Dinesh D'Souza: Confronting the Left's Cultural Monopoly

Conservative filmmaker discusses his new movie, "Hillary's America," at the West Coast Retreat.

Editor’s note: Below are the video and transcript to Dinesh D’Souza’s lecture at the David Horowitz Freedom Center’s 2016 West Coast Retreat. The event was held April 8-10 at the Terranea Resort in Palos Verdes, CA.

Dinesh D’Souza from DHFC on Vimeo.

Dinesh D’Souza: This has been a quite eventful year for me.  I just got married a couple of weeks ago, by the way. Thank you. And my wife, Debbie, is here.  I had actually asked her – she’s a singer – and I’d asked her if she’d sing before I spoke, but she said, “No, I’ve actually got a better offer.  I’m going to be singing tonight at dinner.”  So she’s obviously getting a bit too big for her boots, but she’ll be performing tonight, and you’ll have a chance to hear her and I hope meet her.

It’s been eventful for me in other ways.  As some of you know, I completed eight months of overnight penance in a confinement center for my sins against the campaign finance laws.  Now, I don’t want to go into all that, but I just want to say it’s taught me a couple of things I want to begin with.  The first thing I realized is that it got me to think hard about the issue of justice because if we think about it, modern liberalism and particularly the Democratic Party, builds its whole argument on the basis of justice.  Very often we, as Republicans or as conservatives or as libertarians, we appeal to a rival principle.  And that principle is freedom.  And so we get into this political struggle, and we play the king, freedom, but then they play the ace, justice, and then they win the hand.  Why?  Because justice is actually the primary virtue of any society.  Freedom does not trump it.

In fact, in some sense, freedom is subordinate to justice.  Why?  Because freedom is a principle that has a good and a bad side.  In other words, we can always think of reasonable deprivations of freedom.  People are deprived of freedom all the time, not just kids but adults.  But there is no such thing as good injustice.  Injustice is always bad.  And also, injustice makes the blood boil in a way that deprivations of freedom don’t.

So the reason I say this is because it seems to me that conceding the issue of justice to the Democrats, to the left, is a very dangerous political strategy.  I, of course, got my own taste of this in the peculiar field of criminal justice.  And of course, did I exceed the campaign finance law?  Yes, I did.  But right at the same time my case was migrating through the courts, another guy, another Asian Indian guy named Chuck Wall – we Asian Indians appear to specialize in the campaign finance violation area.  Well, in any event, this dude gave $180,000.00 in straw donations to Hillary Clinton and a whole slew of Democrats – by the way, I gave $20,000.00 over the limit.  I got eight months of confinement in this center that’s under the bureau of prisons of the Obama Administration.  Chuck Wall got nothing.  He got a fine and some community service.  No prison, no confinement.  So obviously, justice isn’t just a matter of “you break the law,” but was the penalty proportioned to the crime?  Did other guys who did the same thing get roughly the same penalty?  

In any event, I find myself in this remarkable confinement center, which, by the way, is not kind of a white collar prison.  It’s, in some ways, worse because in white collar prison, it’s basically mayors and dentists and doctors who defrauded Medicare, and I’m told they have an activities director.  But a confinement center is a transition point for all criminals to go back to society.  And so, if you did attempted murder and served 15 years or you were a drug smuggler or a coyote, you go to the confinement center before you go back to the street.  So I had the whole gamut of hoodlums for about eight months.  And initially, it was, I have to admit, a little bit of a terrifying experience because it was primarily Hispanic; it’s on the Mexican border.  A lot of these guys are in groups and gangs, and the gang structure is kind of byzantine because even among the Mexicans, who are the majority, there are the U.S. Mexicans, who are called south-siders; there are the Mexicans from Mexico.  So I thought to myself, I can’t talk to this guy; that guy’s going to want to kill me.  So I kept to myself.  I considered, but rejected, the idea of starting my own gang, the Asian Indian gang.

But after a couple of months, I thought to myself, look, I can’t do this.  I need a different approach because I’m a conservative in a place where conservatives rarely go.  I mean, I’m not going to walk down the confinement center and run into George Will or Charles Krauthammer.  It’s kind of a unique spot.  I’m an anthropologist in a strange land.  So let me investigate, and so I began to talk to people.  And eight months later, I must say, I’ve learned a lot about what I’m going to call the ideology of the criminal underclass.  The ideology of the criminal underclass I previously was kind of unfamiliar with.  I mainly got my ideas on the subject from the Shawshank Redemption.  So I expected most of these guys to vehemently insist on their own innocence. But I discovered, in getting to know them, that most of these guys have a different view, a rather more nuanced and somewhat more interesting view.  And that view is that we did it.  We’re guilty.  But we are the small fry.  We are actually the stupid criminals because that’s why we’re here; we got caught.  The big fry never get caught.  The big fry are at large and the system doesn’t go after them because, as it turns out, they run the system.  

Now, this got me scratching my head because one thing I realized is that this ideology, if you call it – by the way, by no means unique to the criminal class.  It’s also the ideology of the philosopher Machiavelli.  Writing about the ancients, Machiavelli says that their mistake is that they focus on imagined powers and principalities, which have never in truth been known to exist.  In other words, what Machiavelli’s saying is we focus on the world as it ought to be.  And this is also a political debate: things ought to be this way, they ought to be that way.  But Machiavelli’s point is, let’s look at the world as it actually is.  Let’s look at the world in the face straight on.  And that’s a perspective that I had not fully comprehended before, and here’s what I mean by that.  

I have tended, as most conservatives, most of us who are in the conservative intellectual class, we look at American politics as a debate.  It’s a debate between two sides, and these two sides have rival ideologies, and they stand for one thing, and we stand for another thing.  And we believe in freedom and they believe in social justice. And we believe in equality of rights and they believe in equality of outcomes and blah, blah, blah.  Now, the ideology of the criminals is that this whole way of looking at the world is nonsense.  People aren’t motivated in reality by debates.  People are actually motivated by things like avarice and lust and hatred and revenge and fear, and that those are the real motives of human existence, and those are the real motives of politics. And so politics must be understood that way.  And so I began to think about Obama and about Hillary and about what’s going on in American politics.  

And again, we’re always trying to educate the other side.  We have all kinds of conferences.  This is all part of what can be called the ongoing Obama education project.  We’re trying to show Obama the way the world really is.  ”Hey, Obama, we want to remind you that Vladimir Putin used to be a KGB officer.”  ”Hey, Obama, if the Iranian mullahs say they want to build a bomb, they probably do.”  ”Hey, Obama, confiscatory tax rates are not good for economic growth.”  Well, this elaborate educational project has now been going on for eight years with what can only be described as hopeless results.  Obama is an unbelievably slow learner.  Why?  Not because he’s a dummy, no; because he’s about something else.  Something else is going on. And I want to try to put my finger on what that is.  In a sense what I wanted to argue is that the progressives – one reason we look at foreign policy – they don’t understand this, they don’t understand that.  Well, why not?  Why don’t they understand this?  Why wouldn’t Hillary take the Benghazi phone calls?  Why did she set up a private server?  How do we explain the underlying rationale for why intelligent people would do these things?  

I want to argue or suggest – and I argue the case more fully in my book – that the progressives are about a very serious business, and that is the business of stealing America.  Stealing America.  Now what does that mean?  Does that mean take over the federal government, the $3 trillion of the U.S. economy?  No.  Does it mean taking over the entire economy?  $17 or $19 trillion of wealth?  No.  Think about what is the most valuable thing that the world has ever produced.  Is it the telegraph?  Is it the automobile?  Is it the airplane?  The computer?  No.  The most valuable thing – I’m not talking about an idea.  I’m talking about an actual thing – that the world has ever produced is the United States of America.  The entire wealth of the whole country, all the land and all the stuff and all the money in all your bank accounts and all in your savings accounts and all the furniture in your home and your TV, add it all up.  It’s about $75 trillion.  That is the biggest stash of dough ever accumulated in world history.  And naturally, thieves are extremely interested.  

Now, in my view, what’s going on in America today is there is a vicious battle between two groups of people for control of that wealth.  By the way, the progressives aren’t about – they aren’t socialists.  If you really think about it, they’re way too lazy to be socialists because a socialist is about the government controlling the means of production.  It’s about the government going and drilling for oil in Midland, Texas.  You think Bernie Sanders wants to drill for oil in Midland, Texas?  No!  He wants the people in Midland to drill the oil, and then put it into barrels and then label it, and then he wants to step in and control what happens to it.  So what’s going on is that we have wealth created in America and we have a sly, clever, powerful group of people – not all of them in politics, some of them in the media, some of them in academia – and they want to get their hands on that wealth.  They want to control it.  They want your wealth.  They don’t just want to raise your tax rate from 39 percent to 42.  They want to take your stuff.  All of it.  

Now, I want to pivot because I want to talk a little bit about our situation.  We often in conferences talk about what’s the problem, but we don’t focus on what actually can be done. What can I do? What can you do to frontally attack this problem?  And I want to say a little word about that.  We’re obviously in an election year, and a great deal hinges on the election.  But I remember two years ago, a great deal hinged on the midterm election and lots of people would say to me, “Well, what do you think? The Republicans are going to take the Senate.”  Well, the Republicans took the Senate, control both the House and the Senate, and not a whole lot changed.  Well, why not?  Well because Boehner’s a wimp and McConnell’s a wimp.  But why are they wimps?  Do they want Obama to succeed?  In my view, no.  They’re wimps because they’re terrified of the media.  They know that the media can destroy them.  And I don’t just mean expose them.  I mean, comedians will ridicule them, and they will become laughing stocks, and then they won’t even be invited by David Horowitz to speak at his conference. Our own side will bury them.  They know that.  Another way of saying it is, I’m saying that while we have – and David is by no means guilty of this; he’s been part of the solution here – but most conservatives focus on the election in a huddle in one corner of the battlefield. And the left has taken over the powerful, I won’t just say “institutions” of our culture.  They’ve taken over all the big megaphones.  So Hollywood is a huge megaphone.  Broadway is a pretty big megaphone. The left controls the whole structure of American comedy.  They’ve got Bill Maher, they’ve got Colbert, they’ve got Jon Stewart.  Who do we have?  Pretty much nobody, nobody and nobody.  We’ve seeded this ground.  They control the universities.  The more elite the university, the stronger is their hold on it.  So we’ve allowed this ground to slip away.  And so, long term, I don’t think we can beat them if we let this go on.

As you know I’ve been a writer most of my career and a speaker, think-tank guy from AEI and Hoover.  I’ve pivoted in my career and now moved into trying to tackle these areas where the left is so strong.  I want to say a word about movies.  We’re making a film.  It’s called “Hillary’s America.”  My plan is to release it in July about the week of the Democratic convention.  That way, they have their narrative and we have a counter-narrative.  And this film is not – well, my earlier film four years ago was just about Obama, kind of the secret history about Obama.  This film is a secret history not just of Hillary, but of the Democratic Party.  And here, there is a huge argument that to my knowledge has never been publicly hashed out, which is, which is actually the party of emancipation and human rights and civil rights and equality of rights; which historically and now is the party that stands for these things?  Well, the Democratic Party says, “We are.  That’s our MO.  That’s what we do.”  And what we show in this film is not just the Democratic Party was the party of slavery, but the Democratic Party was also the party of segregation and Jim Crow and the Ku Klux Klan and lynching.  It was also the party of Japanese internment and forced sterilization and sympathy for fascism in the 1930s.  This is their history.

To which the Democrats come back and say, “Oh, gee, yeah, well, yes, that’s all kind of true.  But we switched.  We became enlightened, and all the racists who were in the south all became Republicans.”  This is the theory of the “big switch” and this argument has never been frontally attacked by our side.  We’ve kind of conceded it’s true and yet the whole argument hinges on about three examples, mostly focusing on one man, Strom Thurmond.  The truth of it is there are about 1,200 racist Democrats who were elected to the Senate, the House, governors, all kinds of top officers in the Democratic Party for most of the 20th century.  About eight of them became Republicans.  Most of the dixiecrats remained Democrats all their life.  

Now, it’s one thing to say this.  It’s something completely different to show it.  This is the great power of film because film is an emotional medium, and if you put things that are true on film, you can settle the argument emotionally in a way that you can’t do just through intellectual argument because intellectual argument at the end of the day ends up as ”you think this and I think that.”  So we’re releasing the film in July.  It exposes Hillary as part of a longstanding Democratic tradition of exploitation, subjugation and theft.  If you think about it, slavery was theft, theft of another guy’s labor, making another guy work for you for free.  Lincoln called it “you work, I eat.”  That’s the essence of slavery.  Similarly today, when the Democrats have built their whole ideology on taking from one guy and giving it to another – now this giving to another is very suspicious.  

I’ll just say one word about Hillary here because the Democrats don’t really give a whole lot.  Hillary has this big education proposal.  Free education, a $350 billion program.  Now let’s think about that.  Who is Hilary giving free education to?  Young people.  Where is she going to get the money to do it?  The government is $19 trillion in debt, so you have to borrow.  But who is the national debt going to be handed off to?  Young people.  So what Hillary is really doing is she’s not actually transferring money, she’s reaching into the young guy’s back pocket, lifting his wallet, taking money out of his own future earnings, giving some of it back to him now and acting like she’s doing something wonderful for this person.  She’s not even robbing Peter to pay Paul.  She’s robbing Paul to pay Paul and counting on Paul to be too dumb to see that he is actually paying for his own education.  So who benefits from all this?  The one who benefits the most is Hillary because she granted all these people a free education without it costing her a penny from the hundreds of millions of dollars that she’s personally accumulated or touching the $2 billion in the Clinton Foundation.  She doesn’t have to spend a cent of it.  She gets to be a philanthropist on the public purse.  

Now, the movie, as I said, opens in July.  Some of you will know this already, but it is a secret of movies that the success of a film is dependent upon opening weekend.  Well, the movie will open pretty big, probably 1,500 theaters.  We’ll have all kinds of momentum that we didn’t have in 2012.  But if the movie does well in opening weekend, we’ll go from 1,200 theaters to 2,000 theaters the next week.  If we do poorly, we’ll go to 800 theaters the next week.  And so the point being that it’s very important for us to make this movie work.  People say I want to get the movie to independent voters.  The way to do that is to actually help to put some fuel in our rocket opening weekend and trying to see it if you can or organize a bunch of friends to go see it opening weekend.  

So I was talking the other day at a women’s Republican group in Texas, and the women there were saying, “Well, gee, Dinesh, we don’t really know what we can do in this election because Texas is going to fall in the Republican camp.  This is red America.  What can we do?”  And what I said was, “Listen, the names and addresses of all the independent voters in the swing states in this country are known.  That number is not that large; let’s say a million people in Florida and Colorado and North Carolina and Ohio, and our team actually has their names and addresses.  So you’re in Texas, true, but there’s nothing to stop you as a group from buying a bunch of DVDs.  If you find this messaging to be powerful, if you believe it’s messaging that the Republican National Committee or the campaigns officially won’t do or can’t do, you can drop a DVD of this film at a kind of infinitesimal cost right in the mailbox of every independent voter who will decide this election.  That’s something that you can do, not for millions or even tens of thousands of dollars.  Each DVD will probably cost you two or three bucks.  And so this is a way to make yourself a lethal force in American politics, essentially harnessing your own power and the power of all the people around you to actually drop a grenade into the other camp.“ 

Long-term, I think we have to do more, and what I mean by that is we have to think of ways to combat the left’s monopoly in education, in media and in Hollywood.  Long-term we have to do that.  But short-term, we are all today much more powerful than we realize, and if we harness that power effectively, creatively, I think that we can discover that right in this room, there is bottled up, most unfortunately, an influence in our life, most of it’s unused, but I think we should find a way this year when your country needs you to uncork the influence that you have and use it effectively for the betterment of your country.  Thank you very much.

Moderator: Thank you.  We have time for two questions.  

Audience Member: What weekend in July will it open?  And how will we know?  

Dinesh D’Souza: The movie will open – well, the Republican convention is in Cleveland and it goes first for a week and the Democratic convention is next.  Our plan is to do our premier in Cleveland.  We’ll do a premier in LA as well the week – we’re going to do a premier in Cleveland the week of the Republican convention and then open wide the week of the Democratic convention.  And how will you know?  You’ll know because it will be out there in a big way.

Audience Member: Thanks for coming, Dinesh.  I’m a mom of two boys and very frustrated with what’s going on in this country and trying to raise my boys knowing what they’re being taught at school is not reality.  I like that you touched upon talking to us about what we can do because one of my frustrations is that I feel like I know all this information, but I don’t know what to do with it to make a difference.  I’m excited about your movie.  I’ve told my friends about it.  How do we go about getting copies of it to disseminate it to people?

Dinesh D’Souza: So the peculiarity of movies is that they open by contract. You have to stay in the theater for three months.  So the movie will open in the middle of July.  It will be in the theater through the middle of September.  So there will be just a window of a month and a half or so when the movie pivots to DVD.  But again, it will, at that point be everywhere.  It’ll be in Redbox. It’ll be on Netflix.  It’ll be everywhere, and there will be easy ways at that point to get DVDs and, obviously, if you want to do this in bulk, you should contact me and I’ll give you an email and a place to stay in touch with us.  The other thing is if you wanted to buy out a theater opening weekend, hugely helpful to us.  Again, don’t put up the money for the whole theater. Organize a bunch of your friends and go just make an evening of it.  Hugely helpful to us.  We’d like to work with you in doing that and I’ll be trying to organize that on a national scale.  So those are two thoughts about ways to help.

Moderator: We’ll take one last question in the back.  Okay.

Audience Member: What is the name of the movie going to be?  

Dinesh D’Souza: The movie is called “Hillary’s America” and the subtitle is “The secret history of the Democratic Party.”

Moderator: Dinesh, thank you so much.

Dinesh D’Souza: Thank you.