I'm always alert to stories that can take my blog tag "insect politics."
And I love lawprof/public intellectual Stanley Fish, who's written many cool books and in recent years has been doing a column on the NYT website. I was already delighted to see that Fish had put up a new column on the Dinesh D'Souza movie "2016: Obama's America," but my delight bubbled over into ecstasy when I arrived at the insect politics:
Unlike the once glorious but fallen empires [D'Souza] recalls reading about as a child in India, America, he declares, is an “empire of ideals” — individual rights, freedom of choice, upward mobility limited only by your willingness to work hard; and the fact that the nation has not always lived up to its ideals is a testament to the power they exert even as they are being breached.Ant-colonialist authors! This sounds very brutal! I thought Obama was the "empathy" guy, that he was 22 points out ahead of Romney when people were asked who cares about you. But now... No compassion. Whatever happened to the dream?
In contrast, Obama, first at Columbia and later at Harvard, is influenced by leftist teachers like Edward Said and Roberto Unger, immerses himself in texts by Marxist, feminist and ant-colonialist authors, and thus fleshes out the lineaments of “his father’s third world collectivism.”
[D'Souza] rejects birtherism, the contention that Obama was born in Kenya and is hence not an American citizen; but he replaces it with a back-door, or metaphorical, birtherism when he characterizes Obama as an alien being, as a fifth-column party of one who has pretended to be an American, and technically is one, but really is something else.You mean... the ant-colonialist?
Now, let's get serious. Fish says D'Souza "founders on the fallacy of assuming that the adjective 'American' has a fixed meaning with which everyone, or everyone who is right-thinking and patriotic, agrees." Here we go! No fixed meaning... Fish himself is was part of the intellectual stew in which young Obama was immersed in college and law school.
But the meaning of America is continually contested in essays, books, backyard conversations, talk shows and, most of all, in elections. It is often said, and it is true, that the opposing parties in an election have “different visions for America.” There are many ways of describing the alternative visions offered to us in a year like this; but describing one of them as un-American and its proponent as a foreign intruder is not to further discussion but to foreclose it and to replace the contest of ideas with the rhetoric of demonization.Let's assume Fish is right and "the meaning of America is continually contested." D'Souza is simply fighting hard in that contest. He's got a powerful argument. And Fish wants D'Souza to disarm. You can't make that argument. It doesn't "further discussion." It "foreclose[s] it." Another way to put that is: D'Souza is winning the argument! It's too good of an argument. It doesn't give the other side enough of a chance to win. Hey, if it's a contest, both sides get to fight.
Fish says D'Souza's ideas are not ideas. Is that an idea? Fish says D'Souza is doing "demonization." Is Fish demonizing D'Souza? Who gets to say what can be said in this contest over the meaning of America? Must one side don boxing gloves while the other side punches back — "twice as hard" — bare-fisted?