The Anti-Colonialist

Speaking of the Scary Black Man meme…. Dave Weigel sits through a screening of Dinesh D’Souza’s new documentary on the president’s “radical” roots, and tells us about it. D’Souza, we learn, doesn’t bother with birtherism or such, but instead roams around Kenya, Indonesia, and Hawaii to divine the powerful influences that turned him into today’s America-hating Marxist anti-colonialist:

D’Souza is sold to us as a smart, patriotic innocent abroad, who just wants to piece a mystery together. Almost every clue fits the puzzle. An old associate of Obama Sr. says the son and the father are basically the same. (Dad dreamed of 100 percent taxation; Junior dreams of a top marginal rate of 39.6 percent.) D’Souza asks one of Ann Dunham’s professors if Obama’s mother had taught the son to idolize his father. “I hadn’t thought of that!” she says. “I think you’re right.” D’Souza walks the grounds of Obama’s high school, where they teach “oppression studies, if you will.”

Sounds like a classic of deductive reasoning run wild: if you begin with the premise that people are a certain way and explore their backgrounds, it’s never hard to find evidence of what “shaped” them in the predetermined direction. All the other evidence is just tossed away, leaving the bright shining “proof” you never really needed in the first place, other than to convince others of what’s obvious.

What makes Weigel’s piece amusing is that D’Souza comes across as a sort of ideological anthropologist, braving the dark corners of the globe to inform us of the shocking tribal forces that shaped the 44th president. And Weigel himself, with his vast knowledge of Wingnuttia, is sort of playing anthropologist, too, explaining D’Souza’s strange obsessions and questionable reasoning the way an academic might explain the peculiar but internally compelling logic of a South Seas cargo cult. It’s well worth a read, particularly if you’re like me and have family and friends who might at a moment’s notice start spouting this stuff themselves like it’s established fact.

UPDATE: One of the bits of evidence of rabid “anti-colonialism” D’Souza cites is Obama’s supposed decision to send a bust of Winston Churchill that W. kept in the Oval Office back to the Brits–you know, the very bust Mitt Romney told a London fundraiser crowd he’d put back in its honored space. Turns out, according to the White House, the famous bust is still there, in the First Family’s Residence, and was moved from the Oval Office only to make room for a bust of Abraham Lincoln (not, as D’Souza might imagine, of Patrice Lumumba). So this whole meme is a crock.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.