Monday, April 30, 2007

D'SouzaPhonics Redux

Speaking of annoyances that just won't go away, Dinesh D'Souza has managed to emit yet another book from his perch in the Hoover Tower on the campus of Stanford University. D'Souza's books, unlike my own efforts in prose, are not subjected to traditional modes of peer reviewing, and so it remains for the book reviewers of the media to point up some of his more amusing howlers.
Now, when most authors elect to respond to such reviews, the most they can hope for is a letter to the editor, quite often much edited. D'Souza, however, enjoys an uncommon access to our nation's papers, and thus often gets to respond to his critics on the op ed pages of major dailies. Such is the case with his peculiar responses to the critics of his THE ENEMY AT HOME. The editors of THE WASHINGTON POST, reputed ground zero of liberal bias, awarded D'Souza the front page of their Sunday OUTLOOK section back in January for his tantrum titled "Bin Laden, The Left and Me."
One of the stranger moments in the piece comes when D'Souza refers to his previous appearance on Comedy Central's COLBERT REPORT. As it happens, I'd seen that episode. I didn't quite know what to make of D'Souza's responses to Stephen Colbert. It seemed that D'Souza had somehow missed the satiric nature of the program. In his WASHINGTON POST piece, D'Souza complains that he "had to fend off the insistent host. 'But you agree with the Islamic radicals, don't you?' Stephen Colbert asked again and again." If you've read the book, you know exactly what it was that Colbert's persona was getting at. In many ways, D'Souza's complaints about America mirror the rhetoric of the Bin Ladens of our world -- a fun house mirror, perhaps, but a recognizable reflection none the less. The outraged author and COLBERT guest asks his POST readers, "Why the onslaught?" Well, maybe Colbert thought it made for good comedy. D'Souza's own reading of the episode, though, is that his thesis, that "the American left bears a measure of responsibility for the volcano of anger from the Muslim world that produced the 9/11 attacks," in its bare truthiness, has elicited the outraged howls of the liberal elite, which apparently includes the character played by Stephen Colbert.
You'll have to read the book to see what you make of D'Souza's wilder claims, such as the argument that Jimmy Carter's withdrawal of support for the Iranian Shah is part of the mix leading to 9/11. But what I'm intrigued by is the willingness of the POST to play host to such things as this:
D'Souza quotes one of his critics as having said that D'Souza is "either delusional or dishonest." How might we judge for ourselves on the basis of his own Post response? Here's just one illuminating instance.
AT one point D'Souza writes: "Contrary to the common liberal view, I don't believe that the 9/11 attacks were payback for U.S. foreign policy." [Note that he makes this remark shortly after having blamed the Carter foreign policy for being partly responsible for the 9/11 attacks.] "Bin Laden isn't upset because there are U.S. troops in Mecca, as liberals are fond of saying. (There are no U.S. troops in Mecca.)"
Well, no, there are no U.S. troops in Mecca. Nor has any American liberal ever once said that there are. In his usual way, D'Souza offers not a single attributable quote of this thesis of which liberals are supposedly so fond. It would seem that the fact checkers and editors at the WASHINGTON POST saw no reason to query this passage in D'Souza's text either.
On the other hand, just what is the origin of the belief, common among liberals, conservatives, policy wonks and area experts, that among Bin Laden's complaints was the presence of American troops on the soil of the holy lands? It came from Bin Laden himself. Neither Bin Laden nor any American liberal has ever made the claim that U.S. troops were stationed in Mecca. Bin Laden has, though, frequently published his complaints about the presence of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia.
Is it possible that D'Souza, who appears at points in his writings to be quoting from the same documents and web sites that contain Bin Laden's complaints on this score, reads so sloppily or selectively that he doesn't know this? Or is it more likely that, as some reviewers have speculated, Dinesh D'Souza is simply a dishonest writer?

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