I know that there’s plenty of people who will disregard my take on this documentary due to my politics, but that shouldn’t matter. Yes, I’m a registered Democrat and self identified liberal, one who thinks that President Barack Obama has done a good but not great job and will be voting for him in the fall (not that that’s any of your business), but even if I wasn’t, I’d have major issues with ’2016: Obama’s America’. If the documentaries of Michael Moore are said to be factually iffy, then this doc is all the way on to being better placed in the realm of fiction. I have no idea who directors Dinesh D’Souza (who also is the guide/Moore type of the flick) and John Sullivan think they’re talking about, but the facts show that it’s not Barack Obama. There are many a legitimate gripe to be had about the President, but D’Souza and Sullivan are content to make him into a straw man and just push forward Conservative talking points regardless of their validity, not to mention a heaping dose of Xenophobia. I went into this with an open mind, wanting to see if a documentary that’s against Obama could make salient points to a supporter like me, much like many wish that Moore’s docs could convince those who disagree with that ideology. Sadly, it was not to be. I merely left angry and sad that more people don’t realize what a con job this is. It’s a paranoid conspiracy about where we’ll be if the President wins a second term, but it’s mostly content to just demonize Obama for being, well…there, I guess. Suffice to say, this is one of the worst films of 2012 in my eyes.
At the start, we mostly learn about the life of Dinesh D’Souza. I’d only vaguely heard of him before, so it didn’t hurt to find this out. Soon enough though, we’re on to attacking Barack Obama for pretty much all the ills of the world. D’Souza claims that Obama is an anti-colonnialist (apparently using evidence of Obama returning to the UK a bust of Winston Churchill that was in the Oval Office, even though that decision was made before he became President), a socialist, and wants to shape the United States of America to better fit the worldview of his late father Barack Obama Sr., a man that the President barely knew. Alongside that is the theory that the few years he spent in Indonesia as a young boy gave him an anti-American worldview that he’s somehow maintained to this day…don’t ask me why though. The big “get” for the documentary is an interview that D’Souza has with Obama’s half brother George, which reveals nothing. The point is simply to paint the President as someone intentionally weakening the country and catering to the will of Muslim extremists (though no mention is made of his order to kill Osama bin Laden). The film literally is positing that President Obama is intentionally waiting until he’s re-elected to begin a radical reshaping of the country, basically abandoning being a First World nation. D’Souza really has no evidence for any of his claims, and that’s my biggest issue. If the doc had been focused on arguing actual facts and looking at Obama in the same way most Presidents are looked at, I’d have still disagreed with the politics, but I actually would have welcomed a mature and sober argument. We don’t have that though. We have Obama as a bogeyman that hates America, something that only the most troubled can actually believe in their hearts. This is all just conjecture and pandering to the Fox News crowd.
What I got from watching this is that the doc’s goal is to blame the President for the ills of the country, but without actually pointing to actual reasons. The filmmakers are claiming to know that Obama’s thinking, but since they haven’t given me any proof that they’re able to accurately read minds (and especially not his), I can only conclude that they’re simply making it up as they go along. That’s a cardinal sin for a documentary to me. You can take whatever side of an argument that you like, but support it by some level of fact. When you don’t do that, you just become propaganda. Again, you can criticize the President all you want, and in fact that’s a rather essential part of the political process, but at the same time you have to base your issues in some degree of logic. There’s none of that here, just bile and and “otherness” being thrown at Barack Obama, including the assertion that he was only elected due to the racist past of the country and the guilt that white voters must have felt. Most of it is even just simply debunked with a basic knowledge of recent history. The claim is made that Obama initiated the bailout of 2008, when that was actually George W. Bush in October of that year (though as this poll shows, a majority of people apparently don’t know this) and also that he sympathizes with terrorists. Again, look at the countless terrorists that have been killed during his term and decide for yourself if that could possibly be true. Factor in the bizarre claim that Obama wants the richest Americans to pay a 100% tax rate (the actual proposal is an increase to 39% for the top earners) and it’s clear that the film isn’t interested in trying to use facts in its arguments.
The documentary is professionally made, if overly reliant on cheesy things like storm clouds and ominous music, so there’s at least that. The thing is though, I’d almost have preferred it to have had a lower budget feel. This is hokum and irrational arguments being put forward, more in line with Youtube rants than a movie made with an actual budget, so the idea that a crew and a large group of people collaborated on this is a scary thought. If just Dinesh D’Souza and John Sullivan were putting this out (and D’Souza is clearly tying this in to his books that bash the President), that’s one thing, but this is not that. I suppose it at least made it nicer to look at, since I certainly was troubled by what I was hearing. D’Souza and Sullivan don’t especially pace things well either. They start out slowly, but in the final half hour (of an 80-something minute film) they really go off the rails and lose me even more, if that’s possible. They also apparently don’t understand that the title makes no sense. They’re implying that in 2016 Obama would leave the country unrecognizable, but going by that dubious logic, the next Commander in Chief would take over during the inauguration of 2017, not 2016. Sigh…
In the end, I suppose I wasn’t able to stay quite as objective as I initially planned to be, but ’2016: Obama’s America’ is so uninterested in facts or the truth that I couldn’t help myself. Yes, I side with Barack Obama and Joe Biden over Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, but that has less to do with me loving Obama than me just picking the person to lead who supports policies that I believe in (like a woman’s right to choose, same sex marriage rights, and a focus on keeping the social safety net instead of abandoning it). I’m not someone who’d defend a politician if the facts were against them, but watching this hatchet job only made me angry and sad at the state of the political divide since this was clearly meant to just stoke the fires of the anger and people who don’t like the President feel. It fails as a documentary, it fails as an argument against the President, and it fails as anything other than lunatic ravings. The only thing it succeeds at is being among the 5 worst things I’ve seen all year.
-Thoughts? Discuss in the comments!
Tags: documentary, President, President Barack Obama, United States, worst of the year