The Republic of T.

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The Rise and Fall of Dinesh D’Souza?

Yeah, yeah. Everybody’s talking about the presidential debate; the one where Obama finally showed up. I might have something to say about it, if I can think of something that hasn’t already been said thousands of times since the candidates left the building last night. But enough about the presidential election. Is anyone enjoying the implosion of Dinesh D’Souza nearly as much as I am?

Call it schadenfreude, if you want. That’s fine by me. Normally, I’m not one to wallow in someone else’s misery, but right now if I had a bucket of D’Souza’s misfortune, I’d dump it on the floor and roll around in it. The shit hit the fan in D’Souza’s private and public lives this week, and and he got sprayed with it from head to toe. It couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.

The Rise

Dinesh D’Souza has been around for a while. He jumped on the right-wing gravy train back in the 1990s, and has become one of the premier right-wing media mouthpieces. One of the things the right does very well that the left doesn’t is that they recruit their water-carriers young and take very good care of them. That’s how the right essentially bought themselves a movement.

Right-wing foundations have developed a truly comprehensive funding strategy, providing grants to a broad range of groups, each promoting right-wing positions to their specific audiences. The grants have created and nurtured an enormous range of organizations all bent on promoting a far-right-wing agenda. Recipients of foundation largesse include the right-wing media; national “think tanks” and advocacy groups; a budding network of regional and state-based think tanks; conservative university programs; conservative college newspapers; conservative scholars and more. In many of these funding areas, progressive and mainstream foundation giving lags far behind.

Is there any wonder that there no equivalent “left-wing” media, and that prospects remain dim for building a progressive media to match the right’s?

Conservative’s can afford to give away freebies like Human Events and the Washington Examiner, meanwhile progressive outlets like the Prospect go begging or go under. It looks like progressives can’t manage to keep our own media alive. The question is: Why?

I’ll repeat the story of the time I moderated the blogger forum at a well-known progressive conference. The discussion focused on how to amplify the progressive message in Washington, or some such. Natasha Chart spoke first, and spoke very eloquently about the difficulty of doing just that as a blogger, often without the benefit of a salary or health insurance. Natasha’s story is one example of the reality many progressive activists live with. Maria Leavey — who worked tirelessly behind the scenes to promote progressive voices in the media, lacked health insurance, without a salary or health insurance, and died of heart disease that might otherwise have been detected and treated —  is another.

Natasha went on to speak about the need to support those who are already doing that important work. She talked about the time invested in doing that work, and how it’s difficult to impossible to do it on a volunteer basis. She made the case that if we want a strong progressive voice in DC, in the media, etc., we’re going to have to invest in it.

The first response to what Natasha had to say came from a woman who was quick to say (and rather vehemently at that), “Well, I didn’t come here to talk about getting jobs for bloggers.”

That, to me, said it all. It still does.

The right has a media infrastructure because they invested in it. They have no shortage of talent, because they seek out young talent, nurture it, support it, and promote it when ready for primetime. As long as one doesn’t stray too far from the fold, you’ll find a place somewhere. (Let’s face it. There are people earning a good living in conservative media who would probably not be able to get a job anywhere else.) In fact, you could end up with a paycheck for life — and a substantial one at that.

We are not letting ours die. We’ve never really had one in the first place, because we’ve never really owned it as a movement — certainly not to the degree conservatives have. It’s something that’s been built up in a piecemeal fashion by the apocryphal “bloggers in pajamas,” but not really supported in strategic fashion. Progressives got the jump on conservatives online, but they will catch up to us for the same reasons they’ve left us in the dust when it comes to other media.

D’Souza’s career is an excellent example of the above. He gained notice while attending Dartmouth, where he became the editor of conservative monthly called The Prospect, which published some controversial editorials criticizing the school’s affirmative action policy, among other things. He also founded the Dartmouth Review, an “an independent student publication subsidized by alumni and organizations not affiliated with Dartmouth College,” which caused another controversy when it printed a passage from Mein Kampf under its masthead — on Yom Kippur.

After Darthmouth, D’Souza moved to Washington, DC, followed the course laid out above. He edited the Heritage Foundation’s  Policy Review (since acquired by the Hoover Institution), from 1985 to 1987. He left there in 1988, to serve as an advisor in the Reagan White House. In 1989, D’Souza became a fellow of the American Enterprise Institute, before finally becoming a felow at the Hoover Institute, where he apparently remained until he was named president of The King’s College — “a Christian liberal arts college” currently located next door to the New York Stock Exchange.

In the meantime, D’Souza earned his keep dutifully carrying the water for the conservative right, publishing more than a dozen books, and recently even branching out into documentary film-making with 2016: Obama’s America. (Indeed, D’Souza’s film is one of a surprising number of right-wind documentaries that serve as further evidence of how much American conservatives have invested their media infrastructure.)

D’Souza is among those “conservatives of color” who have benefited from the Obama era, and the right-wing’s resulting need for brown-skinned spokespersons to carry their message. D’Souza’s 2010 bestseller, The Roots of Obama’s Rage (in which D’Souza denounced President Obama as an “anti-colonialist”) , and his 2012 Obama’s America: Unmaking the American Dream (and its accompanying documentary) brightened his media spotlight considerably. Just, it turns out, when things really got hot.

The Fall?

By now, it’s been widely reported that Dinesh D’Souza got caught having a fiance when he still has a wife.

Dinesh D’Souza, who when not touting conservative documentary 2016: Obama’s America or being the president of upstart Manhattan Christian school King’s College, was caught by evangelical news magazine World introducing a young blonde woman (shown above holding his book) to attendees at an evangelical Christian conference as his fiancée—even though he was still married to his wife of 20 years.

World reporter Warren Cole Smith saw D’Souza at a church event in South Carolina on Sept. 28 where the author and filmmaker was a keynote speaker. The speech itself was a hit, earning him “a standing ovation and a long line at the book-signing table,” but something was a little unusual. D’Souza was accompanied by Denise Odie Joseph II, and he was introducing her as his fiancée. They even spent the night together: 

Near 11 p.m., event organizer Tony Beam escorted D’Souza and Joseph to the nearby Comfort Suites. Beam noted that they checked in together and were apparently sharing a room for the night in the sold-out hotel. The next morning, around 6 a.m., Beam arrived back at the hotel and called up to D’Souza’s room. “We’ll be down in 10 minutes,” D’Souza told Beam. D’Souza and Joseph came down together

The Christian organizers were not happy about this. One “distressed” organizer confronted D’Souza about it, but D’Souza said “nothing happened” in the hotel room. And when Smith followed up on October 4, D’Souza claimed he’d filed for divorce from his wife Dixie “recently.” But by recently, he meant really recently: San Diego court records showed he had filed on that very day, October 4, and six days after they were spotted together in South Carolina. In California, the filing starts a six-month waiting period for final separation.

Shall I go ahead and get the obligatory explanation out of the way? I’m truly not that interested in D’Souza’s private affairs or who he’s sleeping with. Surely conservatives who supported the impeachment of Bill Clinton can understand what I mean when I say, “It’s not the sex, it’s the hypocrisy.”

This is a guy, after all, who wrote in his 2007 book The Enemy At Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11 that the answer to the post-9/11 question regarding the Muslim world — “Why do they hate us” — was “our excesses” and our “gross depravity and immorality,” and the answer was basically that we should be more like them.

This is a guy wade his bread and butter as an evangelical media moralist.

I can’t stomach too much delving into D’Souza’s writing, but here, courtesy of Amazon’s “search inside” function, are a few excerpts on marriage and morality from his book, What’s So Great About Christianity:

  • “…abortion, adultery, and homosexual marriage, can be largely understood as a clash between traditional morality and secular morality.” (page 252)
  • “As fallible human beings we can be wrong about a lot of things but we cannot be wrong in how we feel about someone else. At the same time, Christianity emphasized that free choice should also be binding choice. As we have consented to marry without coercion, we should live up to our vows and preserve marriage as a lifelong commitment.”  (page 60)
  • “Christianity did not contest patriarchy, but it elevated the status of women within it. The Christian prohibition on adultery – a sin viewed as equally serious for men and women – placed a moral leash on the universal double standard that commanded women to behave themselves while men did as they pleased.” (page 69)
  • “High rates of divorce in the West can be accounted for by the moral force generated by the secular ethic. Today the woman who leaves her husband says, ‘I felt called to leave. My life would have been a waste if I stayed. My marriage had become a kind of prison. I just had to follow my heart and go with Ted.’ So divorce has become, as it never was before, a form of personal liberation, what Barbara Dafoe Whitehead terms ‘expressive divorce.’ Here we have the first hint of a serious problem with secular morality. In its central domain, that of love, it is notoriously fickle.” (page 256-7)

It turns out D’Souza has lots in common with his hotel roomie Denise Joseph.  Wonkette culled from Joseph’s Facebook writings a few Ann Coulter-ish denunciations of feminists and liberals and their rejection of “traditional morality” and “traditional institutions such as marriage.”

This is a guy who is against my marriage, violated his own, and has the gall to say he’s done nothing wrong.

Normally, I would say this is none of our business. It’s his life and this is between him and his wife and any other people directly involved and that’s it. But D’Souza is a conservative Christian who has a history of speaking out against gay marriage because he thinks it’ll ruin “traditional” unions:

Marriage requires a) two people who are b) of legal age and c) not closely related to each other who are d) one male and one female. Note that this definition excludes people who want to marry children, or guys who want to marry their sisters, or Muslims who want to take four wives, or that strange guy who wants to marry his dog.

What would a President Obama do, for instance, to protect traditional marriage? Here the answer appears to be: nothing!

Guy marrying his male partner of many years? Unconstitutional! he says.

Sleeping with your mistress while you’re still technically married? D’Souza’s totally cool with it.

That’s why this story matters. Conservative Christians love to tell other people they have no right getting married because it goes against God’s Will. When they themselves break the rules, though, it’s just a “sin” that needs a bit of correcting. This is why you never see Christian groups trying to outlaw divorce — they don’t really care about maintaining “traditional” families. They only care about maintaining their own power, which means putting down same-sex marriage in the process.

The Right Wing will no doubt just brush this off. To them, D’Souza’s marriage is worth more than that of a gay couple in a long-term relationship. Good luck making sense of that.

So, you’ll pardon me if I’m savoring his potential downfall.

I say potential downfall because this may not be D’Souza’s downfall, for the very reasons stated above. Newt Gingrich once said to his then-wife Marriane, when she asked how he could ask to tolerate his affair with another woman and then turn around and fly off to deliver a speech about family values, “People want to hear what I have to say. It doesn’t matter what I do.”

And it didn’t. After all, Newt’s scandalous past didn’t hurt his political career. He spent 37 years either running for office, holding office, lobbying elected officials, or cashing in on his status as a former congressman and Speaker. Gingrich was actually a serious contender for the GOP presidential nomination, for a hot minute.

Conservatives have this curious way of forgiving in their own what they viciously and gleefully punish in others. (Case in point: Rush Limbaugh.) D’Souza is under “investigation” by the board at The King’s College. But it’s unlikely that this scandal will cost D’Souza his job. After all, the TKC board already knew about D’Souza’s “marital troubles.”

The King’s College board chairman, Andy Mills, has known about D’Souza’s marital troubles for at least two years, spokesman Mark DeMoss said.

“While our board had been aware of some of these details, we were not aware of others,” the board said in a statement.

The board said it held a conference call with D’Souza on Monday and plans to review the situation during its previously scheduled meetings on Wednesday and Thursday in New York.

“In the meantime,” it said, “be assured we take seriously our charge to teach a compelling worldview rooted in the Bible and expect all of our leaders to model Christian character and integrity in their public and private lives.”

I would love to have been on the line for that conference call. Reading between the lines, it almost sounds like the TKC board knew that D’Souza’s chief “marital trouble” was that he had a “chick on the side,” but could at least claim plausible deniability as long as they didn’t know who the other woman was.

D’Souza’s real “sin” may have been one of dumb indiscretion. How dumb do you have to be to share a hotel room with your mistress, under your own name? It’s not hard to figure out.

  1. Always arrive separately, never together.
  2. One of you checks in under an assumed name.
  3. If you must both check in, get separate rooms under assumed names.
  4. If the hotel is sold out, one of you checks into another hotel, again under an assumed name.
  5.  Always depart separately, never together.

Getting caught, and thus damaging the credibility of not only his brand but its investors, is probably D’Souza’s biggest problem. But it’s not a deal-breaker. His film is doing well at the box office and at Salvation Army screenings. Money talks. D’Souza may have to do some time in the wilderness, but as long as he’s sufficiently repentant, he’ll probably stay on the payroll. He may even “un-suspend” his engagement to Ms. Joseph, after things cool off.

So, maybe this isn’t the rise and fall of Dinesh D’Souza, but merely an interlude in the rise and fall and rise. For he may well rise again.

One Comment

  1. 1. It is probably coincidence that this morning’s 10 @ 10 (ten great songs from one great year!) played “How Long (Betcha’ Got a Chick on the Side).”

    2. Which I am playing (again!) in the next window.

    3. It probably surprises Mr. D’Souza that anyone cares. Didn’t read enough Victorian novels at Dartmouth, did he? And I have to wonder what his soon-to-be ex-wife thinks of this.

    4. Of course he’s a hypocrite. He’s a conservative.