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Dinesh D’Souza is plotting his next film, an examination of the term “fascism” that will have liberals partially in its crosshairs.
The conservative activist, author and filmmaker first crashed headfirst into Hollywood with 2016: Obama’s America, which earned $33.4 million domestically, unheard of for a political documentary not starring Michael Moore. He followed up with America: Imagine a World Without Her ($14.4 million) and Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party ($13.1 million).
D’Souza spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about plans for his next project, raising financing for the title and why “real debate is almost banished from our culture.”
Your book coming out today is called The Big Lie: Exposing the Nazi Roots of the American Left. Let’s start by breaking some news: Will this be your next movie?
I’m raising money now for a movie next summer based on this book and perhaps another project.
Will the same folks who financed your other three films finance this one?
Yes. I’ve developed a pool of about 50 investors who are very committed to my work, and they believe the Hillary movie had a role in her defeat in the election, so they couldn’t be more excited. And next year is an important midterm election.
So you’re the one who is to blame for President Trump?
(Laughs.) I’ll happily take the blame for President Trump. Look, I’m not saying we did it, but if you look at the 2016 election there are a few things that put Trump over the top: WikiLeaks, James O’Keefe and his Project Veritas, Comey’s reopening of the Hillary investigation and our movie played a role, and that’s been acknowledged on the left and the right.
What’s the thesis of the new book and upcoming movie?
In my last book and movie about Hillary, I took on the race card, that Republicans have a racist history, but racism is actually deeply embedded in the Democrat party. I effectively pushed back against the race card, but since the election of Donald Trump they’ve produced a new card: the fascism card. Trump is a fascist and the Republicans are a neofascist party. In this book I take that on. I do a searching examination of the meaning of fascism and Nazism and look at the secret history of the 1920s and 1930s and I show that fascism firmly belongs on the left. That’s its history and that’s its meaning.
Explain in 50 words or less what fascism is.
It is the power of the centralized state. In Italy, Germany and everywhere, it has meant consolidating the power of the state over the economy and the lives of ordinary people. It’s state-run capitalism, so the government doesn’t nationalize the private sector but it tells it what to do. That’s what we saw under Obama with health care and the banks. Hillary and Bernie wanted to do that with free college. This idea, where the government orders the private sector what to do, is classical fascist economics.
So if this is the case, why do we have this anti-fascist movement, antifa on college campuses, coming from the left and aimed at the right and at Trump?
Great question. That leads to the tactics of fascists. They were basically uniformed thugs who’d invade campuses, march into the political arena and intimidate people — sometimes beat them up — prevent them from speaking, and burn books. Who is doing that in America now? The left. The difference is the old fascists acknowledge they were fascists and the new ones pretend to be anti-fascists. The people who are behaving like Mussolini’s black shirts and Hitler’s brown shirts are calling themselves anti-fascists. Worse, they accuse their opponents of being fascists.
So Trump isn’t a fascist?
He’s a bossy kind of guy who orders people around, and one scholar said when he puts his arms together and looks left he looks like Mussolini. But he hasn’t done anything fascist. Every day Trump is slayed in Hollywood by comedians and by the media, and no real authoritarian would put up with that. Would Hitler stand around and be blasted by the media? No. He’d shut them down. Trump hasn’t lifted a finger to do that because he’s not a fascist.
What does your book say about Hollywood and the media?
The Nazis had a phrase, Gleichschaltung, which means coordination, meaning forcing all the institutions of society and the culture to fall into line for fascism, so every university, every film would have that orientation. Today in Hollywood, in the media and in academia they cajole everyone to fall in line. They call it political correctness. We have to march to the tune of the progressive ideology. It’s cultural fascism.
Give me an example.
Actor Tim Allen. He’s running a successful sitcom, there’s nothing wrong with his work, the ratings are fine, but when he makes comments suggesting he’s not on the progressive bandwagon, boom, his show is canceled.
But ABC says that was just a business decision and not ideological. Give me another example.
In Hollywood there’s a secret conservative organization called Friends of Abe. You wouldn’t need an FOA if these members felt they could express what they believe openly without their careers being jeopardized. The fact that there’s an FOA tells me there’s Gleichschaltung in Holllywood.
Who are these people in Hollywood trying to beat others into submission? Do you name anyone specific in your book?
Here’s the interesting thing. Authoritarians abroad typically don’t get cooperation from the media and the movie industry. The authoritarians use force to make these industries submit. Hugo Chavez in Venezuela had to threaten to shut down newspapers if they didn’t support him, and he took over the small Venezuelan movie industry by force. Obama and Hillary didn’t have to do that because they can count on a critical mass in the media and Hollywood to do their work for them. It’s not a coordinated government assault on Hollywood, it’s that there are powerful forces in Hollywood who shut down dissenting voices.
But you don’t name individuals?
It’s not like I say this guy’s to blame or that guy, or these 10 guys. That would be very convenient. It’s the powers that be in the industry. I’m not beholden to Hollywood because I’m an outsider who makes movies. I have a strange type of liberation. Look, when I screened Obama’s America for FOA in 2012, one guy stood up and said: “I want to commend Dinesh on making this movie, but we are writers, directors, actors and producers. How come none of us made this movie and this think-tank guy from Washington did?” He didn’t answer the question, but I will — because I can make a movie like that and still prosper, but if anyone in that room did, they’d have to wonder if they’d ever work again. The idea anyone has to ask themselves that question in a democratic society is a scandal.
Well, you mentioned Hugo Chavez and some very famous actors cozied up to him. You don’t mention any of them?
Those guys have gone silent now that the country is in ruin, but they won’t pay any price for that, just like Michael Moore never pays a price for being proved wrong, or being an extremist. You can be as extreme as you like on the left but the guys on the right, who haven’t endorsed any horrific regimes, are targets merely for having the views that they do. And they know it. They wouldn’t behave like they do if they didn’t know it.
Anything else about Hollywood in your book?
We have a very unhealthy society where these powerful megaphones of our culture have become so lopsided. We need a diversity of ideas in academia, Hollywood and the media. Real debate is almost banished from our culture.
How do you think Trump is doing?
Trump is a bit of a wild man, but we’re living in a political wild west right now. It’s an abnormal environment that produced Trump. He’s a man well-suited for the situation. He fights on all fronts and he’s absolutely fearless. And he knows there’s not only a political fight going on but a cultural one, as well, and he’s part of it. While he’s saving the Supreme Court, pulling out of a trade agreement and trying to repeal Obamacare, he still finds time to swat Meryl Streep, take on Saturday Night Live and deplore the ratings of CNN. He swims in the ocean of popular culture, and I like that.
What other talent is attached to the Big Lie movie?
I’ll narrate and produce along with Gerald Molen. We’re going back to the classic documentary style I used in my first movie, in part because the elaborate re-creations we did in the other two are quite expensive. I’ll make a movie a little more lean but no less effective. Plus, the fascism topic is rich in historical footage.
Does that mean your last film wasn’t profitable?
It did fine in the theater, but we got hurt — and I want to emphasize not one of our investors are upset about this — in the DVD, because it was like an overripe banana. It became obsolete on Nov. 9 because everyone knew we wouldn’t be living in Hillary’s America. Had Hillary won, we’d sell the DVD for another four years, like with the Obama movie, which did incredibly well on DVD.
Jerry Molen is interesting. He used to produce blockbusters with Steven Spielberg and now he’s satisfied making right-wing documentaries?
Jerry’s an old Marine and our backgrounds couldn’t be more different. He grew up in America and I grew up in India, but both of us started with nothing and we’ve seen the American dream. He’s semi-retired at this stage and it’s all about giving back and trying to defend the principles that made him what he is. He doesn’t see it as a right-wing thing. He says, “Look, I lived in the kind of America where a kid could go to Hollywood with nothing, drive trucks around the studio lot and make your way up the ladder. I want to fight for an America where that is more possible again.”
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