Conservative activist, plastic Christmas tree salesman and convicted felon Dinesh D’Souza is peddling a new movie, this time about Hillary Clinton, and by the looks of the preview he aired on Fox News Tuesday night, it will be every bit as factual and fair as his previous work.
“Who are these… Democrats?” D’Souza asks in the trailer for Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party, which is set to open in theaters in July. When he says “Democrats,” he sounds like Donald Trump trying to pronounce the word “muchacho”—his voice is at once a mixture of total unfamiliarity and full-throated contempt.
Fox News host Megyn Kelly, by the way, introduced D’Souza as someone known for his “documentaries.”
D’Souza then suggests, as he has many times before, that he went to jail not because he pleaded guilty to the felony of making an illegal campaign contribution in a name other than his own (which he did), but because “the Obama administration” wanted “to shut me up.”
“What did I learn?” D’Souza asks, as if it’s a question on the minds of many. He then answers himself. “All crime is about stealing,” he says.
At this moment in the trailer, D’Souza is, inexplicably, speaking over moodily-lit footage of a man in a velour tracksuit and large gold watch drinking a beer.
“The big criminals are still at large,” D’Souza warns. In the event that you’re wondering who on earth he might be referring to, D’Souza answers with all the subtlety in the world when a clip of Hillary Clinton appears onscreen.
“The system doesn’t go after them,” he says, “because they run the system. It’s time to go behind the curtain and discover the soul of the Democratic Party.”
This is the part when things get really fucked up.
The trailer cuts to a scene of a slave owner demanding “50 lashes” for a female slave, who shrieks helplessly while she’s assaulted.
“The Democrats support slaves!” the voiceover says.
D’Souza then asks, “why has all this been swept under the rug?”
D’Souza rose to prominence in the early 1990s as a critic of liberal political correctness, with the publication of Illiberal Education: The Politics of Race and Sex on Campus. The text was warmly received by critics and the book-buying public alike, the latter of whom kept it on The New York Times’ bestseller list for 15 weeks.
D’Souza, a rare young, non-white conservative intellectual, became a media star.
But over the ensuing decades, he seemed to move further away from his intellectual, Dartmouth roots and closer and closer to telling the public to buy gold and build a bunker.
He’s written 18 books in total since 1984, and you can plainly see the shift in his thinking in their titles.
In 2000, he was still producing earnest work like, The Virtue of Prosperity. But around 2007, with the publication of The Enemy At Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11, things started to go off the rails.
In 2012, he made a movie (or a “documentary,” if you work for Fox News), 2016: Obama’s America. The picture, which has one star on Rotten Tomatoes, was shred apart by critics.
The New Yorker’s Richard Brody called it “a work of propaganda that offers base innuendo in lieu of argument,” but beloved by audiences, who went to see it in droves.
In 2014, the same year he was indicted on the felony charge, he released a sequel of sorts.
America: Imagine the World Without Her also has one star on Rotten Tomatoes and was similarly dismissed by critics but supported by moviegoers.
D’Souza had all of the commercial incentive in the world—and timing on his side, with the election mere months away—to make his descent into madness a trilogy.
In response to an interview request from The Daily Beast, D’Souza, who puts two spaces after periods, said, “I’m open to doing this but it’s premature now. You need to see the movie before you go ape on it. Good principle of journalism.”
Asked why it was too soon to be interviewed about his movie by The Daily Beast but not too soon to talk about it on a primetime Fox News show, D’Souza said, “Hahaha. Because a trailer is just a ‘teaser.’ You want to debate the trailer?”
That D’Souza would find his work promoted on Fox News’s most-watched programming is no surprise—he remains a conservative star, and what he produces, though of dubious journalistic or educational merit, is immensely popular. The difference, in 2016, is that D’Souza is not alone.
Conspiracy theories and theorists have found a home in the mainstream media and, in fact, on the campaign trail itself thanks to Republican standard-bearer Donald Trump. The de facto GOP nominee, has batted around all sorts of nutty ideas, even going as far as to suggest one of his Republican primary opponent’s father’s was somehow wrapped up in the assassination of JFK.
This type of rhetoric, employed day in and day out on the stump, has led to a normalizing of sorts. When Trump brought up the 1993 suicide of Vince Foster, deputy White House Counsel in the Clinton administration and friend to the then-president and First Lady, a subject conspiracy theorists have long seized-on, hardly anyone batted an eye.
The irony, of course, is that the outrageous pomp of D’Souza’s anti-Clinton propaganda obscures a very good point: that illegal or corrupt behavior performed on a large scale by elites is often hidden in plain sight—so broad and institutionalized as to cease to appear illicit—while petty crimes which harm fewer people, or no people at all, are vigorously prosecuted.
That’s not quite as sexy as blaming the likely Democratic nominee for slavery, though, in D’Souza’s defense.