Review: “2016: Obama’s America” – ever more conspiracy theories dressed up as documentary

Shamik Das reviews “2016: Obama’s America”, the new film by conservative author and commentator Dinesh D’Souza.


Muslim. Marxist. Socialist. Communist. Extremist. Anti-colonial. Anti-American. Un-American. All adjectives aimed at Barack Obama over the years, all pejorative, all regurgitated by conservative commentator Dinesh D’Souza in his documentary “2016: Obama’s America”, which opened across the States late last month.

The film, a Fox News/Tea Party/neo-neocon wet dream, follows to a tee the Republican right’s ‘scare em into voting’ formula typical of this election, as devoid of evidence as it’s full of errors.

For starters, here are just five of the film’s major fact fails, as highlighted by the Huffington Post:

• DS rightly argues the national debt has risen to $16 trillion under Obama: but he never mentions the explosion of debt that occurred under Obama’s predecessor, Republican George W Bush, nor the 2008 global financial crisis that provoked a shock to the US economy;

• DS says Obama is “weirdly sympathetic to Muslim jihadists” in Afghanistan and Pakistan: he does not mention that Obama ordered the raid that killed Osama bin Laden and the drone strikes that have killed dozens of other terrorists in the region;

• DS wrongly claims Obama wants to return control of the Falkland Islands from Britain to Argentina: the US refused in April to endorse a final declaration on Argentina’s claim to the islands at the Summit of the Americas, provoking criticism from other Latin American nations;

• DS says Obama has “done nothing” to impede Iran’s nuclear ambitions, despite the severe trade and economic sanctions his administration has imposed on that country to halt its suspected nuclear program: Obama opposes a near-term military strike on Iran, either by the US or Israel, although he says the US will never tolerate a nuclear-armed Iran;

• DS says Obama removed a bust of British prime minister Winston Churchill from the Oval Office because Churchill represented British colonialism: White House curator William Allman said the bust, which had been on loan, was already scheduled to be returned before Obama took office; another bust of Churchill is on display in the president’s private residence, the White House says.

It is the “anti-colonialist” line of attack that DS leans most heavily on, attributing a hatred of the British Empire, and US hegemony, to “Obama’s Founding Fathers” – Frank Marshall Davis, Bill Ayers, Edward Said, Roberto Unger and Jeremiah Wright, an exercise in “guilt-by-association” mud-slinging the Daily Kos has brilliantly fact-checked and debunked.

On Obama’s ‘father-son relationship’ with Said in particular, they note:

This line of attack is risible, but since when has that stopped the right wing? So, let’s start by noting what we know of the association between President Obama and Edward Said, and then we can riff on the broader right-wing metanarration embodied in this attack.

As reported in David Remnick’s The Bridge, Barack Obama did indeed take an undergraduate course in modern fiction at Columbia from Edward Said.

In 1998, State Senator Barack Obama and Michelle Obama were seated at a table with Edward and Mariam Said at a Chicago Arab-American community event at which Said delivered the keynote address.

And… wait for it… that’s it.

Clearly, though, these two events are more than sufficient for right-wing conspiracists to flip their crazy little lids… “Edward Said! Columbia!! Chicago!!! Arab!!!! OMFG!!! EEEEEEEEEEEK!!!!”

DS further excites the conspiracy theorists with talk of a “United States of Islam” emerging in the Middle East, and a world in which the US has zero nukes while the rest of the world’s nuclear powers maintain or increase their arsenals (including, of course, Eye-Ran) – both fantasist scenarios illustrated with dramatic music and maps, which sadly we can’t reproduce for you here.

The film-maker’s inconsistencies are rich: he attacks Obama for supporting the uprising against Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and using force to remove Colonel Gaddafi in Libya – then criticises him for not taking military action against Bashar al-Assad’s Syria and failing to declare war on Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Iran. He travels to Africa to interview Obama’s half-brother George, and is obsessed by the President’s “Dreams from My Father” tome – devoting time we’ll never get back to the fact the title is “Dreams FROM” not “Dreams OF”.

His underlying narrative, though not indulging in birtherism, is that Obama (who he concedes was born in America) isn’t really an American, his aim isn’t to make America great, restore the economy, project power and export its ideals, but to enrich the rest of the world (particularly the Muslim world) and degrade the States, turning it into an “Islamo-Marxist” nation as DS’s supporters put it.

But will the scaremongering work? It’s difficult to believe anyone not already pre-disposed to anti-Obama conspiracies and hate, that anyone of even moderate intellect, could watch the film, believe its conclusions and turn from voting Obama to voting Romney. Indeed, far from swaying swing voters either way, it’s likely merely to harden the resolve of those who’ve already decided how they’ll vote on November 6th – perhaps more so in favour of the Dems; “2016: Obama’s America” is the ultimate political ‘pin it up on the dressing room wall, fire up the troops and f- em’ propaganda own goal.

Take the case of the wife of New York Times journalist Stanley Fish, who told DS to his face that it had allowed her to see more clearly what she liked about Obama – a kind of “if only” response to some of his wildest claims, that Obama would seek to de-nuke, and be quite a bit more ‘socialist’ and redistributive at home and abroad.

In reality, the contest is, by necessity, not one between a Commie and Romney, but between an electable, sane, ever-so-slightly left wing Obama and Romney – a battleground at least some on the right seem to have grasped, the UK Spectator calling it “a battle between moderate conservatives and radical ones”; the President’s foreign policy, the Speccie says, “has its roots in the tradition of Republican realists”, while his domestic agenda “has its intellectual roots on the centre-right”.

It’s a measure of how far to the right the Republicans are in 2012, how utterly divorced from reality they are, that such a film, a virtual 90-minute GOP PEB, so full of error, innuendo and hate, can ever have been made. What would Eisenhower, Nixon, Powell and Gates think? ‘Modern Republicanism’ RIP.

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11 Responses to “Review: “2016: Obama’s America” – ever more conspiracy theories dressed up as documentary”

  1. LB

    DS rightly argues the national debt has risen to $16 trillion under Obama: but he never mentions the explosion of debt that occurred under Obama’s predecessor, Republican George W Bush, nor the 2008 global financial crisis that provoked a shock to the US economy;


    Still a lie. Doesn’t include the off the book debts.

    Try doing that exercise for the UK.

    Similarly look at the effect of charges or tax on the state pension. 80% of the value gone. That screws the poor. That creates more poor than anything else.

  2. RealMagick

    Funny, I go around the Web and I see the phrase “conspiracy theories” pasted as a label on D’Souza’s film. Posters and bloggers who label as such either don’t know the definition of “conspiracy,” or they haven’t seen the film. There is no “conspiracy” theory anywhere in this film. There is simply a man (Obama) and his supposed influences, and his supposed motivation from those influences, and the supposed objectives HE has. If anything, the film attempts to posit how ALONE Obama may be (with the possible exception of his mentors) in his ultimate direction and motivation. In other words, others may join up with him because they believe they may achieve their own ends, but he is on his own course, and others join him in hopes of furthering THEIR agendas.

  3. RealMagick

    That said (see my previous post), if the film is correct, we really need to vote this guy out of office in November. If the film is even 25% or 10% correct, we need to vote him out of office in November. Sometimes people say to me, “Greece, no, that kind of decline and bankruptcy can’t happen in America.” I tell them, “You forget one thing: the only thing stopping it is US, *WE* are the thing that decides what can happen in America by the leaders we vote in. We vote it in or out. Open your eyes.”

  4. jmm64

    Very informative documentary for all voters. I saw it this past weekend with left-wing, liberal friends who completely agree with the documentary’s thesis and Obama’s transforming America economically. They were even more motivated to support Obama after seeing the documentary.

  5. LarryR

    I have not yet had an opportunity to view this film. But the review author’s sarcastic treatment of Fox News is really sick! Doesn’t the author know that several polls place Fox News as the number one most-trusted cable news service by the American public? If the author is that uninformed, how can we take anything that author says seriously? The author is more full of stuffing than a holiday turkey! Next review, please!!

  6. Chuck Woolery

    D’Souza clearly states the movie is his “theory’ that explains Obama’s actions. It appears to be an Obama consipiracy to destroy America. Either you didn’t see the movie…or you didn’t listen very carefully to D’Souza’s own words.

  7. Chuck Woolery

    “2016: Obama’s America,” Dinesh D’Souza’s conspiratorial
    creation is genius in offering a “theory to explain” Obama’s actions and
    efforts to destroy America as we know it.
    His ability to twist nearly every
    fact of Obama’s life into an evil frame of anti-American would be laughable…if
    it’s potential for lethal consequences weren’t so serious.

    Knowing the capacity of the human brain to believe ‘anything’
    and the American tendency to turn to fire arms and explosives to response to real
    or perceived threats I’ll predict that we will increasing witness conservative extremists
    attempting to eliminate Obama as a patriotic duty…not unlike Timothy McVeigh.

    Even before the movie’s release three US military personal were
    convicted of murder in an attempt to cover up their plan to kill President
    Obama and bringing his/our government to it’s knees. They had the plans, skills, weaponry and ammunition
    but were fearful of being reported…and murdered two accomplices they suspected
    of turning against them.

    D’Souza does get a few things right. America is an “empire of Ideas” and American college
    students can be amazingly ignorant about the rest of the world. But
    his assertions that Obama has schemed his way into the Presidency to punish
    America for it’s colonial ways simply to gain his dead Father’s love and
    respect is so silly it couldn’t pass as a reasonable plot for a fiction movie.

    I’m proud to say I didn’t spend any money to buy a ticket
    for this movie. I bought a ticket for
    another movie and crashed his. Luckily I
    and the two other people watching the movie that night didn’t have any trouble
    finding a seat.

    One of the more positive aspects of the movie was hearing
    Obama’s words from his book in his own voice…and seeing his half brother…and recognizing
    the calm and intelligent demeaned he was also fortunate enough to inherit from
    Obama Sr.

    At the conclusion of the movie D’Souza predicts three

    First, that Obama would do very little to stop Iran from acquiring
    a nuclear weapon. Ignoring the fact
    that President Obama has already negotiated the most punishing sanctions on
    Iran and approved a cyber attack that set Iran’s nuclear program back at least
    a year. And that the only other option
    is a military strike that could spark unimaginable consequences with potential
    catastrophic loss of American blood and treasure…D’Souza
    demonstrate an ‘sophomoric’ ignorance below
    that of a high school sophomore.

    Second, he predicts a continued mounting deficit with Obama’s
    leadership. No mention of an
    obstructionist conservative Congress refuses any compromise, even an offer to reduce
    $10 in spending for every $1 of tax increase.
    His third prediction, that Obama will increase taxes and cutting the
    military suggests D’Souza believes in Romney’s alternative Universe, where it
    is possible to cut taxes, increase military spending AND reduce the deficit.

    D’Souza’s claim that “Daniel Pipes” was ‘the only one’
    warning about Al Qaeda before 9-11 is so outrageous it needs no response. And his mapped out scenario of a “United States
    of Islam”… more fear mongering fiction. Shiites and Sunnis coming together to form a
    peaceful federation of states to take over the world? I’ll believe that after is witness Democrats
    and Republicans join together to address tax reform and approve of abortion on

    This movie did remind me of at least two other movies I’ve
    seen. One was a two hour documentary
    proving the moon landing was a fake. The
    other was a documentary proving 9-11 was in an inside job.

    Knowing the number of people that believe all this BS I hold
    little hope for our species.

  8. Cwick

    I recently saw the film. I consider myself a conservative although I always watch different sources of news to obtain a balanced opinion. I watch CNN and FOX regularly, which are my two primary news sources. After attempting to watch MSNBC many times I will no longer do so: they simply practice poor journalism and have no sense of political balance. I do find it funny that this review talks about how scaremongering is being utilized by the GOP. Really? Have you not seen or heard the untruths and claims by our current president and VP? As for the film, it is a documentary. There have been several “documentaries” about Mitt Romney’s mormon faith that only contained partial truths but yet had a considerable amount of spin and decpeption. This movie appears to be no different, although with a few more facts in my opinion. Granted, the basis of the movie is a theory by an individual/individuals interviewed in the film. Both sides of the political spectrum cherry pick which information they want to utilize. Unfortunaltely for us all, that’s poilitics. I never saw anything in the film that was disrespectfull to the president or flat out stated not to vote for him. And it DOES mention G.W. Bush contributing to the current debt total if you actually watched the movie. I went to the showing with an open mind but I certainly didn’t buy into everything presented in the fim by any means. However, there are some things present in the film I have been concerned with for years and have often wondered why the liberal media won’t present it or give it the deserved debate time it should have; the same as any “contraversial” concerns the left bring up with conservative’s backgrounds, associations, or political views. As a conservative I found the film not particulary exciting but to be fairly well presented and certainly I felt as though it was worth my time. It is not a “hate Obama” film, it simply presents some facts and some opinion/theories to viewers. Each person has to decide for themselves come election day. I was NOT voting for Obama regardless of watching the movie. Overall I think the movie presents a viable argument on many fronts. It is certainly fair game during this elections season. Any hey, if the left can’t take the heat stay out of the kitchen. That side of the isle sure dishes out a lot of heat, usually in a more disrespectful and deceiptful fashion. Evidently it’s OK for them to do but not for anyone of a different political opinion. My two cents: go see the movie and make your own opinion. Out of 5 stars, I would rate it a 3 or 3.5.

  9. RealMagick

    Please look up the definition of “conspiracy.” Here I will do it for you. Capital letters are my own: “A secret plan by a GROUP to do something unlawful or harmful” Do you see? Not everyone may SHARE Obama’s intent. Obama himself may be acting subconsciously. The BIGGEST point made in the movie, is that about Obama’s MOTIVATIONS for his choices. See? It is not a CONSPIRACY movie, but is about the motivations for a SINGLE PERSON’s CHOICES. For example, although Pelosi has supported Obama for HER OWN REASONS, I’d bet she wouldn’t agree in principle with Obama’s motivations for HIS choices. That is, if Dinesh is right.

  10. Deep Space

    Voting Is A Choice Between A Pink Dildo
    & A Purple Dildo

  11. Leonard Grossman

    Oddly, none of the reviews talk about the foreboding music and imagery, which strangely often have nothing to do with the narration or what is going on but leave the audience in a state of tension. The best think I can say about the movie is that only 7 people were in the theater when I saw it. It is insidious.

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