New York Times Promotes the 'Fateful Fall' of Dinesh D'Souza for Campaign Law Violations

July 27th, 2014 12:56 PM

Dinesh D’Souza’s new movie was finally noticed in The New York Times Friday – on the front page. The news story was “Heady Summer, Fateful Fall for a Conservative Firebrand.” Notice how “fall” had two meanings?

The Times has failed to notice Michael Moore’s nasty divorce and how his hypocrisy about wealth has been revealed. But D’Souza is front-page fodder mostly for his admitted violation of campaign-finance laws:

Nobody wants the summer to end, but especially not Dinesh D'Souza.

In June, he published, ''America: Imagine a World Without Her,'' which spent a week as the No. 1 book on Amazon, and is currently No. 2 on the New York Times nonfiction best-seller list.

In July, he released a companion film, which has grossed more than $12 million, already roughly the same as the total of such well-known documentaries as ''Hoop Dreams'' and ''Roger & Me,'' counting inflation.

But in September, he will stand before a judge in a Manhattan courtroom and face a possible prison term after pleading guilty earlier this year to a violation of campaign-finance laws.

Times reporter Jonathan Mahler insults D'Souza by calling him "a right-wing Michael Moore," as if his latest film is just as much a prankumentary as Moore's "classics" like "Fahrenheit 911." In 2004, Dana Stevens wrote in the Times that while the facts of “Fahrenheit 911" could be debated, ”it should first of all be appreciated as a high-spirited and unruly exercise in democratic self-expression.”

D'Souza's film is "rife with controversial assertions," which is another way to say he's pandering to the conservative booboisie.

Mr. D'Souza has long been known as a conservative provocateur, but his latest incarnation as a right-wing Michael Moore represents a significant departure for a man who was once seen as the next William F. Buckley Jr. His success as a documentarian has also opened up the possibility of a new medium for conservatives, one that has mostly been dominated by liberals.

''With film, you have a grand platform to alter the national conversation in a profound fashion,'' said the radio host Laura Ingraham, who has known Mr. D'Souza since college. ''I think that's more important in many ways than the daily television hits or radio shows.''

Mr. D'Souza's surging popularity stems in part from his background. Born and raised in India, he graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Dartmouth and has been affiliated with some of the country's most respected conservative think tanks.

Both his book and the film are rife with controversial assertions. ''How, for example, did Obama get elected as a complete unknown?'' Mr. D'Souza asks in the book. ''There is a one-word answer: slavery. America's national guilt over slavery continues to benefit Obama, who ironically is not himself descended from slaves.''

Mr. D'Souza's career has taken a series of unexpected turns. His views have drawn criticism not only from the left but also from the right. His 2007 book, ''The Enemy at Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11,'' ignited outrage among some conservatives, who considered its thesis -- captured succinctly in the subtitle -- not only deeply flawed but irresponsible. And in 2012, Mr. D'Souza abruptly resigned as president of King's College, a Christian school in Manhattan, after it surfaced that he was involved with a woman who was not his wife.

The same newspaper that's made ridiculous excuses for Anthony Weiner won't miss a chance to dredge up this sad episode of adultery. Mahler balanced his piece with conservative supporters and conservative critics, but his thesis continues that D'Souza is now categorized as ranty, talk-show/Fox-News conspiracy garbage:

In the process of becoming one of the most influential voices on the right, Mr. D'Souza has alienated a number of the conservative intellectuals who once looked up to him. Some accuse him of cynically using his academic credentials to advance false, reductive ideas in order to sell books and movie tickets.

''He was the all-star, the guy every student aspired to be,'' said James Panero, who graduated from Dartmouth in 1998 and is now executive editor of The New Criterion, a conservative literary journal. ''But I think the rewards of playing to the crowd, of throwing out red meat, have become too great.''

In a sense, Mr. D'Souza's trajectory is emblematic of a broader shift in the conservative movement. The policy journals and think tanks that once played a key role in shaping conservative thought have been marginalized by the grass-roots populism of talk radio, Fox News, local political movements -- and now, perhaps, documentary films.

''The idea that American politics is made by a kind of professional elite was always a bit dubious and is becoming less and less true,'' said Mr. D'Souza.

Does anyone recall the New York Times worrying that Michael Moore's career was an example of how liberal thought had been marginalized in the Bush years by conspiracy-minded "grass-roots populism"? Mahler might argue that Moore's always been a clown, and D'Souza just chose that career in middle age. But that's only between the lines. Or perhaps D'Souza is Homer Simpson?