2016-obamas-americaeditedThis subjective propaganda serves its writer better than it serves the American people

Studio: Lionsgate
Time: 89 minutes

If you would pay good money to see a pre-election broadcast, then you may be interested to watch this, as it is subjective and self-serving. If not, I recommend avoiding it.

Based on a book by Dinesh D'Souza, who presents the film, this (now ageing) 'documentary' quickly gives the impression that D'Souza wants to be the star (other than a brief part in the introduction, ten minutes passes before we get to Barack Obama himself). It begins, "My journey to America can be traced back to the independence of India, the land of my fathers." While it was to draw parallels between himself and Barack Obama, the references to himself would be entirely unnecessary in an objective piece. However, he does reveal that he worked in the White House as "a Reaganite," so he is virtually admitting to bias at the start.

In a variety of ways that finally come together at the end, D'Souza tries to assert here that Obama is a slave to his father's dangerous ideals (transmitted via his mother) and that they have been bolstered by radical mentors, such as Frank Marshall Davis and Jeremiah Wright. He begins with impressions, rather than logic: a quick-fire, cut-and-paste selection of vox pops (disillusioned Obama voters), graphics (dropping property values) and TV clips to project references that press typical voter panic buttons: Islam, communism and a lack of patriotic spirit. Obama, he claims, is just like his father, who mixed with communists, was "un-American" and was an influential scoundrel.

The core of his argument is to do with colonialism; that Obama is anti-colonial and wants to reduce the United States' neo-colonial status. D'Souza sees himself as a pro-white Indian who has progressed beyond the anti-colonialism of his own grandfather and expects Obama to do the same.

Evidence he brings to the table is that Obama is on the side of the Falkland Islands, rather than Britain; is pro-Palestinian, rather than pro-Israel; and that he is reducing the nuclear arsenal of the United States.

D'Souza says, "This kind of anti-colonialism is anti-capitalist, anti-Christian and anti-American." Perhaps Obama simply sees things from a Christian point of view that is likely to differ from D'Souza's opinion. Even as a Christian Brit I can see validity in siding with Argentina over the Falklands. They are hardly in England's back yard. I would hope to be objective and honest as a Christian, letting my faith trump nationalistic values, as God's priorities are more important than Britain's. Obama's take on Palestine is similarly objective, rather than historic. It is hard to justify the relentless settlement-building on Palestinian land and the dividing wall abhors most of the free world.

It is Obama's fresh and more honest view of the world that makes Europe and much of the globe see him as the best statesman that America has had for decades, and one who is taking seriously his role as responsible global leader.

In a nutshell, D'Souza holds right wing views and is denouncing a Democrat president for disagreeing with him.

In his favour, D'Souza does visit the places of Obama's history and quote extensively from Obama's book Dreams from my Father, but it is the way he assembles his information that makes it so suspect. Where are the dissenting voices? Why does he tarnish Obama so much by negative association, rather than assessing how much Obama has or has not risen above the poor characters that have sometimes surrounded him? There is no debate, but plenty of impressionistic work and leading questions for his interviewees ("Do you think it is possible that young Obama got his father's ideas through his mother?") He even tries to make Obama's half brother George upset with Barack, even when George is defending him.

D'Souza does a better job when he raises the issue of debt – something that is plaguing the whole Western world and not just America – as that is objectively a problem that has to be faced by many national leaders.

There is little point in this release, as it will stoke the already-lit fires of right-wingers and be too subjective to convince any left-wingers. Anyone holding centre ground and looking for help should seek out something that balances views and digs deeper into the evidence with a more objective, professional and rational approach.

In the meantime, D'Souza will be looking at his bank balance and chuckling.

Derek Walker

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