Two weeks ago, Dinesh D’Souza’s documentary “2016: Obama’s America” passed Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” for second place on the all-time box-office money list for political documentaries. It now has a box office gross of more than $32 million. But if you’re an independent or a liberal who’s unplugged from conservative websites and talk radio, you’d never know.
You didn’t see D’Souza on CBS or NBC (although he showed up on ABC’s “Nightline” in late night). There were no cover stories in Time or Newsweek. The film opened on just one screen in Houston when it premiered on July 13, and then spread to 10, and eventually to 1,000 theaters in August and 2,000 theaters in September. A cultural sensation, yes – but somehow not newsworthy.
Al Gore, naturally, had every advantage of a beloved liberal almost-president. When it hit theaters in May of 2006, Time magazine wrote “The movie got raves at the Sundance Film Festival....In Los Angeles theaters, the trailers have been getting ovations.” On NBC, Katie Couric sat down in the outdoors with Gore and told him that in the movie, "you’re funny, vulnerable, disarming, self-effacing.” On CBS, anchor Harry Smith gushed, “The box office receipts would indicate that it’s an action movie — you did better per screening than almost anything that’s come out this week."
Even after Gore’s slide-show lecture/film eventually sputtered out at the cineplex, several more rounds of fawning followed: an Academy Award and a Nobel Peace Prize, and in between the gushing lines came the idea that Gore might (or should) run again for president. The “Goracle” gush was so heavy that Time collected it all together. He was “Al Gore -- the improbably charismatic, Academy Award-winning, Nobel Prize-nominated environmental prophet with an army of followers and huge reserves of political and cultural capital at his command.”
And yet, D’Souza’s film was the Little Engine That Could – the film that could surpass Gore at the box office. He didn’t need MSNBC to put him on, although in August, he slammed them as cowardly: “You could watch that channel and not even know we have a film out – unless you saw a commercial that we’re running for our film. You look at Lawrence O’Donnell, you look at Rachel Maddow, you look at Chris Matthews. I mean, look at those cowards!...I would love to cross swords with those guys, but I think they’re all hiding under the desk.”
Whatever media-elite notice that D’Souza received began trickling in once it made the top ten of the weekend box-office hits in late August...and it wasn’t positive at all.
A Washington Post critic scoffed on August 24: “It is doomed to win precious few converts. It's a textbook example of preaching to the choir. It has the air of a ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’ sequel, pandering to the franchise's hard-core fans, while boring everyone else.”
And “An Inconvenient Truth” was different?
On August 29, ABC’s David Wright told D’Souza his film was “disingenuous” in suggesting Obama wanted to downsize America’s power and influence, and complained “D'Souza spins out the conspiracy theory” of America in dramatic economic and geopolitical collapse by 2016. The screen read “Conspirator-in-Chief.”
NPR weekend anchor Guy Raz took a few rhetorical swings at D’Souza in a September 1 interview. “Dinesh D'Souza, if you wanted to criticize or attack President Obama, why bend the truth? Why not just offer a policy critique rather than conjecture, and in many cases in this film, conspiracy?”
But what dominated Al Gore’s documentary if not a gloomy conjecture about the destruction of the planet through global warming? Wasn’t Gore a “Conspirator-in-Chief” that some people deny the “truth” of impending planetary doom for nefarious political ends? Gore’s film ridiculously claimed a 20-foot rise in sea level that would flood Manhattan. The media weren’t negative about that conjecture.
ABC’s story on Gore’s movie was summed up with the words “The Comeback Kid? Al Gore Takes On The World.” Reporter Claire Shipman hailed “Gore's personal journey toward environmental evangelism.”On NPR, anchor Robert Siegel hailed the film’s success, and began with a “quibble” and moved on: “Our science correspondent had only a couple of quibbles on claims about the melting snows of Kilimanjaro or the increasing power of hurricanes.” Gore quickly shot that down as unworthy. And The Washington Post reviewer (Desson Thomson) raved: “We're pressure-cooking the planet to death -- and Al Gore has the flow charts to prove it. We know what you're thinking, but as this surprisingly absorbing film shows, Gore's lectures are anything but dull.”
D’Souza’s movie was comparable to an over-the-top horror movie. Al Gore has proven we’re all about to bake and/or drown, and all that can be said about that spooky spectacle is it is “surprisingly absorbing.” Their arrogance knows no bounds.