Conspiracy Theories Abound
By: Ofer Shelah Translated from Maariv (Israel).
The most watched documentary film in the United States this year — and second on the list of all political documentaries, after Michael Moore’s “Farenheit 9/11” — is called “2016: Obama’s America.” It was made by Dinesh D’Souza, an American academic of Indian descent, currently the president of The King’s College in New York. The film, which hit theaters in July, has already grossed $26 million, despite receiving very lukewarm (and some would say biased) reviews in the national media.
About This Article
As America's global power changes, its elections become more aggressive, notes Ofer Shelah. They become a struggle over identity and fear of the Other. If the strongest democracy in the world cannot liberate its citizens from this mindset, he writes, it's no wonder that Israel, where the enemy sits on its borders, is ruled by politics of fear.Publisher: Maariv (Israel)
U.S. elections and the enemy from within
Author: Ofer Shelah
First Published: September 11, 2012
Posted on: September 14 2012
Translated by: Al-Monitor
Categories : Israel
D’Souza opens the film by presenting what he and Obama have in common: both were born in the same year, spent their childhoods far away from the United States, came to it as adolescents and studied in top universities. But that’s where the similarities end: D’Souza is a staunch conservative, a fan of the United States as it wants to perceive itself (especially if that is white and well-off). Obama, on the other hand, according to D’Souza, is an enemy of the United States who arose from within the country. His spiritual leaders are his biological father, a Kenyan intellectual for whom America symbolized colonialism, and a host of communists, anarchists and militant blacks.
For D’Souza, Obama’s mission is no less than the destruction of America’s might, the economic system that built it and its spiritual character. With calculated cunning, America’s worst enemy penetrated the White House, and during his second term he will be free to destroy the historic enterprise that Washington and Jefferson built. All of this is served with a mix of pop psychology, meticulously chosen facts and an editing style ranging from dramatic to hysterical. Obama’s character is constructed by D’Souza with the help of “experts,” including a psychologist who specializes, so he says, in the impact of absent fathers on their sons. He has never met Obama in his life, and quotations are taken from his writings out of context.
It can be said, with a good measure of truth, that Michael Moore did the same thing to George W. Bush in “Fahrenheit 9/11.” But what is interesting here isn’t what we learn about Obama, but rather about the emotional intensity that US presidential elections have taken on in the last 16 years. Since the Republican crusades against Clinton, through two victories by Bush the son and up until the last election cycle, Americans are no longer electing a commander-in-chief and crisis manager. They are fighting amongst themselves over identity and values, over the question of what America is and to whom it belongs.
It’s a fascinating process. As long as the global might of the United States is on the decline, its economy is in deep crisis and its ability to impose its will has weakened, the internal American debate increasingly becomes a struggle over identity instead of policy. The old external fear (that the communists will take over the world) has been replaced with an internal fear. In a few years, half of the children born in the United States won’t be white Anglo-Saxons; in the state of California, where I saw the film, people whose mother tongue is English are in the minority. It is in this reality that the political opponent becomes a poisonous enemy.
As a journalistic product, De Souza’s film is sub-standard nonsense. It is, however, important as a testimony to the mood of a nation: Even the strongest and most veteran democracy in the world, whose constitution and structure serve as an example to everyone, can’t free its citizens from fear. Fear of difference and of the Other, fear of what we can’t control, which we therefore must blame on anyone who doesn’t think or look like us. And if this is America, it’s no surprise that in a much younger democracy like Israel, where the enemy is literally on its borders, politics entail nothing but fear. And it’s no surprise that the second place in the world in which conspiracy theories surrounding the US president reign is within America’s small ally in the Middle East.
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