So it is with HA. If you already believe that Hillary Clinton is evil incarnate, then you’ll have that idea reinforced and you’ll really like the movie. If you view Dinesh D’Souza as an arrogant whiner with a persecution complex, then you’ll have that idea reinforced and you’ll really hate the movie. Since the ideas presented as so polarizing, there’s really no middle ground. But if you would honestly like to know whether any of HA is to be taken seriously, I’m going to examine three ideas from it and then give links to several well-written reviews/critiques that I found helpful. Following the trail of evidence for any one of the accusations leveled in this film would take hours. I call this type of argumentation the “Christopher Hitchens method,” so-called because Hitchens, the prominent atheist who died in 2011, would use this method in his debates with Christians about God. He’d mention something almost in passing (such as God’s commands about Israel’s conquest of the Canaanites) that was a serious, legitimate topic, having been wrestled with by sincere Christians for centuries, but for which there was no chance of a thoughtful answer. His opposition would be left looking rather foolish, when in reality they simply could not answer him in the time allotted.
Before getting into my three sample cases, I should probably state the main thesis of the movie: that the Democratic Party has always been the party of enslavement and oppression, with everything bad in American history, from slavery to the treatment of Native Americans to the poverty of the inner cities laid at their feet. Hillary is but one in a long line of Democrats, and her goal is to “steal America.” It’s never completely clear how she’s going to do this.
So, out of a plethora of possibilities, here are my three picks of easily-debunked ideas from the film:
1. Davy Crockett was a slavery-hating Republican. (Don’t we all love Davy Crockett? I can still sing the lyrics from the theme song on the old TV show.) I mentioned this to my brother-in-law in the same conversation mentioned above, and he immediately said, “Even though Davy Crockett died well before the Republican Party was established?” (Don’t ever try to argue about historical facts with him, by the way. You will never, ever win.) Since D’Souza himself says in this film that the GOP was founded in 1854, and since it is beyond well-established that Crockett died in 1836 at The Alamo, one has to wonder how dumb D’Souza thinks his audience is. What I didn’t know about the fight between Texas and Mexico, by the way, is that Mexico outlawed slavery in the 1820’s and that the Texas Revolution was staged by American settlers partly in order to defend their right to own the slaves they’d brought with them, although I’d emphasize the “partly.” Crockett owned slaves in Tennessee and in Washington D. C. and began his political career as a Jacksonian congressman. (Andrew Jackson is the evil Democrat who dominates the first part of the film.) He later switched sides and was defeated. In the excellent article I link to below, the author says, “while Crockett may have been anti-slavery in his final years, he never belonged to the Republican Party, and died fighting in a pro-slavery cause.”
2. The Democratic Party founded the Ku Klux Klan. And there is a direct line of descent from the Democratic Party of the Civil War era to the Democratic Party of today. There seems to be no hint of understanding that there might have been some political changes in the past 160 years. In reality, yes, it’s true that pretty much all of the KKK members at the beginning were Democrats, But to say that the Democratic Party of 1865-1930 is the same as it is today is to show an astonishing ignorance of the way the two parties have shifted their positions over the years. Again, does D’Souza really believe what he says? Or does he just think that his viewers will be too lazy to do a one-minute search on Google? Where will you find the vast majority of KKK membership today? In the far, fringe right, not the far, fringe left.
3. The now-decomposing-dead-horse-Saul-Alinksky-Hillary-Clinton conspiracy. I’m kind of cheating by including this one, because I’ve already written about it and so don’t need to rehash it here. D’Souza spends 10-15 minutes on this whole issue. I honestly couldn’t believe that this was happening in front of my eyes. There’s another one of those unintentionally-hilarious scenes of the movie in which the young Hillary is talking in low conspiratorial tones to the estimable Saul and she says, “You can’t take over the country from the outside. You have to do it from the inside, by getting elected to office.” And lo! she’s on the cusp of being elected President! That proves that she plotted with Alinsky, because look what’s happening now! (I have been unable to find corroboration of Alinsky’s supposed mob connections in any kind of reputable publication and finally decided that I needed to just move on. In any case, as I say in my original article, Hillary was in the end pretty critical of Alinsky’s model of community organizing, and I don’t know how she’d be expected to know, as a student at the rather staid, all-girls Wellesley College, about Alinsky’s crooked past. Again, as I’ve said perhaps rather too repeatedly, it’s not a matter of defending her ideas but of making sure we know what those ideas actually are. Then the debate can be run along accurate lines.)
Well, I should stop here. I can’t resist mentioning, though, yet another unintentionally-hilarious scene. D’Souza sneaks into a back room of the Democratic Party headquarters (with a scene of him in front of the real thing and then the rest of the scene being staged) and what does he find? An oil painting of Thomas Jefferson propped against the wall, but behind it, ominously facing backwards, a portrait of the evil Andrew Jackson. (He really was pretty evil by all accounts, but that’s not the point.) And then, in a file box conveniently sitting on the shelf, are the tools of oppression used by the Democratic Party: a whip, chains, and slave collar. This framing device leads us to some pretty graphically-portrayed scenes of slave mistreatment in the South, of which I’m sure there were many. But again, that’s not the point. Are we supposed to take this staged scene seriously as we sit and watch the film? That you can casually walk through a door marked “authorized personnel only” at a major political party’s headquarters and find 150-year-old artifacts just sitting there, conveniently at hand? I’m fairly sure that D’Souza would say, “Hey, lighten up! Everybody knows it’s just a dramatic fiction.” But I’m not at all sure that everybody does.
There are some serious and legitimate concerns about the Clintons raised in the film, notably Bill’s sexual escapades/Hillary’s downplaying of them and some quite troubling connections between the Clinton Foundation and its donors. I wish there had been more time spent on these issues and less on so much nonsense. As I’ve said before, when you push obviously-untrue ideas at your audience then you’ve lost your credibility about the true ones. If you do decide to watch/attend this movie, do so with your skepticism well in hand.
Here are some good articles:
Probably the best I ran across: “Fact-Checking D’Souza’s Correlation Causation Confusion”
A rather-more-generous-than-deserved review from conservative source The Federalist: “If You Hate Hillary, You’ll Love ‘Hillary’s America'”
And a well-reasoned review from mainstream-media publication The New York Times: “In ‘Hillary’s America,” Dinesh D’Souza Warns of a Plan to ‘Steal’ the Country