A friend emailed me a recent review of Dinesh D’Souza’s blockbuster film, 2016: Obama’s America, which is now the second largest-grossing political documentary of all-time. The review was done by an AP writer. My friend found it interesting that of all the criticisms made by the reviewer, there was no mention of Frank Marshall Davis — the literal (no exaggeration) card-carrying communist who was a mentor to a young Obama in Hawaii, and whom I briefly discuss with D’Souza in the film. I’m not surprised. My book on Davis, The Communist: Frank Marshall Davis, The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mentor, made the New York Times bestseller list, but I still haven’t received a single inquiry from anyone in the mainstream press — proof that I have my facts right.
Speaking of facts, the title of the AP review was “FACT CHECK: ‘Anti-colonial’ Obama not Plausible.” I disagree with several of the criticisms made by the reviewer, but I’d like to focus more generally on the claim in the headline, which is being advanced by liberals generally as a chief criticism of D’Souza’s film.
Is an “‘anti-colonial’ Obama not plausible?” Hardly.
In Dreams from My Father, the focus of the D’Souza film, Obama uses words like “colonial,” “colonialism,” or “neocolonialism” 17 times, plus associated words like “imperialism” (among others) three times. Phrases used in the book (sometimes by people Obama quotes) include “colonial administration,” “colonial West,” “white colonials,” “serving the interests of neo-colonialism,” and even a line about Christian missionaries bringing not religion but (allegedly) colonialism. In Dreams from My Father, Obama talks about arriving at Occidental College in 1979, just after getting bitter parting advice from Frank Marshall Davis on “the American way and all that sh-t.” There, at Occidental, Obama recalls: “At night, in the dorms, we discussed neocolonialism, Franz Fanon, Eurocentrism.” In that one sentence are multiple powerful/synonymous anti-colonial references, especially to Fanon, who was a militantly anti-colonial writer.
Those are simply Obama anti-colonial references in Dreams from My Father, far from the only source that could be entered into this conversation. There’s also the whole ongoing controversy over things like President Obama removing the Churchill bust from the Oval Office, which D’Souza mentions in the film. To the extent that such an action was an Obama statement against Churchill, D’Souza is certainly justified in linking the action to anti-colonial views by Obama. Churchill was a colonialist.
Generally speaking, however, it shouldn’t surprise anyone — especially liberals — that Barack Obama would be anti-colonial. Why wouldn’t he be? What’s up with liberals on this? I attended the same universities and lectures they have for the past 30 years. Anti-colonialism and American imperialism were the daily dogma. We were indoctrinated with those views. The political left is vehemently anti-colonial. Everyone knows that. Why wouldn’t Barack Obama be anti-colonial, especially given his upbringing? Why the defensiveness by liberals? Do liberals want Obama to be pro-colonial?
This would be like conservatives getting upset at claims that Ronald Reagan was anti-communist.
My only addendum to this conversation on Obama’s anti-colonialism relates to its sources. As noted, in D’Souza’s movie I talk about Frank Marshall Davis, Obama’s mentor. (See Paul Kengor’s cover feature on Davis in the current American Spectator.) Davis met with Obama a lot. How often? We don’t know. I’ve been told everything from a few times to weekly, the latter of which I cannot confirm. David Maraniss contends that Obama and Davis met upwards of 15 times — surely a conservative estimate that is nonetheless 15 times the number of times that Obama met with his Kenyan father, the inspiration for the title of his memoirs; that is, his Dreams.
As I document at great length, Davis was not only flagrantly pro-communist but flagrantly anti-colonialist. For instance, Davis attacked Winston Churchill and Harry Truman — Westerners opposing Stalin — as colonialists, not to mention imperialists, fascists, and racists. He vilified the Marshall Plan as “white imperialism” and “colonial slavery.” He wrote of the Marshall Plan, “I have watched with growing shame for my America as our leaders have used our golden riches to re-enslave the yellow and brown and black peoples of the world.”
I scanned Davis’s 1949-50 writings for the Honolulu Record, the Communist Party newspaper he wrote for. Colonialism dominated his writings. The word “colonial” or “colonialism” is used 17 times in those columns (ironically, the same number as Obama’s references in Dreams from My Father).
Did Obama get his colonial views from Frank Marshall Davis as much (if not more) than his father? That’s plausible. And we could get some of these answers if mainstream media sources like the AP — which have access to Obama that the likes of D’Souza and I don’t — would simply ask the president an occasional hard question about his upbringing; that is, an occasional fact-check.
To the contrary, that task is apparently left to conservatives. For doing so, we get fact-checked.
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