Dinesh D’Souza Meets His Critics (full interview)
The Critics | Fascism and Progressivism | Convincing the Middle
The Left’s False Narratives | In the Reagan White House
Debating Christopher Hitchens | Current Work
Summary: CRC president Scott Walter recently interviewed Dinesh D’Souza on Zoom. In their wide-ranging talk they discussed D’Souza’s current projects, the ideological legacy of Fascism and Nazism, white nationalism, and Christopher Hitchens.
Fascism and Progressivism
WALTER: Great. Well, let us start then on some of your films and books, but they tend to get reviewed and criticized in the same way whichever version it maybe the book or the or the movie.
So the first one I’m going to do is the Death of a Nation, and here’s Publishers Weekly’s complaint:
[D’Souza’s] central comparison of the welfare state to slavery is more hyperbole than analysis, and his over-the-top vilification of everything Democratic—he paints Franklin Roosevelt as a “fascist” who “castigated wealthy Republicans and conservatives in the same type of language that Hitler used against the Jews”—makes much of the reading experience akin to viewing the United States in a fun-house mirror.
True or false?
D’SOUZA: One problem—and this I think is going to be a chronic problem with criticism—is that you’ll find that in every case the critic doesn’t actually state my argument and then proceeded to say what’s wrong with it. Rather, they begin with a description of my position that is unrecognizable to me. And so I’m forced at every stage to defend views that I don’t really hold.
In my own work, I try really hard if I’m describing other people’s views to represent their views in a way that they would accept. For example, I have a recent book on socialism. If I’m talking about the socialist, I’ll begin by saying the socialists think this. Then I will say, in thinking about socialists, these are the people that we can call socialist. These are the people that we can call maybe socialist light, and these are the people who are moving us in the direction of socialism, even if they’re not themselves socialist.
So in other words, I tried to take trouble to represent other people’s views in a way that they go, “Yeah. That’s what I do think.” And I think both in debate and argument it’s obligatory for critics to do this. Otherwise, you’re taking a very cheap road, which is that you’re smuggling your own criticism into your description of what somebody else is saying.
So let’s look, for example, at a handful of the claims about Death of a Nation that relate to this. First of all, nowhere do I say that socialism and slavery are identical. Not at all. Death of a Nation really is focused on the issue of Fascism, and in the course of discussing Fascism, we also discuss Nazism.
Now Nazism and Fascism are not identical. Fascism by itself is not a race-based ideology. Nazism is. In fact, Nazism is kind of Fascism plus the Nazi doctrine of racial supremacy. That’s sort of the distinctive aspect that Hitler brought to Fascism.
Now it turns out I began my research on this by starting off, you may almost say, where Jonah Goldberg left off. Jonah Goldberg explored some fascinating ties between Fascism and Progressivism. Essentially, what Jonah argued—picking up, by the way, from Hayek—is that you had three sort of sister ideologies—Progressivism, Fascism, and Communism—that all developed around the same time in opposition to what can be called sort of classical liberalism or liberal capitalism, and all these three ideologies—although distinct in important ways—were cousins. Nobody would say Progressivism equals communism or even communism equals Fascism. They were all statist. They all involve the moving society away from free markets and toward the centralized state. And this was a powerful trajectory in the 20th century, and all the people who were in these movements came out of the same side of the aisle.
So to take, for example, Fascism. Fascism developed semi-independently in about seven countries: Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, and England. So there were founders of Fascism in all those countries. Now if you look at them, without exception every single one of the founders of Fascism, in all the countries, are men of the far Left. In England, Mosley was literally thrown out of the Labour Party because he was too left-wing, and then he became a fascist. And we find in France, the leading fascists, some of them, went back to the to the turn of the 19th century. They were part of the Socialist movement in the late 19th century. In Italy, Mussolini and his buddies came out of the Marxist movement. They were a faction of the Marxist movement, but they were part of that movement and later when Mussolini established an independent fascist entity. His chief advisor was the co-founder of the Italian Communist Party. So the links between Progressivism, communism, and Fascism are there now.
Jonah Goldberg stopped short of going to Nazism. I think he felt that with the Holocaust Nazism is in a special category. Of course, the Holocaust is in a special category, but I was talking about early Nazism. Interestingly, early Nazism was very appealing to many people in America. It had a lot of American recruits. Not only did Progressivism influence Nazism, but Nazism influenced Progressivism. This fact is in both my books and my movies.
I just take two notable examples. The Nazi sterilization laws were essentially lifted verbatim from progressive sterilization laws promoted by Margaret Sanger and friends. Now this is not even something that was done secretly. The progressives in America knew about this. They were super excited that the Nazis had done this. Sanger gave speeches talking about how happy she was that the Nazis were, from her point of view, ahead of America in implementing these birth control schemes. So there is direct influence. This is not resemblance; it’s actual borrowing.
Second, historians have actually only recently kind of developed this idea. But there’s tremendous documentation for it. The Nazis who wrote the Nuremberg Laws, which made Jews into second-class citizens, had meetings in which they were holding in their hands the Democratic laws of the Jim Crow South. So it’s important to realize that every segregation law in the South was passed by a Democratic legislature and signed by a Democratic governor. There are no exceptions to this rule.
The Nazis knew all this, and they had these laws in their hands. And in trying to think about formulating what they call the world’s first racist state, one of the Nazis literally said we don’t have to form the world’s first race state because the Democratic Party in America is already done this for us. We just need to take their model and use it. And so they looked, for example, to the one drop rule that the Democrats were using in the South, basically saying that if you had any traceable black ancestry that made you black. And the Nazis actually decided to take a softer line on this than the Democrats. They adopted what came be called the three-fourths rule, which is that you need 75 percent of Jewish ancestry in order to be a Jew, but if you are 1/10 Jewish or 1/125th Jewish, you wouldn’t count because you didn’t have enough.
So they as one Nazi put it, “The one drop rule—it is a little too harsh.” The Nazis felt that they couldn’t be go as far as the Democrats.
These facts are anchored in the record. They have been written about by mainstream scholars, and I cite them. You’ll notice that none of these reviews actually consider any of this. They don’t consider the fact that FDR, although not a fan of Hitler, as I make very clear, was in fact a big fan of Mussolini. FDR spoke very favorably about Mussolini. He sent members of his brain trust to fascist Rome to study Mussolini’s policies, which he saw as more progressive than the New Deal. FDR wasn’t alone, by the way. The New Republic and many other intellectual organs of the progressive Left were very enthusiastic about Mussolini. It was a mutual admiration society. Mussolini reviewed FDR’s book in an Italian magazine, and he basically goes, this guy’s a fascist just like us. So these ties are in the record.
Now, by the way, the Left has worked really hard. Much of what we call history is progressive history. They’ve written the textbooks. They control the History Channel. They control Wikipedia. So the stuff I’m saying can’t be found in those places for the simple reason that the progressives have made sure that it’s been left out. It’s not in the textbooks. But yet I’m citing mainstream sources. I’m providing all the documentation. There’s not a single historian of any competence who has challenged me in any of these facts. But they do is they’ll rely on a caricature of what I said as if FDR’s attack on bankers and its resemblance to Hitler’s attack on Jewish capitalist. There is a sort of surface resemblance there, but that’s not the heart of my case. The heart of my case is that FDR had actual ties with the actual fascists, and the actual fascists not only in Italy but in Germany were fans of FDR. FDR was championed by the early Nazi newspapers. And I have all the quotations in the book. All of this stuff is what the Left would have to deal with in a genuine refutation. And that’s my problem: There are no genuine refutations because what you get are mischaracterizations that then forced me to defend views that I don’t really hold and have never really publicly argued.
WALTER: Well since the Capital Research Center spends so much time studying bad funding by the Left, I should just add the footnote that progressive foundations like Carnegie Rockefeller were funding lots of eugenics and even just raw racist research. In fact, Carnegie was funding in Germany all the way through to 1939 and has never apologized for its role in that.
D’SOUZA: Now what you’re pointing to is a very important phenomena, which is that Social Darwinism and eugenics were part of Progressivism. The progressives champion these causes. Now this crucial fact was carefully hidden by the historian Richard Hofstadter in his book on Social Darwinism [Social Darwinism in American Thought] published much later. Hofstadter pretended like Social Darwinism meant nothing more than applying the principles of free market economics to the marketplace under the theory that the fittest companies would survive, and he acted like that was the heart of Social Darwinism.
But actually that was not the heart of Social Darwinism. There might have been one or two scholars—perhaps Herbert Spencer—who argued in that mode, but most capitalists never read Darwin. They never bothered to make Darwinian arguments for their beliefs. Their belief was that markets work, markets produce prosperity. They were anchored far more in Adam Smith than in Darwin.
The real thrust of Social Darwinism was on the social side. Which is in Margaret Sanger’s words to get rid of “human weeds” to prevent horrible people and useless people from being born. This was the heart of the progressive cause, and Hofstadter’s job—which I think he performed very self-consciously; there’s no other way to look at it—was ultimately to take all of that and put it under the rug and reinvent Social Darwinism at a time when it was losing popularity in such a way that it could be pinned on the Right.
And the same thing has happened to Fascism more generally and Nazism. If you go to the Nazi 20-point platform. You know there it is, and you find it on Google and read it. It doesn’t sound like something that’s coming from the Right at all. Donald Trump would not be on board with any of the planks. Now true there’s anti-Jewish stuff that you won’t hear explicitly on the Left today. But if you remove that and look for the actual substantive social policy content of the Nazi 25-point platform—essentially cross out the word Jews—and read it without that it sounds like something drafted by Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. It’s a leftist agenda.
That’s what I was trying to say that the Nazis were on the left. They saw themselves on the left. Their critics saw them on the left. And the notion that Nazism is a right-wing phenomenon is a progressive invention post–World War II.
WALTER: Now to stick to that same Publishers Weekly review of Death of a Nation, for a moment, they do actually have some praise for you, and it’s about a different set of connections that you make in the book. They say that you’re cogent on several things, including the connection between today’s white nationalists like Richard Spencer, and left-wing identity politics. I confess that was my favorite part of the book and the movie. Can you explain a little bit about those connections?
D’SOUZA: Remember that Richard Spencer is the poster boy of white supremacy. He has been featured that way in the media. He was trotted out as the poster boy of Charlottesville, the supposed alt-right rally in Charlottesville. He is the basis, in fact the most concrete face, of the idea that white supremacists support Trump.
Normally, you’ll notice that, when the Left says this, they provide no evidence. They have never done any kind of survey of skinheads or members of the Ku Klux Klan. They don’t have any voting data. None of it. Their idea of making their case is essentially to show a picture of some guy, some Klansmen, wearing a Trump hat, and then they trot out Richard Spencer, who seemed to be a Trumpster in 2016. But if you begin to read Richard Spencer’s views, you begin to realize right away that he’s no right-winger.
He’s actually a left-winger of the old sort—of the old Democratic sort—and he’s a statist. He wants a powerful centralized government. He wants nationalized health care. He believes in sort of state control of society for the benefit of whites. So you may say he’s a statist, and he practices identity politics. If he had a hashtag, it would be #WhiteLivesMatter.
Now the Democrats don’t believe that white lives matter. They emphasize today that black lives matter, but notice that in both cases, there is a racialization of politics. This is not just a defensive of life or a defense of human dignity. It’s an attempt to capitalize on race for political gain, and the important thing historically is that the Democrats invented this game. It came really out of the Civil War: When slavery ended, the Democrats used white nationalism as the glue in order to establish what came to be called the Solid South. It became a Solid South. Remember the South wasn’t solid before the Civil War. In fact, the very doctrine of states’ rights that the South invoked ensured a tremendous heterogeneity in the South because states’ rights means everyone goes their own way.
So a guy from Arkansas didn’t identify with the guy from Missouri. A guy from Florida didn’t identify with the guy from Texas—not at all. After the war, the Democrats realized we don’t have slavery, but we do have racism. Why don’t we cultivate that? Why don’t we build on that?
So I saw that Richard Spencer is in this tradition. The Democrats have made some pivots, but they had made pivots within the racialized paradigm. They’ve essentially gone from white lives matter to black lives matter. But in every other respect, Richard Spencer is on the left. His heroes are progressives. He doesn’t like Reagan. He doesn’t like the Founding. He doesn’t believe that there are inherent human rights.
So when I exposed in the movie, there were a lot of people even on the conservative side who were little baffled because they sort of accept the idea that there are left-wing extremists and there are right-wing extremists. They kind of had felt like, well, we’re sort of saddled with Richard Spencer. He’s kind of on the extreme of our side, not realizing that he’s really not, just as Mussolini is not and Hitler is not. So I was vindicated really quite startlingly just a few weeks ago when Richard Spencer basically came on and said not only am I endorsing Biden but I’m voting the straight Democratic ticket.
So here’s a guy who was briefly for Trump. I think on the immigration issue alone. Even there the important differences were Trump. I mean Trump is in favor of legal immigrants and doesn’t want illegals. Richard Spencer doesn’t want either. In fact, he told me in the interview I did with him in the movie, “Well, Dinesh, I’m going to figure out a way to send you home.” So I was very happy to have sort of outed Spencer a couple of years ago, and now Spencer himself has come out very clearly as being a Biden guy and essentially a committed Democrat.
WALTER: Maybe he was worried. He’d get fewer media interviews if he didn’t.
D’SOUZA: Well, I think he was there is an opportunistic element to all these guys. In fact, the guy Jason Kessler, one of the organizers of the Charlottesville rally, was an Occupy Wall Street guy. He came out of the Left. So and again these echoes that I was talking about earlier, which is the origin of the fascist movements in leftist politics. When you trace the roots, you begin to see a kind of development there. White identitarian politics is not what the Democrats are into now, but it is a close cousin of black identitarian politics. These are cousins across the aisle, and they both favor segregation, although different types of segregation. They both favor racial supremacy, although different types of racial supremacy. They both use race for political gain. Race is the key to how they see themselves and to the policies that they want for society. All of this is in dramatic contrast with conservatives and Libertarians and classical liberals—all of whom see race the painted face and something that we actually want to get away from and get beyond.
In the next installment of “Dinesh D’Souza Meets His Critics,” read how D’Souza tries to target the fence-sitters.