An added bonus to D’Souza’s ‘America’: Biased movie critics exposed again

America Rotten TomatoesDinesh D’Souza of ‘2016: Obama’s America’ fame is back with his second attempt at Hollywood film making with ‘America: Imagine a World Without Her.’ The reaction by critics proves once again why more conservatives should be writing books, making films and generally getting involved in as many creative endeavors as possible. ‘America’ is a mixed bag — I have plenty of gripes about it — but no fair-minded critic can look at the 13 percent “rotten” splat on Rotten Tomatoes and say that it’s an accurate reflection of the movie’s quality. When one compares the critical reaction to a Michael Moore film with the feedback D’Souza’s efforts have received, the bias becomes even more hilarious.

Fahrenheit 911 Rotten TomatoesA quick perusal of the reviews yields a predictable pattern of sentiments:

  • Stanley Kauffmann reviews Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 for The New Republic in 2004: “Sometimes slipshod in its making and juvenile in its travesty, and of course it has no interest in overall fairness to Bush. But it vents an anger about this presidency that, as the film’s ardent reception shows, seethes in very many of us.” Conclusion: Fresh.
  • David Ehrlich reviews D’Souza’s ‘America’ for AV Club in 2014: “Graced with a hilariously definitive title, America is astonishingly facile, a film comprised entirely of straw man arguments.” Conclusion: Rotten.
  • Kevin Carr reviews D’Souza’s ‘Obama’s America: 2016’ for 7M Pictures in 2012: “D’Souza never actually shows [the president’s anti-colonial views] with Obama’s own words or deeds. Instead, he engages in guilt by association.” Conclusion: Rotten.
  • Andrew Sarris reviews Moore’s ‘Sicko’ for the New York Observer in 2012: “One may quibble with Mr. Moore’s anecdotal oversimplifications and his xenophilic fantasies, but he has struck a socio-psychic nerve in the body politic, generating a feeling of outrage that seems to be reverberating in every theater.” Conclusion: Fresh.

Obama America 2016 DSouzaIn the case of Mr. Carr, readers are treated to an outright lie. The truth is that Mr. D’Souza quoted President Obama on numerous occasions throughout the movie. If I’m not mistaken (it’s been awhile), he even used the audio from “Dreams From My Father” to give certain scenes more weight. With most other critics, you simply have hypocrisy; Moore’s simplifications are excused because he’s tapping into feelings of national “outrage”; Moore’s “juvenile” tactics are forgiven because he’s in tune with “anger” that “seethes” in “very many of us” over the president’s actions.

Mr. Ehrlich’s “straw man” assertion is perhaps the most humorous of the bunch, given that D’Souza lets liberal academics make their own arguments against America’s greatness for the first 30 minutes of the movie. Only after they state their case does he respond. Unlike Michael Moore, Mr. D’Souza actually took the time to set up interviews with men like Noam Chomsky, Michael Eric Dyson, Ward Churchill and others. There were no ambushes. Mr. D’Souza asked questions, and guys like Churchill went on to call America the new “evil empire” that may, under the right circumstances, need to have an atomic bomb dropped on its population. That isn’t D’Souza making a “straw-man” argumentit is a hard-core liberal saying what he actually believes.

Does the movie version of D’Souza’s ‘America’ have problems? Yes. One particular fault is a cartoonish portrayal of Hillary Clinton towards the end that, quite frankly, cheapens the movie. The scene comes off as weird and conspiratorial.

Should viewers know about Mrs. Clinton’s college thesis on Saul Alinsky, “There is Only the Fight: An Analysis of the Alinsky Model”? Sure. But it seems shoe-horned into the movie and its execution (i.e., a recreation of Mrs. Clinton’s first meeting with the “Rules for Radicals” author in her Methodist church in Chicago) is bizarre.

Fair critics can see where ‘America’ hits (e.g., D’Souza smartly gives America’s most ardent critics plenty of screen time in his movie) and where it misses (e.g., briefly alluding to his own legal issues with the Department of Justice, which will leave less politically-aware moviegoers incredibly confused). The problem is that there aren’t many fair critics out there.

In the end I’m happy that ‘America’ exists, because many more people will see the movie than read the book. Most of the movie is extremely positive and includes bits of history that your Ward Churchillian college professor never told you about. However, the book (as is usually the case) is much better than the movie. While the movie has its flaws, I still hope that enough people see it to warrant future installments by Mr. D’Souza and other conservative filmmakers.

Related: D’Souza’s ‘America’ reminds us: As free men ‘we must live through all time, or die by suicide’

Related: 2016: Obama’s America: D’Souza strikes a nerve

‘Beijing Punk’ exposes the Invisible Fist of fear societies

Demerit Beijing Punk
What happens in China when you want to put out an album that questions the government? You get your album censored and edited until everything you wanted to say is an ambiguous lyrical mish-mash that poses no discernible threat to those who wield power.

Not to long ago I wrote about the strange situation that is Iron Man 3, whereas we find ourselves living in a world where The Mandarin of all characters can no longer be Chinese because cultural sensitivity — to an oppressive Communist regime — and a desire to make a few million more bucks dictates Hollywood’s behavior. And Shane Black’s “ultimate terrorist” is an American or British intelligent agent gone rogue. How original.

Given that America has a level of political and economic freedom that has historically been head-and-shoulders above the rest of the world, I find it odd that the “ultimate terrorist” would originate from one of the 50 states. Mr. Black is entitled to his opinion just like anyone else, but it would be refreshing if more directors were like Shaun Jefford, who actually has the courage to show the truth about our Communist “friends” on the other side of the globe.

Beijing Punk is a documentary about freedom. Period. It’s about the human spirit, which yearns to be free. It’s about individuals who are censored and oppressed and constrained by the government, but who inherently know that they are being robbed of the ability to fully pursue their hopes and dreams. Individuals can be poor and uneducated, and yet still make a stirring case for individual liberty because no amount of censorship or state-approved rhetoric can hide ideological shackles. Those who wear them will always scream out in defiance — in this case it’s through punk music.

Jefford’s film centers around a few Chinese punk bands who play at D-22, the CBGB’s on Beijing. Owner Michael Pettis and booking agent Nevin Domer are superb choices to include in the film, and equally articulate spokesmen for the importance of what D-22 is trying to achieve.

First, Pettis on the music.

“I speak to a lot of critics from the U.S. and from Europe who when they came here are always astonished by the freshness of the scene. And there was an English critic who said, ‘You know, in England there is nothing you can do that doesn’t have a huge history behind it. Whatever you do, someone has already done it. What ever you think, someone has thought it, and that becomes a huge weight on top of everything.’ And in China you don’t feel that at all. So you’ll have kids who are discovering Phil Ochs and Stravinsky and Velvet Underground at the same time. And so it’s like opening this enormous toy store to all these kids and rushing and and everything is interesting and everything is exciting.”

China Population Control
Population control — in more ways than one. Now smile for this advertisement like we put a Happy-Happy, Joy-Joy helmet on your head or we’ll make your life a living hell.

Next we have Nevin Domer on Chinese censorship:

Nevin Domer: The General is deciding they don’t like the lyrics [to the new Demerit album] and they’re deciding they don’t want to publish it. Both of these albums should have been printed last week in order to be done for the release show. Tonight was the night that we really needed to go to press. We won’t go into what all of these songs talk about. And Demerit, some of their lyrics are slightly risqué. I’d rather not talk too much about what the lyrics mean on film. The more ambiguous we can be with government officials the safer it is. I guess I just thought we could get away with pushing through whatever we want. We put through ‘Car Sick Cars’ and they have songs about cocaine and mushrooms. That’s all I want to say about that album for now.”

Sound mixer: We have translations quite clear, quite clean. The General has cancelled some words. We still have some problems because of the Olympics. Everything is more controlled.

Nevin Domer: Can we do it today?

Sound mixer: Don’t worry about that.

Nevin Domer: It’s always like this.

Sound mixer: In China, it’s always some surprise.

It turns out that Mr. Domer said a little too much (his home was raided multiple times after Beijing Punk came out). Or maybe simply agreeing to take part in the film is what set the authorities off. Who knows. The point is, he had the audacity to think for himself.

As Lei Jun of the band Mi San Dao explains, free speech isn’t a right that is honored in China:

Lei Jun: You don’t have too much freedom because the government will say, ‘You do this, you don’t do this. Don’t speak this, you speak this.’ Yeah. It’s dangerous to talk. For them you can’t speak punk on the TV. Also you can’t speak skinhead. Also you can’t speak government bad and about the Olympics or too much building. Nothing. You just speak, ‘Oh, we have a good day, every day. We love China. We love the Olympics.’ … It’s different because in China the Chairman say something, all the people need to agree. It’s not like America. He can do what he want. He’s like the animal king. The animals are not like people. For like a monkey? A lot of monkeys, the monkey can do everything.

Shaun Jefford: So you honestly just said the Chairman job is a lot like a monkey king?

Lei Jun: Yeah. Yeah. Maybe…

Lie Jun then provides an interesting anecdote that Hollywood directors like Shane Black could appreciate; China is a lot like a Stanley Kubrick film:

“If you take the hash or weed in your pocket and the police see you, you’re going to the Chinese special name place. It’s like a hospital, but it’s not a hospital. It’s more bad than jail.  … A lot of young men, more students, they drink too much codeine syrup and maybe two died.  So the government they make the new special operation. The doctors from the Army, the put the boy on the bed and after you take off, you take a lot of things from the brain. After you will never drink codeine syrup. They take off your memory about this. Not memory. For example you like drink beer? They take this, after afterwards, you don’t like beer. They can change your hobby. Yeah. I think it’s like a Clockwork Orange, you know? The first time I saw it I said:”It’s a true Clockwork Orange in China!” (Lei Jun).

Let’s assume Lei was misinformed about the “special” jails and the strange operations. Let’s assume he is the victim of a rumor mill on overdrive. Can you blame him? He lives in an oppressive police state. (Sadly, it takes blind lawyer Chen Guangcheng and other fearless individuals to show gullible Americans the truth.)

Perhaps most striking about Beijing Punk is that each band shies away from giving itself any sort of political label, and instead ops to say it is merely on the side of “freedom.” It doesn’t take a college education to know the difference between the invisible hand of free market economics — guiding individuals through countless voluntary and mutually beneficial transactions each day — and the invisible fist of a fear society pounding your psyche and your soul into the ground.

Observe the following exchange between Jefford and Li Yang of Demerit on China’s “one child” policy:

Li Yang: We are not political. Just about freedom.

Shaun Jefford: But freedom is political.

Li Yang: We think in a different place. Just from … [W]e don’t know the deeper meaning of politics …

As I said before, here in America political parties have disappointed us. And when you boil it down, it’s all about freedom vs. tyranny.

Which side are you on? Beijing Punk is clearly on the side of freedom. Check it out if you get the chance.

Chinese Army
There are free societies and there are fear societies. Shaun Jefford’s ‘Beijing Punk’ uses the trials and tribulations of Chinese musicians to artfully expose a fear society.

At long last, Michael Moore openly admits he hates the troops

Michael Moore wants you to know he's going to stop saying he "supports the troops" — because he doesn't. It's not really news; most of us knew he never did. (Image: AP)
Michael Moore wants you to know he’s going to stop saying he “supports the troops” — because he doesn’t. It’s not really news; most of us knew he never did. (Image: AP)

In the last remaining hours of 2012, the New York Times enlisted a liberal scholar to finally admit the truth — guys like him want to do away with the Constitution. In the past I’ve tried to say that liberal activists loath the constraints the Constitution places upon their utopian goals, and their defenders have insisted that no, that isn’t the case, and that it’s all just a figment of my radical conservative imagination. Louis Seidman’s willingness to publicly admit his disdain for the document makes my job much easier. I can’t thank him enough.

Likewise, for years I’ve talked about liberal activists who hate our military. Regular readers know that my own conversion to the conservative side of the fence started with leftist professors who said: “Only redneck Republican hicks who are happy to get a free pair of boots join the military.” These likely-tenured academics also gave extra credit to go see Michael Moore’s “Bowling for Columbine,” which dovetails nicely into the filmmaker’s New Year’s confession: He doesn’t support the troops.

Numbers four and five on his “to do” list for 2013 are as follows:

4. Stop saying, “I support the troops.” I don’t. I used to. I understand why so many enlisted after 9/11. Sadly, many of them were then trapped and sent off to invade Iraq. I felt for all of them. I understood those who joined because of a lousy economy. But at some point all individuals must answer for their actions, and now that we know our military leaders do things that have nothing to do with defending our lives, why would anyone sign up for this rogue organization?

5. Apologize for No. 4. I have enormous respect for anyone who would offer to sacrifice their life to defend my right to live. Is there any greater gift one can give another? It’s not the troops’ fault they’re sent to invade other countries for dubious reasons and outright lies. It’s OUR responsibility to prevent this, to elect representatives who believe in peace, and to only put our troops in harm’s way when it’s absolutely necessary. My uncle was killed in World War II. Today would have been his 90th birthday. My dad still misses him. Our family has served this country in the military since the Revolutionary War. None of them watch Fox News.

See what Moore does there? He realizes that he can’t directly come out and say that he hates the troops, so he has to add some mealy-mouthed addendum about his uncle’s military service during World War II.

What Michael Moore says at first is that the servicemen who enlisted well into the Iraq War and up to today knew what the mission was and enlisted anyway because on many levels they believed in the mission. But Michael Moore doesn’t believe in the mission. This puts Moore in the position where he desperately wants to make such soldiers “answer for their actions,” (i.e., invading countries “for dubious reasons” or supporting “outright lies”), but he can’t because he doesn’t want to be known as the guy who would have spit all over returning Vietnam Vets decades ago while screaming “baby killer!” So what does he do? He surreptitiously telegraphs that he absolutely despises guys like Marcus Luttrell and Chris Kyle and Mark Owen (I won’t use Owen’s real name here), before redirecting attention to a safe target — the civilian leaders who ultimately determine where the U.S. military’s might will be used around the globe.

Michael Moore infamously called al Qaeda in Iraq and former Baathist regime thugs “freedom fighters.” Since many of his supporters adhere to the “one man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist” mentality, it was hard to nail them down and get them to admit that their idol was rooting for dead American soldiers. But with Moore’s 2013 resolution, the wiggle room for sane adults nears zero.

Thank you for finally admitting to the world in 2013 what some of us veterans always knew, Mr. Moore. It’s refreshing to run across a little honesty from you for a change.

Related: Michael Moore: Let’s stand in front of the Obamacare ‘locomotive’ and see what happens

Butch Walker: Out of Focus. An American Treasure Gets a Documentary.

Butch Walker is one of the most amazing American musicians alive. Period. And pretty soon there will be a documentary released on him titled Butch Walker: Out of Focus, which looks amazing. Thank God one of my Army buddies introduced him to me well over a decade ago. Billed as “a film about never giving up,” and “discovering what really matters,” it’s the kind of movie that’s already speaking to the conservative in me. Better yet, the trailer is set to a song off his new album, Synthesizers:

“For once in your life, won’t you do what feels right, instead of waiting on the next big compromise.”

Not long ago, when I was at a professional crossroads, this song came out. It seemed to perfectly put into words exactly how I was feeling. I had a great job—a job a lot of people would die for—but I felt as though I wasn’t on track to accomplish a lot of long term goals. I could stay where I was in a secure place that might present me with the opportunities I was looking for, or I could take a leap of faith in a direction that was high-risk, high-reward territory. I did what “felt right,” and now I know that I made the right choice, because no matter what happens I’ll never have to wonder “what if?”. On your death bed it’s probably good to have a short number of those, and I’m thankful to Walker for subtracting quite a few from my “What If List.”

If you’re not familiar with Butch Walker, I highly suggest looking his work and the work he’s done for other musicians. His depth and breadth is amazing. He’s smart, creative and a true individual. As he states in the trailer: “I’ve been a self-supported, self-sustaining touring act for 10 years, 15 years.”

Butch Walker has a way with words that I truly admire. He can turn a phrase like nobody’s business, he notices little details that capture the essence of a character or a moment, he’s witty and funny, and I just can’t say enough good things about him from a creative point of view.

As a writer, I’m always looking for someone else who loves their creative craft the way I do—whether it’s an author, a musician, an actor or a director. I don’t know what Butch Walker’s politics are and, quite frankly, in this case I don’t really care. As an American musician, he’s a national treasure and an inspiration to creators everywhere. I can’t wait to catch Butch Walker: Out of Focus.