Historians say Dinesh D’Souza lured them under false pretenses to interview for new pro-Trump filmHistorians in the News
tags: Lincoln, Nazi, Democrats, Trump, Dinesh DSouza, Death of a Nation
In Death of a Nation, filmmaker and conservative provocateur Dinesh D’Souza continues the argument he made in his 2017 book The Big Lie, claiming that today’s Democratic Party is carrying on the legacy of slavery, racism and fascism in America and that President Donald Trump is the only one who can carry on the legacy of Abraham Lincoln to save the country from destruction.
“The Progressive Democrats are the true racists,” D’Souza says in the film. “They are the true fascists. They want to steal our income. They want to steal our earnings and our wealth and our freedom and our lives. They’re trying to kill America by killing the economic, and political, and religious freedom of Americans.”
D’Souza is a singularly effective conservative propagandist. He’s made three of the top ten most lucrative political documentaries of all time. In Death of a Nation, he brags that the success of his last film, Hillary’s America, helped elect Trump, who then pardonedD’Souza for the director’s felony charge of making illegal campaign donations.
The definition of “fascism” has historically been a challenge to nail down. Many of the world’s best historians argue that fascism is neither explicitly left-wing nor right-wing, but a form of nationalistic political behavior that, in moments of crisis, uses militant populism to subvert democracy and put a stop to socialist uprisings. Scholars and experts have accused D’Souza of cherry-picking from history in his books and films to argue that fascism is a purely left-wing, progressive ideology.
For his part, the filmmaker has suggested that because fascist governments have often implemented large social programs, all modern welfare programs are fascist. He also likes to compare modern progressives who favor raising taxes to Nazis since Adolf Hitler’s party seized the property of Jews in Europe.
So why would top experts of actual fascist history entertain the notion of sitting down for an interview and giving credibility to D’Souza’s historical claims? In some cases, because D’Souza’s team reportedly hid the true nature of the project from plain sight.
Robert Paxton, one of the preeminent historians of fascism and the author of one of the most highly cited definitionsof the term, said in an email that he was “drawn into an interview with Dinesh D’Souza under false pretenses.” And though Paxton is the only fascist historian who was explicitly duped into eventually appearing in the film, he’s not the only one who was approached without knowing what kind of film the producers were making.
It’s not an interview Paxton would have given had he known he was sitting down with the director who has taken several shots at him over the years.
Last year, D’Souza accused Paxton of being a partisan hackand in The Big Lie, D’Souza wrote that Paxton refuses to admit that fascism is a leftist ideology so that he can maintain “his scholarly bona fides.” D’Souza concludes in a chapter called “Falsifying History” that Paxton is lying by omission, and decides Paxton is not even really a scholar of fascism.
So while it might seem strange for a scholar who once testified as an expert in a trial for Nazi collaborators in France to agree to appear in a documentary directed by one of his harshest critics, Paxton says there’s a simple explanation — he was never told he’d be sitting down to participate in a D’Souza’s film. ...
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