorance (**) of our social and economic past, present, and future is better than even considering questioning the status quo.
While purporting to sell you it’s views solely on the merit of it’s claims, 2016: Obama’s America almost continually engages the audience in the active use of propaganda techniques, visual and otherwise.
- Allusions are made to terrorist ties and a desire to minimise the space program with no mention of the death of Osama bin Laden or the landing and commenced photography, sampling, etc. of Mars’ Curiosity (technique here is exclusion of pertinent data).
- Hash-lines over photo-graphs at a close zoom to make them appear to be added detail and thus more fundamental and trustworthy.
- Dramatic musical changes including horror music when speaking of the national debt.
- Near epilepsy inducing level of unexplained visual scenes going on during simple voice-overs.
- The central theme, “Love him or hate him, you don’t know him,” presupposes that we have EVER actually KNOWN a presidential candidate, and certainly does not convince me at all that we know the other candidates any better.
- Inclusion of data (such as repeated references to outsourcing oil to Brazil) without proper fact-checking or citation.
- Probably some other points that I have missed or forgotten.
In conclusion, I would say to watch this film if you’re interested in mild presidential slander, fear-mongering, or if you’re a left-ist trying to look at both sides of an issue. Otherwise, don’t.
*In Burkina Faso, West Africa, I was frequently told by the Mossi and other ethnicities something like, “Robert, fo yaa moaga. Tond yaa a yembre.” (Rob, you’re [insert ethnicity here] now. We are like one). This never meant that we 1. had the same history, 2. believed the same things, 3. had necessarily intertwined futures, 4. would act the same in similar situations, etc. Really, it was a thing of solidarity. I lived with them and they wanted to show me appreciation in some small way. Obama (the president) has done a lot throughout the world for the U.S.’s public image (I saw this first-hand from election day on in Burkina and every country in West Africa I visited) and people are constantly trying to show their appreciation, sometimes through displays of solidarity.
**I say “ignorant” for two reasons. First of all, because we are not a pure free market capitalist economy and never really have been. Look around you at the roads, public buildings (including libraries, police stations, etc.), and other public works, NASA, Peace Corps, etc. and then try explaining it all without any reference to New Deal programs or other non-purely-capitalist government uses of tax-payers’ money. Second as the word is used in French and perhaps also in English. To be ignorant is to ignore or to not know. One can be accidentally ignorant or will-fully ignorant, and those that choose to ignore literature, statistics, and relevant information in order to keep a desired pure-view are of the will-fully ignorant category.