I watched 2016: Obama’s America yesterday afternoon and have a few concerns regarding simply the presentation for now as I have not had a chance to research the various claims presented. Much of the movie is speculation built on the claim that Obama’s political beliefs are entirely at one with those of his father; a position set up at the beginning by interviewing an academic specializing in abandonment issues.
From a narrative perspective D’souza was the perfect narrator and writer; his status as being from a third world, post-colonial country makes it very difficult to disagree with any perspective he offers – not matter how constrained and monochrome (read simplistic and lacking nuance) they may be. This is a very subtle but effective appeal to authority. “How could those of us who have grown up in this culture really understand the perspective of D’Souza or Obama?” one might feel after watching.
Small statements seemed rather odd – such as D’Souza playing down his upbringing and even mentioning that if he had not gone to America his whole life would have been spent in a one mile radius. First off, that is speculative. Second, his father was an exec at Johnson & Johnson. He was seemingly not a poor Indian youth whose struggle paved the way for his future.
But what made me most concerned was the skillful buildup of the narrative. After introducing the narrator’s similarities with Obama, we are then told of Obama Sr.’s multiple wives, divorces, and children born of multiple women. This is socially conservative candy here, as it plays on the opposite of accepted values and is – I’m just going to go ahead and say it – a reflection of racist generalizations regarding black men having children with multiple women. It is genuinely not relevant but rather dirty laundry that aired to demonize Obama Sr. – a man who is not in fact the president. The writers are very interested in our disliking the guy as much as possible so that when we are introduced to Obama’s quotes regarding his father’s dreams, we connect the hatred we are taught regarding Sr to Jr, the president.
It is very important to state that we are only given slices and pieces of Obama Sr.’s political ideology here. We are told again and again of his drunkenness and philandering. We are told he died from what we assume is a drunk driving accident. And we are told from people who are related to Obama that Jr sounds so much like Sr. At one point, what I view to be the apex of the movie, the narrator blurs the line between Jr and Sr. He mentions an extreme paper written by “Obama” (not stating who - throughout and up to this point in the doc the father was referred to as “Barack”), and reads a few quotes regarding how people could be taxed up to 100% and a few other extreme statements. And then he states, in a loose way, that this is our president. Ok, but here is the deal – this was Obama Sr.’s paper! He is saying that this is Jr.’s view, but letting our minds fill in the gap the same way that our eyes fill in spaces and create an artificial connection between a paper not written by Obama Jr. This is manipulation. It is NOT Obama Jr. this is his father’s work. The writers are trying to lead us to believe that, using a few quotes from Jr., that ALL of the beliefs of the father are reflected in the son.
He refers to a few radicals as being “Obama’s founding fathers”. Admittedly he states that this is what “he” calls them. But still, it’s a very arresting image of these radicals being the, if this presentation was our only understanding of Obama, MAJOR if not only significant influences in his life. Here we are given a perspective to assume. We are not given a list of all of his professors and friends. For all we know he could have had hundreds of friends, these being the only radicals he knows. I know some pretty radical people and have been influenced by them. That does not mean that I am a radical myself – though some of my views could be viewed that way and I do not certainly think they are right on every point. But we are not shown the dynamic nature of human thought and a person’s ability to pick and choose. We are told that the president is simply and thoroughly exactly molded and formed by a few radical influencers.
A few additional misdirections, of many:
-We are shown a map showing our current stock of 5k nukes. Then of other countries. Then we are shown that Obama has as a goal the eradication of nukes, starting with taking the number of active down to 1,500. We then see a map of the world having nukes and us having ZERO. But this isn’t what the president said. He said none in the world. Sure, pie in the sky. But the point is that he is leading us to believe the goal to be ZERO for us but lots everywhere else. Huh?
-The United States of Islam. These countries can’t get along internally. Do we really think we are currently in danger of uniting into a country? I could not find that statement anywhere except in articles written by D’Souza. I think he is also forgetting that Middle Eastern countries are also colonial in nature and many have only recently since WW2 been independent – including Israel, who has had the support of the west (esp the US) since its inception.
I’m uncomfortable with D’Souza’s seemingly simplistic views and defense of colonialism. Simply stating that countries who didn’t revolt against Britain were better off is not the full story. Every country he listed, including India, pushed and fought for independence from England. There are so many factors involved with the success of independent countries, including the effects of colonialism on what was the existing social structure of the time. These are ignored.
Its dangerous to assume so much about a person’s intent. For example, I could assume D’Souza to be quite jealous of Obama’s citizenry, and realizing that he will never achieve the presidency that has been allowed for Obama, is striking out in jealousy. Is this true? How could we know. Is it possible? Perhaps. Should we report it as true and use the claims of a psychologist to back this up? We could, but would that be helpful?
As I said before, I will look into the claims made. For now, I think the presentation alone is dangerous as are documentaries in general. There are many uses of emotional manipulation and fallacious statements used to convey a meaning that is larger than the content presented. Docs are a tool for delivering meaning, not information. We might learn some things, but we have to separate the content from the message. What this presentation read for me was an extreme republican bias making a case for the corrosive psychological influence of an absentee father/son dynamic on the political welfare of a nation as THE singular point of destruction of the livelihood of its people. Essentially, this was a slightly more academic presentation than a Michael Moore doc, but just as biased and alarmist and extreme. Thanks for the recommendation. I will have to really look into the claims to determine whether I think this is something that will affect my thoughts on whether Obama’s reelection will make the country unrecognizable. In the meantime I am just frustrated with these ridiculous political documentaries and their influence on the political system.
On a side note, what was with the cell phone calls in this movie? There were so many strange scenes were D’Souza is discussing with an expert or something in which they were both on the phone speaking to each other. I don’t get that at all. It seemed like a strange image to push that I have not yet understood.