Monday, January 22, 2007

The dishonesty of Dinesh D'Souza.

The insane suggestion by Dinesh D’Souza that the Religious Right and the Islamists forge an alliance to stamp out social freedom is one of the most absurd ideas to come out of the extreme Right in decades. Of course it has attracted some attention and it wasn’t favorable.

D’Souza has become a lazy writer. Some of his earlier work was well researched. Agree with him or not he did bring forth evidence. Now he has theories and then cherry picks the evidence to fit the theories. His critics have had a good time pointing out that D’Souza gets his facts wrong. He writes about Islamism without actually knowing much about it.

In the New York Times Alan Wolfe dissects the book and notes that it “like the Stalinist apologetics of the popular front period, contain such a soft spot for radical evil.” Wolfe says the books “is filled with factual errors” and said D’Souza is “a childish thinker and writing tackling subjects about which he knows little to make arguments that reek of political extremism.” Ouch! That has to hurt. Of course one reason it hurts is that it is so true.

For instance D’Souza makes mention of US troops in Mecca -- there are no US troops in Mecca and never have been. And he has several times claimed that a US air strike in 1986 on Qadafi caused him to stop his terrorist activities. Of course it was in 1988 that Libya blew up Pan Am 103 -- some retirement!

Conservative writer Dean Barnet is just as scathing.
He said that D’Souza is “poorly informed” and that is about the nicest thing he has to say.

Remember D’Souza’s argument is that it is social freedom, especially in regards to sexuality, that is what driving the jihad against the West. Barnet notes that to “give us insight into the Jihadist loathing for American culture, D’Souza relies on the writings of the father of modern Radical Islam, Sayyid Qutb. Qutb spent two years in America and then returned to the Middle East thoroughly disgusted by American culture. He spent the rest of his life chronicling his hatred for America’s decadent society in assorted writings.”

This fact is what causes Barnet to say D’Souza is either “dishonest or careless”. He is using material attacking the moral liberalism of America based on one Islamist’s two years in the US. You might think this bolsters D’Souza’s case. No doubt that is what he’d want you to think. But the two years in question were between 1948 and 1950. Barnet writes:

Since D’Souza blames our culture for much of the Islamic world’s animus towards America, this is no small matter. The culture of the 1940’s wasn’t what it is today. Perhaps Qutb was scandalized by pop culture products of the time like the overt raciness of “The Best Years of Our Lives” or the raw sexuality contained on the typical Bing Crosby record; the man was after all a lunatic. But the culture of the late 1940’s contained none of the things that D’Souza so obviously deplores and that he postulates are inflaming the Muslim world. The 1940’s had no filthy hippies, no gangsta rap, no gay weddings. D’Souza may think it would be a swell thing for us to turn our cultural clock back to 1949. No big deal there – to each his own. The point is that even if D’Souza were able to wave a wand and pull off such a trick, the Jihadists wouldn’t care. Qutb briefly immersed himself in our late 1940’s incarnation and emerged full of hatred.

D’Souza seems to be using Qutb as a main support for his thesis. But radical Islamists have laid out repeatedly what inspires them to fight and die. They speak of many issues but the issues that D’Souza is worked up over aren’t among them. You don’t find them complaining about gay marriage but about US support for Israel. You don’t find messages from bin Laden condemning Hollywood but he does speak about US intervention in the Middle East.

The reality is that D’Souza doesn’t know what the Islamists worry about. And he doesn’t care. His books is an attempt to appeal to the “base” of the Religious Right. It appeals to those fundamentalists and extremists who already hate gays, “liberals”, feminists and social liberalism. It is meant to give the bigots just another excuse for being bigots and to do that it doesn’t have to be accurate, informed or true. In fact it could not do that if it were accurate, informed and true. For D’Souza I suspect it fills another function. It was no doubt intended to make him some money.

Warren Bass of the Washington Post writes:

Either D'Souza is blaming liberals for Sept. 11 because he truly believes that they're culpable, or he's cynically calculating that an incendiary polemic will sell books. I just don't know which is scarier. One has to wonder why his publisher, agent, editors and publicists went along for the ride, and it's hard not to conclude that they thought the thing would cause a cable-news and blogosphere sensation that would spike sales — a ruckus triggered not despite the book's silliness but because of it. This sort of scam has worked before (think of the calculated slurs of Ann Coulter), but rarely has the gap between the seriousness of the issues and the quality of the book yawned as wide. This time, let's just not bother with the flap; this dim, dishonorable book isn't worth it.

I have to wonder if D’Souza and those hoping to get rich off his antics have not made a serious miscalculation. Sure the modern Right is no longer inspired by a belief in anything but more inspired by it’s hatred for other things. But does he think that they hate gays and Hollywood so much that they are willing to embrace the Islamists? I suspect not but only time will tell. But I did check to see how well the book is selling at Bake and Taylor, one of the largest wholesalers in the US of books. In it’s first week of release they shipped out 156 copies. And it’s not even in the top 100 selling books at Amazon. D’Souza has lost all touch with reality. I just hope that conservatives have not sunk so low as to embrace his lunacy.

PS: One thing D'Souza no doubt wanted has happened. His extremism has brought him some attention. And it is all due to this silly book. His own website was running around 100 hits per day. But on the 16th, when his "I hate American freedom" book came out hits on his website rose to between 1,000 and 2,000 per day.

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