Archive for the ‘Documentaries’ category

Critique of D’Souza’s film “2016: Obama’s America”

October 7th, 2012

Official Synopsis:

Immersed in exotic locales across four continents, best selling author Dinesh D’Souza races against time to find answers to Obama’s past and reveal where America will be in 2016. During this journey he discovers how hope and change became radically misunderstood, and identifies new flash-points for hot wars in mankind’s greatest struggle. The journey moves quickly over the arc of the old colonial empires into America’s empire of liberty, and we see the unfolding realignment of nations and the shape of the global future.

 

Review:

This film is full of misinformation and fear-mongering and includes irrational—even ridiculous—ideas such as the implication that Obama is turning the U.S. in “the United States of Islam.” Virtually every claim in the film can be easily debunked in a five-minute Google search. To me, the real question to ask is, “What specifically has Obama done in the last fours years that would indicate that he has sinister plans for the country based on hi so-called ‘anti-colonial’ beliefs?”

A word about anti-colonialism: D’Souza has been pushing this idea that the Democrats hold anti-colonial views ever since his 2002 book, “What’s So Great About America?”. Anti-colonialism is basically the same thing as anti-imperialism. Anti-imperialism simply means opposition to wars of conquest, like early Americans’ opposition to British rule. It is not synonymous with terms like socialism, communism, or any other extreme philosophical view. The filmmakers certainly wants the viewer to think this is some extreme, scary philosophical perspective. Nevermind the fact that one is hard-pressed to find any positions, let alone actions, that would indicate that Obama has some kind of extreme secretive philosophical perspective.

A couple of years ago I called into the Sean Hannity show. I criticized Hannity for his irresponsible rhetoric about President Obama. Hannity’s most recent book alleges that Obama is a socialist. Obama had recently signed this 2009 stimulus bill into law, which is made up of a huge number of tax cuts to lessen the financial burden on taxpayers. The tax cuts would affect 98% of taxpayers. I asked Hannity, “do you really believe Obama is a socialist?” His answer was, “yes, yes I do.” My response to Hannity was: I don’t know if you have read Obama’s book, “The Audacity of Hope,” but it outlines a number of Obama’s positions – and he is clearly a believer in the free market and the role of small businesses in creating jobs. Also, I asked, “does a Socialist give 98% of Americans tax cuts?” Hannity hung up on me and did not answer the question.

Like Hannity, D’Souza is attempting to scare viewers with a misunderstood label into thinking their president has a hidden agenda and he means to harm them in some way. This is the epitome of poor journalistic standards.

Below, I have included a number of critical reviews of the film “2016: Obama’s America.”  Nearly every review that I found on this film ripped the film apart as being completely irresponsible. I am also including some additional responses to some of the issues raised in the film, such as Obama’s relationship with Israel.

 

Critical Reviews:

“The assertion that Obama’s presidency is an expression of his father’s political beliefs, which D’Souza first made in 2010 in his book “The Roots of Obama’s Rage,” is almost entirely subjective and a logical stretch at best.”

 

“In Hawaii, D’Souza asserts with no evidence that Obama sympathized with native Hawaiians who felt they had been marginalized by the American government when Hawaii was becoming a state. D’Souza also asserts – again with no evidence – that Obama had been coached to hold those views at Punahou, the prestigious prep school he attended.”

 

“‘Oppression studies, if you will. Obama got plenty of that when he was here in Punahou,” D’Souza says, standing on the campus in Honolulu.

In Kenya, D’Souza interviews Philip Ochieng, a lifelong friend of the president’s father, who claims the elder Obama was “totally anti-colonial.” Ochieng also discloses some of his own political views, complaining about U.S. policy in Afghanistan and Iraq and saying the U.S. refuses to “tame” Israel, which he calls a “Trojan horse in the Middle East.” D’Souza seems to suggest that if a onetime friend of Obama’s late father holds those opinions, so, too, must the president himself.

“D’Souza then goes through a list of actions Obama has taken as president to support his thesis. Many of them don’t hold water:

  • D’Souza rightly argues that the national debt has risen to $16 trillion under Obama. But he never mentions the explosion of debt that occurred under Obama’s predecessor, Republican George W. Bush, nor the 2008 global financial crisis that provoked a shock to the U.S. economy.
  • D’Souza says Obama is “weirdly sympathetic to Muslim jihadists” in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He does not mention that Obama ordered the raid that killed Osama bin Laden and the drone strikes that have killed dozens of other terrorists in the region.
  • D’Souza wrongly claims that Obama wants to return control of the Falkland Islands from Britain to Argentina. The U.S. refused in April to endorse a final declaration on Argentina’s claim to the islands at the Summit of the Americas, provoking criticism from other Latin American nations.
  • D’Souza says Obama has “done nothing” to impede Iran’s nuclear ambitions, despite the severe trade and economic sanctions his administration has imposed on that country to halt its suspected nuclear program. Obama opposes a near-term military strike on Iran, either by the U.S. or Israel, although he says the U.S. will never tolerate a nuclear-armed Iran.
  • D’Souza says Obama removed a bust of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill from the Oval Office because Churchill represented British colonialism. White House curator William Allman said the bust, which had been on loan, was already scheduled to be returned before Obama took office. Another bust of Churchill is on display in the president’s private residence, the White House says.”

(Source: KSL, Sept. 20, 2012 [Associated Press])

 

“The film is based on D’Souza’s book, The Roots Of Obama’s Rage, and most of the claims in both works have been dismissed and/or debunked by a variety of fact-checkers and news outlets. But that hasn’t stopped the movie from grossing $26 million, making it one of the most successful documentaries of all time. D’Souza cites Michael Moore as an influence, and the production values are very slick, even with the cheap $9 million production cost.”

“Basically, he argues that Obama is trying to impress his father he carrying out anti-colonial retribution.”

“According to the film, Obama’s anti-colonial worldview was cultivated in his father’s absence by a series of mentors, who D’Souza terms these men Obama’s ‘Founding Fathers’:

  • Frank Marshall Davis, described as a Soviet
  • Edward Said, described as a Palestinian radical
  • Roberto Unger, described as a Brazilian revolutionary
  • Bill Ayers, described as a terrorist
  • Reverend Jeremiah Wright, described as Obama’s surrogate father.

“In reality, a lot of the ties that D’Souza draws between these men and Obama are tenuous at best:

  • Davis was a liberal journalist and labor activist who befriended Obama’s maternal grandfather
  • Said was a Palestinian-born Columbia University literature professor who is said to be the founder of post-colonial literary theory though it is not clear what, if any, kind of relationship Obama had with Said
  • Unger is a Brazilian philosopher and longtime Harvard Law School professor who helped co-found Brazil’s Democratic Movement Party when the country emerged from military rule in the 1980s
  • Obama’s relationships with Ayers and Wright have been well-documented.”

“According to D’Souza, these influences have resulted in Obama attempting to bring down the United States to compensate for Western colonial abuses abroad.Practically, D’Souza argues that this has manifested itself in Obama’s policies, although the only specific policies mentioned in the film are his decisions to stop development of the Keystone Pipeline, and to export oil rights to Brazil and Argentina.”

“In the end, the only two outright predictions in the movie for what Obama will do if he is re-elected in 2016 are that he will allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons, and that he will turn the national debt into a “weapon of mass destruction,” although the film doesn’t explain how Obama would go about accomplishing these goals.”

(Source: Business Insider, Sept. 11, 2012)

 

“The central thesis of “2016” is that Obama’s worldview — his “compass,” as D’Souza calls it — was largely shaped by the anti-colonialist, anti-white and anti-Christian politics of Obama’s supposedly radical Kenyan father. Never mind that Obama, growing up, spent precious little time with the man, who for most of his son’s early life was estranged from Obama’s mother.”

“Why is the film called “2016”? 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.”

(Source: Washington Post, Aug. 24, 2012)

 

“2016: Obama’s America is a nonsensically unsubstantiated act of character assassination. D’Souza’s thesis is that Obama has spent his life trying to please his late Kenyan father — and that the result is he’s an anti-colonial socialist revolutionary. What’s the evidence? Shockingly, it’s Obama’s autobiography, Dreams From My Father. D’Souza quotes it as if Obama’s attempt to understand the father he barely knew was a confession of radicalism — a confession that, somehow, he was also out to hide.”

(Source: Entertainment Weekly, 8/22/2012)

 

“What he is, according to D’Souza, is (in so many words) an anti-American anti-colonial who wants to redistribute the wealth of America to the third world.  He also wants to bankrupt America for revenge…for something.  He also wants to weaken the American military.  D’Souza ignores that American defense spending continued to grow under Obama and instead focused on the reduction in nuclear arms under the New START treaty of 2010 from 5,000 to 1,500 nuclear weapons.”  See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_START

“D’Souza did what he did throughout the film by ignoring the numerous other nuclear reduction treaties the US has entered.  But half truths are what this film is constructed from.”

“The budget deficits are a major tong in the trident D’Souza tries to stick Obama with (besides anti-colonial redistribution of wealth and the weakening of the American military).  D’Souza ignores the recession and the Bush tax cuts which are major reasons the deficit exploded.”

“Most people will have more important things to do than see this film.  It is as advertised.  An Obama attack piece which trots out every negative trope short of birther-ism.  It will confirm for Republicans that Obama is an evil anti-American intent on undoing American from the bastion of American power.  Democrats will confirm that Dinesh D’Souza is a conservative.”

(Source: Daily Kos, Aug. 24th, 2012)

 

See also: http://www.cjr.org/the_audit/dinesh_dsouza_digs_himself_in.php?nomobile=1&page=1

 

Additional Critique:

OBAMA’S SUPPORT OF ISRAEL

“Mitt Romney claims Mr. Obama has ‘thrown allies like Israel under the bus,’ but in fact the president has taken concrete steps to make Israel more secure — a commitment he has described as ‘not negotiable.’” (Source)

 

D’Souza’s film paints Obama as being against Israel and pro-Islam. In reality, Obama is pro–Middle Eastern peace, while at the same time he recognizes the historic and strategic importance of our alliance with Israel. Here is some of the evidence of Obama’s support for Israel.

  • Mr. Obama has assured Mr. Netanyahu that he will “always have Israel’s back.”
  • As president, he responded by providing full financing and technical assistance for Israel’s Iron Dome short-range anti-rocket defense system, which is now protecting those villagers. In July, he provided an additional $70 million to extend the Iron Dome system across southern Israel. That’s in addition to the $3 billion in annual military assistance to Israel that the president requests and that Congress routinely approves, assistance for which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has expressed deep personal appreciation.
  • He has increased aid to Israel and given it access to the most advanced military equipment, including the latest fighter aircraft.
  • Ask any senior Israeli official involved in national security, and he will tell you that the strategic relationship between the United States and Israel has never been stronger than under President Obama. “I can hardly remember a better period of American support and backing, and Israeli cooperation and similar strategic understanding of events around us,” the defense minister, Ehud Barak, said last year, “than what we have right now.” That cooperation has included close coordination by intelligence agencies — including the deployment of cyberweapons, as recent news reports have revealed — to thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
  • Mr. Obama secured European support for what even Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, called “the most severe and strictest sanctions ever imposed on a country.” He has also taken the option of merely “containing” a nuclear-armed Iran off the table. He has directed the military to prepare options for confronting Iran and has positioned forces in the Persian Gulf to demonstrate his resolve.
  • Mr. Obama has been steadfast against efforts to delegitimize Israel in international forums. He has blocked Palestinian attempts to bypass negotiations and achieve United Nations recognition as a member state, a move that would have opened the way to efforts by Israel’s foes to sanction and criminalize its policies. As a sign of its support, the Obama administration even vetoed a Security Council resolution on Israeli settlements, a resolution that mirrored the president’s position and that of every American administration since the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

(Source)

 

NATIONAL DEBT UNDER OBAMA VERSES OTHER RECENT PRESIDENTS

The film makes the allegation that Obama is trying to bankrupt the United States by increasing its deficit spending and national debt. This is a ludicrous claim, given that most of his deficit spending was from spending that Bush budgeted for, or put in place with TARP, or was part of the 2009 stimulus plan to revive the worst economy since the Depression. The 2009 stimulus package was a similar approach to what both Democrats and  Republicans doing during severe recessions (when consumers stop spending, the government spends to get the economy going again).

Here is a historical comparison of spending by recent presidents, who of course create a budget which is approved by Congress.

 

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:US_Federal_Debt_as_Percent_of_GDP_by_President.jpg

 

 

IS OBAMA TRYING TO WEAKEN THE U.S.?

D’Souza alleges that Obama has an agenda to weaken America by decreasing military spending. This allegation is absolutely wrong. Here is some data on this (notice that Romney wants to increase military spending to unprecedented levels, especially in a time a relative peace).

 

 

According to the ultraconservative news outlet, Newsmax, Obama is not reducing military spending: http://www.newsmax.com/DickArmey/Obama-Military-Budget-cut/2012/01/11/id/423870

Obama has made efforts to try to reduce nuclear arms in the world, including the new START Treaty. His position on nuclear weapons reduction is exactly the same as Pres. Ronald Reagan.

According to the conservative Heritage Foundation, Reagan “was an ardent proponent of the abolition of nuclear weapons”; and “he never abandoned his hatred of nuclear weapons and his desire to eliminate them. Reagan’s ‘dream,’ as he himself described it, was ‘a world free of nuclear weapons.’ He pursued that dream as a personal mission.” Moreover, “he and Gorbachev signed the INF Treaty in 1987, which eliminated an entire category of nuclear weapons for the first time, and he laid the foundation for President George H.W. Bush to complete the first Strategic Arms Reduc­tion Treaty.” (Source: http://www.heritage.org/research/lecture/president-reagans-legacy-and-us-nuclear-weapons-policy). This is a perfect example of how many Conservatives will praise Reagan in for a position while criticizing Obama for holding the exact same position. It is both evidence that Conservatives are moving further and further to the right, and that their followers care little about facts, and many simply follow along sheepishly with whatever rhetoric they are fed from their propaganda sources.

 

Conclusion

Look, D’Souza is an ideologue; that is, someone who  is extremely dogmatic and has a strident point of view and will ignore facts that contradict their view. This film is a classic propaganda piece—one that many conservatives have even condemned.

The reality is that Obama is a good family man with excellent values, including unquestionable support for business. He is patriotic and his positions are squarely in the center of the political spectrum. The GOP has moved further and further to the right of the last 15 years, which makes a centrist like Obama seem more liberal. Yet many of his positions are not unlike Ronald Reagan. He does not  support extreme redistribution, he is not a socialist, and he is not an anti-colonialists in sense that D’Souza uses that term.

I would invite you go watch a couple of Michael Moore movies. I think this experience would allow you to see what this kind of one-sided propaganda film looks like on the other side. For example, watch Fahrenheit 911. It basically does the same thing to Bush as you see 1916 doing to Obama (and D’Souza admits that Michael Moore was an influence in how he made this movie). It carefully leads the viewer to see Bush as having close ties to the Saudis, and by extension, the Bin Laden family. It also makes connections between his personal wealth and military contractor profits from the wars he started (business who donated to him). Though Michael Moore’s film are entertaining, they, like D’Souza’s film, mislead people and manipulate facts while stirring up people’s emotions against their political adversaries. And this is exactly the kind of manipulation that is polarizing Americans and causing disunity.

The Cove

October 18th, 2010

The Academy Award-winning documentary, The Cove, is an amazing film. George Clooney said, “this is better than Ocean’s 11, but this is real!”

Check out this trailer.

The web site explains the story:

The Cove exposes the slaughter of more than 20,000 dolphins and porpoises off the coast of Japan every year, and how their meat, containing toxic levels of mercury, is sold as food in Japan and other parts of Asia, often labeled as whale meat. The majority of the world is not aware this is happening.

The focus of the Social Action Campaign for The Cove is to create worldwide awareness of this annual practice as well as the dangers of eating seafood contaminated with mercury, and to pressure those in power to put an end to the slaughter.

It’s been working. The film has been making waves since it premiered last year. Critical praise and audience awards worldwide have focused international attention on Taiji and the annual dolphin drives off the coast of Japan. Under intense pressure, Taiji called for a temporary ban on killing bottlenose dolphins in 2009. The film, originally rejected at the Tokyo Film Festival, was eventually shown due to public outcry, and has appeared in theaters in Japan. Residents in Taiji are being tested for mercury poisoning, and for the first time Japanese media are covering the issue.

But the effort needs to continue. On September 1, the six-month dolphin hunting season opened again, and fishermen in Taiji plan to take to the cove despite international pressure. Experts say education, awareness and persistence are needed to eventually turn the tide.

Check out this excellent interview with the makers of The Cove:

See the official web site, and the take action site.

The Cove is streaming from NetFlix. You can also purchase it from Amazon:

The Yes Men: Jackass meets Michael Moore

September 9th, 2010

A new kind of activist journalism has been created. It is humorous Michael Moore “mockumentaries” meets the daring stunts of the show Jackass. These guys are for real! Their latest documentary, “The Yes Men: Fix the World,” is intellectually stimulating and very funny at the same time. (Both of their films are streaming items on NetFlix!!) Here are a few clips from the most recent film, and some media coverage of their work.

» Read more: The Yes Men: Jackass meets Michael Moore