Culture » November 17, 2015
Trapped in the Prison of Right-Wing Pundit Dinesh D’Souza’s Paranoid Mind
A stint in the slammer convinced the conservative author that liberals are crooks, as he lays out in his new book Stealing America: What My Experience with Criminal Gangs Taught Me About Obama, Hillary and the Democratic Party.
‘They want, as my fellow inmates like to say, “the whole enchilada.” ... By 2008, the entire banking and home mortgage industry had been corrupted by the Left.’
If Inspector Javert and Captain Ahab were to collaborate on a screed, the results would likely not be half as demented—or one-fortieth as megalomaniacal—as the politics laid out in right-wing pundit Dinesh D’Souza’s latest broadside, Stealing America: What My Experience with Criminal Gangs Taught Me About Obama, Hillary and the Democratic Party.
With the 2012 film 2016: Obama’s America and its chiliastic sequel, America: Imagine the World Without Her, D’Souza has of late eclipsed Michael Moore as the country’s best-known political documentarian. Though, as Stealing America makes abundantly clear, “documentarian” is a stretch. “Agitprop sensationalist” is closer to the mark, and “paranoid fantasist” may be the best term.
The rumpus begins with D’Souza’s own fantasies of political martyrdom. D’Souza pled guilty in 2014 to charges that he evaded federal campaign laws when he enlisted a pair of his friends to funnel donations on his behalf to the 2012 New York Senate campaign of Wendy E. Long, a former classmate of his at Dartmouth. Stealing America uses D’Souza’s sentencing trial before Manhattan Federal District Court Judge Richard Berman as the departure point for the first of many forays into political victimology. D’Souza spins out a conspiracy theory about the government’s determination to punish him for his Obama-baiting publications and films. It’s simple: Manhattan federal prosecutor Preet Bharara was angling to replace Eric Holder as attorney general— and what would please his Oval Office masters more than the specter of their truth-telling enemy, Dinesh D’Souza, behind bars? “How much ingenuity,” our narrator asks, “does it take to recognize the possibility of a deal between Holder and Bharara?”
Not much ingenuity, if you believe, as D’Souza passionately does, that a random anonymous detractor denouncing 2016 on D’Souza’s website was none other than—da-duhn!—President Obama himself. “The article, unsigned and incoherent,” D’Souza writes in high “gotcha” dudgeon (and also as though he’s never previously encountered an anonymous comment) is “in keeping with Obama’s distinctive style.”
D’Souza’s sentence turns out to be light—eight months in a halfway house in San Diego that D’Souza only has to bunk down in at night. But it’s a trait of conspiracy theorists to fit all evidence, no matter how contradictory, into the grand schemes upsetting their lives. So when Loretta Lynch was picked to succeed Holder, the moral, to D’Souza, was plain: “Sorry, Preet, you didn’t come through for us, and now we’re not going to come through for you.”
D’Souza did not let his eight-month tour among hardened felons go to waste. Those sleepovers, we are led to believe, served as a tutelage in the criminal underworld, supplying fodder for Stealing America’s reinterpretation of Obama’s rule and “progressivism” generally as a vast conspiracy aimed at the expropriation of everything produced, marketed and squirreled away by every single American. D’Souza intends his title literally: Obama and Hillary Clinton are out to seize “the entire wealth of the nation: the full $75 trillion. … From Wall Street to Silicon Valley, they want, as my fellow inmates like to say, ‘the whole enchilada.’ ”
How D’Souza makes this tremendous leap is something to behold. It stems from an exchange with a fellow inmate, whom D’Souza calls Ramon, about how practiced thieves “case the joint” before carrying out a heist. The lightbulb goes off in D’Souza’s head: “Maybe the government is casing the joint—or more accurate, casing the citizen. … The Clintons have soared from zero to $100 million at warp speed. Obama is setting up to join them, so that he too can live like a king when he leaves office. Ramon raises a valid question: How did this happen?”
How indeed? Armed with this slender hypothetical, D’Souza spins out countless more. The case for reparations for oppressed groups, including Native and African Americans (which occupies no place in Democratic Party platforms), eats up an entire chapter, because, well, it’s just so gangsterish! Is the Community Reinvestment Act blamed for the entire financial crisis? You’d better believe it. Saul Alinsky laid the ground for the 2008 collapse in those communityactivism manuals that collected dust on so many college bookshelves—including, of course, Obama’s and Hillary’s. “If Alinsky had never lived, none of this would have ever happened,” our narrator informs us in a breathless flourish. (Fun fact: this sort of reasoning works just as plausibly in the affirmative, e.g., “If Batman had lived, none of this would have ever happened.”) But why stop at the long-dead figure of Alinsky? The fact is: “By 2008, the entire banking and home mortgage industry had been corrupted by the Left.”
And on it goes. Clinton, taking all her cues from cult master Alinsky, hatched her plan for nationwide wealth expropriation at Wellesley. Sure, Alinsky himself had offered her a job after graduation, but she had set her sights on bigger game: “Hillary realized that if she could figure out a way to take over the government, she’d have all the powerful instruments of government, from the military to the FBI to the IRS, at her disposal.”
Everything, you see, oscillates around the progressive mania to appropriate more and more wealth and power. As for us, the gullible progressive masses, we’ve been tutored by our leaders in crass class envy. We don’t know how to innovate or create wealth, so when the progressive hucksters tell us to start baying for this or that noble entrepreneur’s head on a pike, we all lunge as one terrifying pack.
There is, needless to say, much to critique, and more to defenestrate, in D’Souza’s account of the thuggish tendencies of those Americans who do not worship “wealth creators.” But let’s just linger a bit on the psychology of envy. Like Barack Obama, D’Souza is, after all, an American with recent family roots in the Global South. Like both Clintons, D’Souza has profited from his work as a tireless manufacturer of economic fabulism and cableready talking points. And like them, he’s disposed to dismiss criticism as evidence of persecution.
The telltale signs of organized progressive thievery would seem to apply to D’Souza himself. Maybe all this talk of envy is a projection, designed to shield poor D’Souza from the truth: He wants to be a world-class gangster, just like the progressive phantasms in the nearly 300 hallucinatory pages of Stealing America. The book, for all its righteous indictment of left-wing larceny, can only be read sympathetically as a desperate cry for help. Someone should bring a stop to this tortured psychic display by offering D’Souza a high-rolling gig as a Democratic lobbyist—or better yet, a PAC bundler. I’m sure he’s got the hang of political fundraising by now.
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Chris Lehmann, a contributing editor of In These Times, is editor-in-chief at Baffler and the author of The Money Cult: Capitalism, Christianity, and the Unmaking of the American Dream (Melville House, 2016).