Political hate makes for truly scary movies

Updated: 2012-08-17 10:59

By Chen Weihua (China Daily)

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Political hate makes for truly scary movies

Going to a movie could be a scary experience if it reminds you of the theater shooting in Colorado on July 20 that killed 12 people and injured 58. As my daughter and I were waiting to see The Dark Knight Rises - the same film the Aurora victims had come to see - last weekend, a guy wearing a bulletproof vest came into the theater.

Much creepier, however, was my screening of 2016: Obama's America at another Manhattan cinema a few days earlier. I suspected this documentary wasn't my cup of tea, but I went anyway as a curious journalist.

I walked in 10 minutes before the scheduled start, expecting plenty of seats to still be available - this was a documentary, after all. To my surprise, the theater, which probably could seat up to 1,000 people, was packed.

After managing to find a seat, I noticed the audience was mostly white and made up of senior citizens - an age group that historically turns out in huge numbers to vote in US presidential elections.

On screen, Dinesh D'Souza, the conservative pundit who wrote, co-directed and stars in the doc, began his celluloid screed by interpreting the Barack Obama he claims to know.

Obama wants a smaller America, a poorer America, railed D'Souza. Obama's goal is to downsize America in the name of global justice. This is deeply rooted in the anti-colonialism thinking he inherited from his father, whom Obama didn't spend much time with at all. Obama also wants to redistribute wealth away from the rich and toward the poor. Obama wants to weaken NASA. He refuses to take a meaningful step against Iran's nuclear ambition. Obama is pro-Islam and unfriendly to Israel. He is willing to betray Britain, the key ally of the US, and to let Argentina reclaim the Falkland Islands. Obama is heavily influenced by Frank Marshall Davis, a noted American communist.

The documentary took people to Kenya, where Obama's father was born, then to Indonesia, where Obama spent several childhood years with his mother and stepfather, and to other foreign lands, all in an effort to convince viewers that Obama's non-American roots and experiences make him truly un-American.

It's true that not everyone has to love or vote for Obama, but portraying him in this light is just wrong. It's pure character assassination, reminding me of the political persecution during China's "cultural revolution" (1966-76), when the nation's leaders and heroes were labeled traitors and villains overnight.

That evening I was clearly a minority in the audience. Many of my fellow moviegoers applauded loudly at the end or when they saw the image of Ronald Reagan appear at one moment.

While I was trying hard to figure out whether such a documentary is equivalent to hate speech, The Campaign, a new comedy I saw this week, seemed to provide answers.

Starring Will Farrell and Zach Galifianakis, the movie is the tale of two Southerners fighting for a seat in Congress. Behind the scenes, money was pumped into the campaign by the "Motch brothers" (a clear reference to real-life Republican donors the Kochs) in a bid to manipulate the outcome for personal gain. All the dirty tricks employed, though hilarious, reminded me of the ongoing presidential campaign as well as D'Souza's documentary about Obama.

As I feel some sympathy toward Obama, I can't forget that another character-assassination movie is premiering in Los Angeles on Friday.

Death By China, based on a book of the same title by University of California-Irvine professor Peter Navarro, amounts to hate speech about China. Its key points: China is bad in every respect. China is stealing American jobs, killing its babies with unsafe toys and its army is preparing to kill Americans.

In a country known for producing great movies, garbage such as Death By China, like Nazi propaganda from World War II, shouldn't ever make it to the screen.

The author, based in New York, is deputy editor of China Daily USA. E-mail: chenweihua@chinadaily.com.cn

(China Daily 08/17/2012 page11)