Once he was a darling of the mainstream conservative community. An Indian immigrant of Goan ancestry Dinesh D'Souza snagged a place at Dartmouth, where he helped found the legendary Dartmouth Review, before gingerly moving onto an editorial gig at Policy Review and then a staff position in the Reagan White House. After a series of scholarly books, D'Souza's Illiberal Education shot him to national prominence in 1991.
Carefully researched and cogently argued, Illiberal Education was a prescient take down of the political correctness regime on college campuses. The rest of 1990s saw him become one of the most widely known and respected conservatives writers in America. It's a position he likely would have retained to this today if not for his notorious 2007 book The Enemy At Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11.
Taking the contrarian tendencies of a successful pundit to a bizarre extreme, D'Souza blamed the American Left for the 9/11 attacks. The book was littered with such observations as:
In faulting the cultural left, I am not making the absurd accusation that this group blew up the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. I am saying that the cultural left and its allies in Congress, the media, Hollywood, the nonprofit sector and the universities are the primary cause of the volcano of anger toward America that is erupting from the Islamic world. The Muslims who carried out the 9/11 attacks were the product of this visceral rage - some of it based on legitimate concerns, some of it based on wrongful prejudice - but all of it fueled and encouraged by the cultural left. Thus without the cultural left, 9/11 would not have happened...
And it went down hill from there. His absurd twist on "blame America first" was so shocking even The New York Times called it treason:
I never thought a book by D’Souza, the aging enfant terrible of American conservatism, would, like the Stalinist apologetics of the popular front period, contain such a soft spot for radical evil. But in “The Enemy at Home,” D’Souza’s cultural relativism hardly stops with bin Laden. He finds Ayatollah Khomeini still to be “highly regarded for his modest demeanor, frugal lifestyle and soft-spoken manner.” Islamic punishment tends to be harsh — flogging adulterers and that sort of thing — but this, D’Souza says “with only a hint of irony,” simply puts Muslims “in the Old Testament tradition.”
The reaction of mainstream conservatives was even more strident. Not since William F Buckley "read" the Birchers out of the conservative movement was a prominent pundit so quickly dumped from respectable commentary. The better part of a decade later D'Souza concedes that: “Look, I may be wrong about it...I am attracted to arguments that have a certain plausible originality to them.”
The arguments in The Enemy At Home did have a certain originality. Plausible they were not. In the years since D'Souza has reinvented himself as a somewhat recherché critic of the Obama Administration. His 2010 book The Roots of Obama's Rage painted the 44th President as the product of the anti-colonial ideology of his absentee father. Two hit documentaries followed: 2016: Obama's America and America: Imagine The World Without Her. The films gave D'Souza a sort of cult status in some conservative circles.
There he might have remained, little noticed beyond his devoted fan base, until January 2014 when he was charged with making an illegal $20,000 campaign contribution to an old friend. Using a series of straw donors D'Souza had funnelled the money to Wendy Long's unsuccessful bid to unseat junior New York senator Kirsten Gillibrand. The use of straw donors, illegal under the Federal Election Campaign Act, has been a common political tactic for decades and is very rarely prosecuted.
The unexpected nature of the prosecution, the smallness of the amount involved and D'Souza's strident anti-Obama output have triggered suspicions across the political spectrum. Alan Dershowitz went so far as to describe the case as an example of "selective prosecution". Whatever one's opinion of D'Souza's politics this is a chilling moment. Last week it got worst.
In an almost Stalinistic twist to the saga the presiding judge, Richard Berman, ordered that D'Souza continue psychological counselling:
“I’m not singling out Mr. D’Souza to pick on him,” Berman said at the hearing Monday. “A requirement for psychological counseling often comes up in my hearings in cases where I find it hard to understand why someone did what they did.”
WND reported that at the Sept. 23, 2014, sentencing hearing, Berman said he could not understand how someone of D’Souza’s intelligence, with credentials that include college president, could do something so stupid as to violate federal campaign contribution laws.
Probably because the contribution laws are as scrupulous observed among political activists as the speed limits on the I-95. Justice Berman also expressed puzzlement at D'Souza not feeling terribly guilty about committing his crime:
The psychological case notes indicate that while Mr. D’Souza is highly intelligent, he has remarkably little insight into his own motivations, that he is not introspective or insightful, but that he tends to see his own actions in an overly positive manner.
Perhaps because D'Souza views his actions, circumventing an arguably unconstitutional law, as perfectly rational given the context and that his prosecution is politically motived. In other words he doesn't feel guilty because he doesn't think what he did was a real crime. Apparently that's not good enough for Justice Berman's peculiar sensibilities. The good judge, like the inquisitors of old, wants D'Souza to truly repent of his terrible sins.
Whatever you think of Dinesh D'Souza, his unusual public career or his controversial views, his story is warning sign of what might be ahead for the rest of us.
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