Chris Hedges Tells Dinesh D’Souza That His Obama Film Is ‘Void of Facts, Reality, Intellectual Depth’
Timed for release in the thick of the 2012 presidential campaign season, a new film called ” 2016: Obama’s America” has hit 2,000 theater screens nationwide and earned an estimated $30 million at the box office. The film is based on a book by conservative commentator Dinesh D’Souza titled The Roots of Obama’s Rage , and produced by Gerald R. Molen. Since it first screened at a theater in Houston in July, the low-budget documentary was heavily promoted by Houston-based conservative talk show host Michael Berry, after which it spread by word of mouth and opened in even more theaters locally and then nationally. ” 2016: Obama’s America” has been endorsed by Glenn Beck and Rupert Murdoch, while Entertainment Weekly ’s Owen Gleiberman has called the film “an outrageously unsubstantiated act of character assassination,” which espouses “the standard right-wing argument that Obama has always been out to hide what a radical he is.” President Obama’s reelection campaign has called the film “nothing more than an insidious attempt to dishonestly smear the President by giving intellectual cover to the worst in subterranean conspiracy theories and false, partisan attacks.”
Sonali Kolhatkar: Chris, I want to start with you to get your impressions first of this film. You had the chance to watch the documentary, and then, I’d love to get Dinesh to respond to you. What did you think overall of this film, 2016: Obama’s America ?
Chris Hedges: Well, Dinesh is a better propagandist than he is psychoanalyst. It is vile in terms of its underlying racism, its pandering to stereotypes, its demonization of Obama—and I’m no fan of Obama. But the film is in essence a sort of elongated attempt that we saw during the Kerry campaign at swiftboating a politician by using half-truths, innuendos and lies to turn him into a monster. And Obama is a politician. He had some of the roots and connections that Dinesh points out. But he shed them as fast as he could, as he rose within the political machine in Chicago, jettisoning not only whatever principles, in my mind, he had. And I was a good friend of Edward Said, all the way back to Jim Friedman, the president of Dartmouth. When Dinesh was at the Dartmouth Review , he characterized him, or dressed him up as a Nazi—Jim was Jewish—and put him on the cover. He threw Jeremiah Wright away, I mean, that’s in the film, and that’s correct, and they did try and, the Democratic party, buy Wright’s silence. And the tragedy of Obama, and it is a tragedy, is that he, in the service of his ambition, was very quick to toss off any principled position that he had until, of course, he became a servant of the corporate state. Which is the real tragedy of Obama.
SK: Dinesh D’Souza, how do you respond to this? What was your main goal in making this film?
Dinesh D’Souza: The film is an attempt to tell a side of Obama’s story that has actually never been told. The remarkable thing is we have a president who was admittedly kind of an unknown guy in 2008. That was understandable. He came out of nowhere, an economic nosedive in part helped propel him into the office, but what is kind of remarkable is that four years later, there’s so much about him that is not known, that if he were anyone else, it would be known. And it’s not just that we don’t know his SAT scores or his law school scores, or we don’t have his thesis, we don’t know who his friends were at Columbia. All of that’s interesting. But I think more deeply, his underlying compass is not understood by people. And so the film is an effort to sort of raise the curtain on how Obama thinks. And if there are half-truths and lies in the film, they come from Obama. Because at critical points in the film, we play Obama’s own voice, saying what he believed, what he did. So Obama will say things like, “I stayed away from all the normal professors. I looked for the punk rock poets, the Chicanos, the Marxists, I wanted to hang out with those guys.” That’s a paraphrase, but that’s Obama’s own voice. And what’s most incriminating in the film comes from Obama. And this is why a guy like Chris Hedges is nervous, because the film is damning, not because what it says is false, but because what it says is true and eye-opening.
CH: I don’t support Obama. You know, I wish somebody would make a documentary on what Obama’s done. I just sued the president in federal court over the National Defense Authorization Act, the assault on civil liberties under the Obama administration. This should not be a left-right divide. It has been far worse under Obama than it was under George W. Bush. And yet none of that is in the film. Obama’s refusal to restore habeas corpus. Obama’s supporting of the FISA Amendment Act, which retroactively makes legal what under our constitution—and I assume Dinesh is a constitutionalist — has traditionally been illegal. Warrantless wiretapping, monitoring, and eavesdropping of tens of millions of Americans. The use of the Espionage Act, six times, to shut down whistleblowers who have exposed, in some cases, war crimes committed by the U.S. government. And finally, the NDAA, Section 1021, which authorizes the U.S. military to carry out detentions, seizures, on American soil, strip American citizens of due process, and hold them in their offshore penal colonies.