Thursday, February 1, 2018

CultJam's Review of Dinesh D'Souza's The Big Lie

This review was originally published on Amazon:

This book is a revealing look at the Age of Trump but not for the reasons intended by the author. Some might be tempted to see this absurd book put out by a neo-Confederate publisher that defends the Trump administration and the alt-right movement by accusing Trump’s opponents of being the real fascists as an example of subconscious psychological projection; this would be a dangerous error. Rather, it is an example of the tactic popularized by Karl Rove of preemptively accusing one’s enemy of possessing one’s own flaw. This is a strategy developed by Roy Cohn, Joe McCarthy’s brain, who later went on to become Donald Trump’s mentor. This book isn’t the product of an addlebrained crank in denial; it is carefully-crafted propaganda. To no surprise, D'Souza recently advised white nationalists Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka at the White House about cynical strategies to tar the Left as the real racists. Much of D’Souza’s book seems to be cribbed from another work of pseudo-scholarship, Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism (no big surprise; D'Souza's book and film Hillary's America are essentially a rehash of Ann Coulter's book Mugged). Space prevents a full examination of D’Souza’s twisting of facts and logic.

It’s difficult to determine where to start with this mess of a book. If D’Souza’s premise were true, history books would need to be re-written. There’s no need to re-write the history book because if this book were the work of a na├»ve first-year graduate student and it were submitted for peer review, it would be laughed out of the room. However, there’s nothing to laugh about D’Souza or his book because it’s a product of cynicism, venality, and the desire to deceive: it’s a book version of the schoolyard taunt “I know you are but what am I?”

This book is an extension of D’Souza’s previous book and film Hillary’s America: the Secret History of the Democratic Party which misleadingly used historical data to claim that contemporary Democratic progressives are the real racists. I reviewed the film on CultJam Productions' blog and noted the irony that D’Souza used the egregious publisher Regnery as a vehicle for the book version of his taunts. Regnery Publishing is the most prominent publisher of Lost Cause propaganda: the view that sadistic slavocrats like Nathan Bedford Forrest were proper Southern gentleman and that slavery was paternalistic and benign.

One important historical fact that D’Souza conveniently fails to note in both The Big Lie and Hillary’s America is that over time political movements change. Yes, 155 years ago, the Democrats were the Party of Slavery (at least the Southern wing) and the GOP was the Party of Lincoln. In the 21st century, the Democrats are the party supported by racial minorities and the GOP is the party of the Lost Cause.  Why? Because from 1964 to the mid-1980’s there was a massive flow of Southern anti-civil rights Democrats to the GOP: e.g, Strom, Jesse Helms, D’Souza’s mentor Jerry Falwell, Trent Lott, and Haley Barbour. Southern anti-civil rights Democrats either repudiated their racism (e.g., Robert Byrd) or died out. Since the 1980’s, anti-civil rights Southerners generally went directly into the GOP (e.g., Steve Scalise and Paul Broun). I exposed the deceptive methodology D’Souza employed to attempt to deny this fact in my review of Hillary’s America.

This is relevant because in The Big Lie, D’Souza attempts to blame contemporary progressives for Andrew Jackson's crimes against humanity.  Jackson was a Southern populist and a slavocrat. There no longer exists a Jackson wing of the Democratic Party. Contemporary Democrats are repulsed by Jackson. There is, however, a huge Jackson wing of the Republican Party. In fact, it was Donald Trump who put a portrait of Jackson in the Oval Office. Andrew Jackson has been adopted by Trump and the alt-right.

Many of D’Souza’s charges appear to be damning of progressives but when put into historical context and shown alongside the behavior and words of prominent members of the right (something D’Souza consistently fails to do for good reason), then the truth emerges. Let’s address how selective D’Souza is in his discussion of eugenics. He notes correctly that Margaret Sanger and some noted progressives were promoters of eugenics in the early 20th century. However, what D’Souza fails to note is that when it came to eugenics, the most prominent voices were the social Darwinist and foreign policy imperialists of the political Right that dominated the Republican Party. The Republicans behind immigration restriction in the 1920's used eugenic arguments.  D'Souza also conveniently fails to note that it was progressives (e.g., Lester Ward) who became the biggest opponents of both social Darwinism and eugenics. Most important, those vestiges of eugenics that remain exist in the enclaves of alt-right thinking and with racial theorists on the right such as Charles Murray.

D’Souza cites the right-wing British tabloid The Daily Mail to deceptively attempt to portray JFK as a Nazi sympathizer. The paragraph In The Big Lie on JFK selectively excluded remarks from his World War II diary that indicate that Kennedy viewed Hitler as an evil tyrant.  D’Souza’s intellectual dishonesty is reminiscent of the hack work of his friend and colleague James O’Keefe.

D’Souza nauseatingly panders to alt-rightists with his race-baiting. For instance, D’Souza includes Trayvon Martin in a list of  “thugs and criminals.” Martin had no violent criminal history. The worst that could be said of his confrontation with George Zimmerman is that he responded to a creepy white guy who was stalking him while he was minding his own business on his way to an athletic event. Apparently, D’Souza thinks that a white lie means smearing a nonwhite dead kid while writing for a white supremacist publisher.

History repeats itself. When Goldberg came out with Liberal Fascism, some plucky bloggers and journalist pointed out that National Review, the political journal that Goldberg edited, actually glorified real fascists. NR eulogized Franco with a fulsome obituary. NR editor Jeffrey Hart, D’Souza’s mentor at Dartmouth, wrote a paean to Mussolini in the 1980’s. As D’Souza’s mentor at Dartmouth, Hart encouraged D’Souza and the other staffers at the right-wing student newspaper to become snotty, racist, and lame proto-alt-rightists.

D’Souza conveniently ignores the current pro-Trump Nazi and fascist movement. Let’s hypothesize D’Souza’s absurd premise that the white supremacist, proto-fascist, and eugenic movements of the late 19th and early 20th century were primarily phenomena of the Democratic Left, there is a question about the current situation that D’Souza sidesteps and obscures: Where does one go to find white supremacy, fascism, and eugenics in contemporary America? The answer both in leadership and in the grass roots is the Republican Right. Trump invited a Camp of the Saints fanboy Steve Bannon into the Oval Office as his political strategist. Bannon is a practitioner of the dark art of looking for political support from Pepe-loving white supremacists and under every online rock for racist and misogynistic gamers (for a thorough look at the revolting story of Bannon's exploitation of these lowlife gamerboys, read Joshua Green’s new book Devil’s Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency) Trump also has “Dr.” Sebastian Gorka, an alt-right Nazi sympathizer and other alt-right figures in the White House.

Regarding the GOP grassroots, it’s just as clear-cut. It isn't just the proud fascists who shout Nazi cant like “lugenpresse” and “Hail Trump” and the aforementioned 4chan trolls who are part of the Trumpian right; the neo-Confederate movement is also an integral part of this witch's brew of hate.. D’Souza’s publisher Regnery is not only on the forefront of neo-Confederate thought but Regnery heir William Regnery II is the money man behind the white supremacist movement. If one looks at the response to the removal of Confederate statues, the posters on Democratic Underground are almost 100 percent in favor and the posters on the right-wing Free Republic are about 95 percent opposed.

One notable irony of The Big Lie is that in the photograph section of the book, D'Souza includes the infamous 1863 photo of a slave named Gordon with extensive scarring on his back. D'Souza used it to underscore the inhumanity of Southern Democrats. Another Regnery author Clint Johnson cited the photo to dismiss claims that slavery was brutal based on the tortured logic that because there were few if any other extant photos of scarred slaves, then this kind of brutality was rare.

D’Souza, in both Hillary’s America and The Big Lie avoids the glaring truth about the racism of the modern American right for obvious reasons. For one thing, it would implicate his meal ticket: The Regnery Dynasty. D’Souza has a good gig going: receive money from white supremacists while simultaneously accusing one's enemies of white supremacy. The D’Souza/Regnery publishing racket reminds me of something written by the late Joseph Heller, “It was almost no trick at all, he saw, to turn vice into virtue and slander into truth, impotence into abstinence, arrogance into humility, plunder into philanthropy, thievery into honor, blasphemy into wisdom, brutality into patriotism, and sadism into justice. Anybody could do it; it required no brains at all. It merely required no character.”

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