Dispatches from the Creation Wars

The Inanity of Dinesh D’Souza

I found this at Balko’s place and I’m just shaking my head in disbelief. Like he did, I’m going to quote the publisher’s description of a new book by Dinesh D’Souza, a guy I previously considered one of the more bright and serious conservative thinkers. After reading this, I think that assessment has to be reevaluated. A long quote begins below the fold:

In THE ENEMY AT HOME, bestselling author Dinesh D’Souza makes the startling claim that the 9/11 attacks and other terrorist acts around the world can be directly traced to the ideas and attitudes perpetrated by America’s cultural left.

D’Souza shows that liberals–people like Hillary Clinton, Ted Kennedy, Barney Frank, Bill Moyers, and Michael Moore–are responsible for fostering a culture that angers and repulses not just Muslim countries but also traditional and religious societies around the world…He argues that it is not our exercise of freedom that enrages our enemies, but our abuse of that freedom–from the sexual liberty of women to the support of gay marriage, birth control, and no-fault divorce, to the aggressive exportation of our vulgar, licentious popular culture.

The cultural wars at home and the global war on terror are usually viewed as separate problems. In this groundbreaking book, D’Souza shows that they are one and the same. It is only by curtailing the left’s attacks on religion, family, and traditional values that we can persuade moderate Muslims and others around the world to cooperate with us and begin to shun the extremists in their own countries.

I love this notion that if someone is free to do something he doesn’t approve of, like take birth control or watch movies he thinks are naughty, then suddenly they’re “abusing” that freedom. Freedom, to him and most social conservatives (whether of the Christian or Muslim variety), really just means that you’re free to do what they approve of you doing. The moment you do things they don’t approve of you’re engaging in “licentiousness” and “abuse of freedom” rather than exercising your freedom. A bit like telling a slave that they’re now free, as long as they don’t leave the plantation. The moment they leave the planation, then they’re “abusing” that freedom and we will take it away from them again. Congratulations, you’ve allowed the caged bird to sing, but you’ve still kept him in the cage.

Balko asks an appropriate question about the logic of D’Souza’s argument:

Which is more likely to inspire an angry young Muslim man to pick up and move to the United States, live and train here for years, then carry out a suicide attack:

(A) That he sees U.S. troops and U.S. military equipment in Muslim holy lands; reads the names of U.S. companies on Israeli missiles and weapons used against Palestiniana; and sees reports of U.S. sanctions starving Iraqi children…


(B) He is aware that American women take birth control, gay couples can get married in Massachusetts, and — I can’t believe anyone would take D’Souza seriously as a thinker after this — no-fault divorce.

But here’s the thing: even if he was absolutely correct and it really is our freedom to do things they hate that makes the radical Muslims so angry at us, the argument is still insanely ridiculous. Let’s grant him the premise of the argument. The argument still boils down to “they hate us for our freedom, so let’s get rid of our freedom.” And they call other people “appeasers”? Had D’Souza been alive in 1941, this book would have argued that the Nazis hate us because we harbor Jews and let them live in peace, and therefore we should kill all the Jews and they would stop hating us. This is a whole new level of stupidity. This is meta-stupidity. This is uber-stupidity. This makes Ann Coulter sound like the voice of reason, for crying out loud. How anyone in their right mind would seriously make such an argument is beyond my ability to comprehend.


  1. #1 Ed S
    September 9, 2006

    The caged birds may sing; now please turn to page 47 in your hymnals. No dancing, or the islamofacists will get us.

  2. #2 Rob Knop
    September 9, 2006

    Freedom, to him and most social conservatives (whether of the Christian or Muslim variety), really just means that you’re free to do what they approve of you doing.

    While this is certainly most egregious with the social conservatives, this is a broader truth. Consider, for example, “speech codes” on campuses and so forth — which, by and large, didn’t originate with social conservatives, but rather from the left.

    A lot of people don’t seem to internalize the idea that freedom includes the freedom for other people to do things you don’t want them to do.


  3. #3 Ed Brayton
    September 9, 2006

    I certainly agree with that, Rob, and there is a post going up in a few minutes on exactly that subject.

  4. #4 qetzal
    September 9, 2006

    “The argument still boils down to ‘they hate us for our freedom, so let’s get rid of our freedom.'”

    I don’t think that’s his argument at all. He seems to argue that female sexual liberty, licentious behavior, gay marriage, abortion, etc., are all immoral and wrong, not legitimate freedoms. As far as he’s concerned, it’s perfectly correct to hate us for those things. Which is all the more vile an argument, IMHO.

    Of course, that’s based on your quote of someone else’s paraphrase of his argument, so perhaps something’s been lost in translation.

  5. #5 Steve S
    September 9, 2006

    I used to view the right wing as William F. Buckley and George Will. I didn’t think it was so bad. I voted libertarian. But now that the right wing is Ann Coulter, Ramesh Ponnuru, Rush Limbaugh, etc., I am forced to vote Democrat.

  6. #6 Jolf_Moosenhoeger
    September 9, 2006

    Dinesh D’Souza is, and always has been, a repulsive little fascist thug. When he was a Dartmouth undergraduate, he published stolen correspondence from the campus gay student group that outed two students who did not want to be outed. Disgusting little creep.

  7. #7 Treban
    September 9, 2006

    And “they” would call me a terrorist appeaser for wanting to see us try to remove some of the impetuous for folks to strap bombs to their chests and kill people.

  8. #8 Prup aka Jim Benton
    September 9, 2006

    Ed: Danesh hardly understands how horrifying our society is. Thunk of how we allow women to appear in public. We don’t even, like compromisers, allow women merely to cover her head, so that a man will not be tempted by the sight of her hair. We allow a woman to appear unveiled. When Allah says:
    “O Prophet! Tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to draw their cloaks (veils) all over their bodies (i.e. screen themselves completely except the eyes or one eye to see the way). That will be better, that they should be known (as free respectable women) so as not to be annoyed. And Allaah is Ever Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.”

    This aayah clearly states that it is obligatory to cover all of a woman’s beauty and adornments and not to display any part of that before non-mahram men (“strangers”) except for whatever appears unintentionally, in which case there will be no sin on them if they hasten to cover it up.

    And which of our policemen would not misconstrue priorities, and let women, schoolgirls to leave a burning building, or allow policemen to rescue them even if it mean seeing them in improper dress.

    We are actually sympathetic to women who have allowed themselves to be raped, instead of realizing the shame they have brought on themselves and their families, and encouraging them to take the proper method to remove such shame and themselves.

    We allow them to claim to have been raped, and accept their own testimony on it, and we do not take the precautions to protect women from the danger:
    “Islam forbids women to wear clothes that are not modest and to travel without a mahram; it forbids a woman to shake hands with a non-mahram man. Islam encourages young men and women to marry early, and many other rulings which close the door to rape. ”

    To repeat, we accept the women’s word as proof, when this is insufficient:
    “if there is no proof that the hadd punishment for zina may be carried out against him because he does not confess, and there are not four witnesses, then the judge may punish him and stipulate a punishment that will deter him and others like him”

    This is why the number of rapes, as shown by statistics, is so much greater in the West.

    There are even families that condone their daughter’s/sister/s immorality, allowing her to live with unmarried men, instead of properly punishing her for her assault on the honor of the family.

    And what society in the West would do what was done to Mukhtar Mai, ordering her public rape in front of the whole community for the sins of her 14 year old brother daring to associate with an older woman of higher status? (No matter that the truth was that he was punished, in fact, because the male family members of the woman had raped, or at least has sex with him.)

    D’Souza’s concerns may be important to protect us from the hatred of the Muslims whose ideas of proper relations between the sexes are so affronted, but he hardly goes far enough.

  9. #9 Prup aka Jim Benton
    September 9, 2006

    Just to say to those who have seen my comments on POSITIVE LIBERTY, I have criticized the term ‘IslamoFascism” and the danger that Islamic extremists in fact pose to us — they are far more dangerous to their co-believers. I have never denied the serious clash of ideas that exists, or the difficulty that many believing Muslims — particularly the Wahabbists from which most of my examples were drawn — have of reconciling the Qur’an with our ideas of freedom, equality, and secularism. Many, maybe most Muslims — certainly those in non-Muslim states — can do this, but there is always the pull to ‘become more religious’ even for them — as the Christian Fundamentalists can appeal to liberal or conservative Christians. And there are enough for whom the ideas I mentioned are reasonable in themselves and who will use violence to attack those who challenge them that we cannot dismiss the danger entirely.

    It just ain’t ‘fascism’ and can’t be cured by more bombs and soldiers. The cure is our ideas, but they won’t be heard if they are imposed by martial force.

  10. #10 mtraven
    September 9, 2006

    D’Souza has always been a wingnut hack, this is not a departure for him. He’s gone so far as to defend slavery as being good for blacks. Writeup here, see partcularly the quotes at the end,.

  11. #11 Jim Ramsey
    September 9, 2006

    Don’t Muslim’s practice the ultimate form of “no-fault divorce” — for men only, of course?

    I thought you just took your wife out to the the public square and delclared, “I divorce you, I divorce you, I divorce you”.

  12. #12 Ted
    September 9, 2006

    “I divorce you, I divorce you, I divorce you”.

    …then he throws dog-poopie on her shoes.

    This way, when my brother and me go out for a swinging night on the town, we look for the women with dog-poopie on their shoes. And say, “Excuse me, I couldn’t help noticing the dog-poopie on your shoes…”

  13. #13 Pieter B
    September 9, 2006

    The ultimate comment on D’Souza’s book The End of Racism was the sigline of one of the regulars on alt.folklore.urban back in the day:

    “Dinesh D’Souza, white courtesy phone . . .”

  14. #14 Russell
    September 10, 2006

    Steve S, “I used to view the right wing as William F. Buckley and George Will. .. But now that the right wing is Ann Coulter, Ramesh Ponnuru, Rush Limbaugh, etc., I am forced to vote Democrat.”

    Most libertarians I know have switched from viewing the GOP as the major party friendlier to their views, to viewing the Democratic Party as the major party less dangerous to civil liberty. I never saw as many vote for one of the major parties, as did in 2004. This is a real sea change. Whether it is permanent or not will depend on how much the religious right retains control of the GOP.

  15. #15 The Rational Fool
    September 10, 2006

    D’Souza’s stupidity is evenly matched by “thinkers” on the left, as Amartya Sen, who argues in his latest book Identity and Violence that Islamic terrorism may be fueled by the identification of the terrorists by their religion. If the media identified Omar Sheikh, who kidnapped and murdered Daniel Pearl, as a Muslim and not as a chess player, Muslims around the world could be be flamed into committing more terrorist acts!

  16. #16 VRB
    September 11, 2006

    Many many years ago when he latched on to the inanity of the “bell curve” and his statistical analysis of black folks, turned me away from considering any other thought of his.

  17. #17 shiva
    September 11, 2006

    Amartya Sen illustrates the difference between the ability to read and speak; and the ability to understand and explain it in detail. He is hopelessly out of depth on the many issues he holds forth on these days. There’s not much to choose between him and Dinesh D’Souza.

  18. #18 Prup aka Jim Benton
    September 11, 2006

    I don’t know Sen’s work, or if it has been characterized correctly, but if it has, it wouldn’t surprise me. Of course there are idiots on the left, as well.

    I have been, for some time, quoting “Prup’s Law” which states
    “Whatever position you take on any political, social, sexual, or religious dispute, you are going to find some idiots agreeing with you.”

    The danger is when you fall for the fallacy that ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’ or are simply so glad to find agreement that you welcome them. It helps, when shooting barbs at the other side, you shoot a few at the idiots on your own side as well, because, count on it, there will be somebody on the other side who will try and dismiss your arguments because of someone like Sen.

  19. #19 Ed Brayton
    September 11, 2006


    You’ve touched on one of the hallmarks of political rhetoric: your side is always represented by their smartest, most reasonable and eloquent spokesmen. The other side, of course, is always represented by their most batshit crazy proponents, even if they are laughed at by the vast majority of the other side. And both sides – including ours, regardless of which side we’re on – engage in that reasoning. I see it in the issues I discuss quite often. For instance, in the tendency of so many on my side of the culture war issues to claim that every run of the mill religious right type is a “dominionist” or a “reconstructionist”. In fact, those are fairly rare. There are some to whom those labels may accurately be applied (Gary North, RJ Rushdoony, D. James Kennedy, etc), but they don’t apply to most religious righters. And yes, it’s worth pointing out that kind of behavior on both sides, not just the other side – simply because it’s always worth it to be on the side of accuracy.

  20. #20 mtraven
    September 11, 2006

    I messed up the link in an earlier comment. The summary of D’Souza’s long history of wingnuttery. It may be found here. And for the lazy, here are some of the choice quotes:

    “The American slave was treated like property, which is to say, pretty well.” (from D’Souza’s book, The End of Racism)

    “If America as a nation owes blacks as a group reparations for slavery, what do blacks as a group owe America for the abolition of slavery?” (from The End of Racism)

    “Am I calling for the repeal of the Civil Rights Act of 1964? Actually, yes.” (from The End of Racism)

  21. #21 The Rational Fool
    September 11, 2006

    I am not dismissing Ed’s criticism of D’Souza; quite the contrary. My intent in quoting Sen’s work is to show that there are unsupported and silly theories on both sides (actually, I believe that there are innumerable sides on any subject, and labeling is risky). I guess this is to be expected, because today just about every social critic, including yours truly, feels compelled to have her/his own theory of terrorism.

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