D’Souza’s America – A Critical Analysis

My wife and I were delighted to receive free tickets to Dinesh D’Souza‘s latest film America: Imagine the World without Her, because we support all efforts to wake up Americans to the truth of America’s exceptional nature and to expose the lies being told about her. In this film, there are powerful moments, both touching and inspiring, but these are too often lost in the choppy attempt at a Hollywood style presentation overburdened with needless costumed re-enactments and other complications.

In many ways, it saddens us to be critical of this film, because we recognize the desperate need to “seize the narrative©” stolen by the liberals, whose anti-American message pervades all media from news to school curriculum to television shows and even to Christmas movies. America needs once again to hear the story of America as she really is and, while this film tries to do exactly that, it unfortunately does a very poor job.

First and most importantly, the film never follows through with its premise, which is to imagine the world without America. True, American icons disintegrate before our eyes several times in the film. The Statue of Liberty, Mount Rushmore, and Manhattan Island skyscrapers vanish from the landscape, but nothing replaces them. It is a wasted opportunity to show in grim detail that a world without America would indeed be uglier and less free. That image would have made a powerful and convincing statement for America.

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Second, D’Souza, by way of interviews, gives a platform to many of America’s de facto domestic enemies without challenging them with vigorous debate and penetrating questions on their premises. Instead, D’Souza sits impassively nodding while they berate the America he undoubtedly loves. After the interviews are over and out of earshot of the very people he should challenge, he says things like, “But that’s not true” or “It didn’t happen that way.” He should have confronted them head on and attacked their arguments as they deserved.

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For example, when a Native American woman tells him she hates Mount Rushmore and all it stands for, that she would like to take back the land that contains the monument and return to the life of the Plains Indian, he does not ask her whether she uses a phone, lives in a house with running water, flushing toilets and electricity, or whether she drives a car or dresses in modern, factory-made clothing. These are all aspects of the civilization she despises and which replaced the brutal nomadic tribal lifestyle she claims to prefer. D’Souza fails to remind her of the uncomfortable truth that tribal culture meant war against and cruel treatment of other tribes, torture as entertainment, and destruction of nature, burning forests to chase out animals for prey or driving whole herds of buffalo over the edge of a cliff, leaving hundreds of carcasses to rot. Only after her interview, does he point out that her tribe took the same land from other tribes. He could have dismantled her entire argument with a few truthful and pointed questions. Instead, he smiles politely, nods and lets her speak unfettered by reality.

D’Souza gives the hypocritical, fraudulent “Indian” Ward Churchill several minutes of screen time to disgorge his pernicious venom openly, even espousing the potential use of bombs against the American people. D’Souza listens to the vitriol and nods his head as if Churchill’s duplicitous drivel deserves a hearing. In the same way, D’Souza listens carefully to measured anti-American affronts by Noam Chomsky and says nothing to the Chicano man who prefers Hispanic culture to that of America. He explains Howard Zinn‘s false narrative before presenting his mild-mannered, defensive reply.

Third, the dramatic re-enactments are a distraction rather than enhancement. The tragic drama of slavery is repeatedly emphasized with D’Souza’s recurring admissions and apologies. Such images do nothing to address the greatness of America, but only reinforce a tragic flaw that has been addressed so many times and that the left continues to use to incite continual anger even more than a century and a half after its end. The awful history of slavery needs no reinforcement. No American abides slavery. It has been gone from America since 1863, yet D’Souza never explains the overwhelming measures taken since the Emancipation Proclamation to address the injustices of American slavery.

We see unconvincing actors playing Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. But D’Souza should have presented the firebrand Douglass in his own words about individual initiative. Few words are more electrifying in precisely laying out the greatness that is American freedom and opportunity than those spoken by Douglass himself.

D’Souza could also have brought in Henry Louis Gates’s assertion that black Africans and Arab Muslims were as culpable, if not more so, than American slave holders of the expanding the African slave trade. In fact, slavery is currently alive in countries where anti-American sentiment runs high. Slavery in America does not deserve justification, but it does need hard truths emphatically articulated to clarify today’s realities about the subject and such clarification would likely have brought thunderous applause from the audience.

Fourth, the value of capitalism was ineffectively presented. D’Souza could have pointed to Armour meats, Nathan’s Famous hot dogs, and other splendid examples of how something as mundane as hot dogs can make millionaires of ordinary men. Instead, D’Souza’s presents a comic hamburger skit that hardly describes the vast promise of free markets that are a beacon of opportunity for everyone with energy and initiative.

There are many good things, of course. D’Souza provides facts that Americans can use to counterbalance the false narratives intended to denigrate America, narratives that are so often spouted by the leftist. In one inspiring moment, Bono, of U2 fame, gives a powerful definition of America when he says that America is an idea that the world needs. There are other good countries, he asserts. “Ireland,” he states emphatically, “is a great country, but it isn’t an idea!” Bono’s praise of America drew rousing applause, while D’Souza’s words excited no one in the theater. The movie should have had more of these moments and fewer of the others. In fact, it would have been far better as a straight documentary without the costumes and too much loud music that often drowned out the spoken words.

What was needed was an all-out attack against the lies of the left and a powerfully articulated summary of proofs telling why America is a great nation, a nation very much needed by the rest of the world. Facts speak for themselves and an energetic recital of the extraordinary standard of living, the unexcelled freedom, and the opportunity America affords that is unlike any other country in human history would be undeniable. Instead, D’Souza offers a whiny defensiveness in his flat monotone that is largely uninspiring.

Perhaps these flaws resulted from an attempt to make the movie more palatable to the general movie-going public, but this was not a good idea. People hunger for a real explanation of the truth about America, one they can repeat clearly and simply, in memorable phrases they repeat with great pride as a kind of mantra. Only a powerful message of this kind is effective enough to wake people up to that great truth of which Bono spoke: that America is a wonderful exceptional idea as opposed to the tired ideas the left espouses. Only when American exceptionalism is restored, recognized and shouted out loudly and proudly will the idea of America once again embed itself in the American character. That is what this film should have done.

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