Hillary’s America vs. Michael Moore In TrumpLand
Differentiating Political Discourse from Propaganda
During the 2016 election cycle, American voters have access to more information than at any other time in their nation’s history. And yet, we’ve seen political figures rise and fall based on the whims of unsubstantiated rhetoric. It leaves one to wonder: Amidst the digital age, how can so many lies, half-truths, and misdirections gain traction?
The information age is a double-edged sword. With so many sources of information available, people pick their news à la carte. People tend to seek sources that confirm what they already believe and discredit views they don’t accept. Whether you’re pro- or anti- taxes, immigration, or gun reform, there is a blog, news channel, or political pundit out there ready to reaffirm your ideology.
Dinesh D’Souza and Michael Moore made names for themselves by espousing extreme right-wing (D’Souza) and left-wing (Moore) rhetoric. It’s no surprise that both men recently released political documentaries with the intention of influencing voters during the 2016 presidential election. D’Souza and Moore are known for leaning hard right and hard left, respectively, and their filmmaking styles clearly reflect their political outlooks. D’Souza’s Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party is the cinematic equivalent of grabbing the ill-informed by their shirt collar and screaming in their face, “The Sky Is Falling!” On the other hand, in Michael Moore in TrumpLand, Moore swallows his resentment towards the right and engages in a discussion with people who oppose his political views.
Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party
In Hillary’s America, D’Souza attempts to deduce Hillary Clinton’s insidious intentions by examining the Democratic Party’s history. Hillary’s America may as well be a 106-minute political attack ad. Right off the bat, you can see D’Souza’s disdain for Democrats oozing out of every frame. The film opens with a Godzilla-like Hillary leaving the nation in flames while also manipulating the Democratic Party in the form of a marionette. From this point on the film only becomes more nonsensical.
D’Souza makes claims like “Obama will deliberately reduce America’s power in the world, he will weaken our allies, and strengthen our enemies.” Stating that America’s president is essentially a sleeper agent undermining the country’s prosperity has more in common with a G.I. Joe plot line than fact. Such grandiose accusations require definitive proof. Being that there is not a shred of evidence backing most of the film’s outlandish claims, one must surmise D’Souza is either delusional, an inept filmmaker, or his aim was never to supply the audience with facts.
Hillary’s America isn’t just a Hillary take-down movie, it’s also a Dinesh D’Souza vanity project. He paints himself as a hero and a martyr, a man who received jail time because he stood up to a global superpower, the United States government. Never worry, dear viewer, the liberal agenda can’t keep a good man down; there are still conspiracies to bring to light and D’Souza intends to get to the bottom of each of them. The rest of the film captures D’Souza’s mission to expose Democratic corruption, and what transpires plays out like a mishmash of All the President’s Men and Pee-wee’s Big Adventure. One segment shows D’Souza visiting the Democratic National Headquarters and sneaking into an off-limits area. The moment carries the same dramatic weight as when Scooby-Doo and Shaggy tip-toe into a kitchen to forage for snacks.
Hillary’s America paints itself as a documentary but employs actors in a series of misleading modern day and historical reenactments. There is a moment where D’Souza is hanging out in jail and breaking news flashes across a TV screen. It’s an announcement that Hillary Clinton will run for President in 2016. After Hillary’s candidacy is announced, all of the hardened criminals in the room stop doing their hardened criminal things and applaud the nomination. In another scene, Democratic US President Woodrow Wilson is conducting a White House screening of The Birth of a Nation when a horse-riding Ku Klux Klansman jumps out of the movie screen. Clearly inspired, Wilson follows the rider out onto the White House lawn and stops to admire him. D’Souza isn’t presenting facts and allowing viewers to make up their minds. He’s using theatrics to color their perception.
Michael Moore in TrumpLand
Michael Moore in TrumpLand presents a one-man show of the same name that Moore recorded in Wilmington, Ohio. The film is a 48-minute plea for voters to consider casting their ballots for Hillary Clinton. What is notable about the film is that Moore’s aim isn’t to reach his liberal base. Instead, he’s extending his message out to centrists, libertarians, and the right wing. Moore’s goal is clear: he wants to steal votes away from the other side. Moore does so by not viewing the opposition in a macro sense – rather than addressing the monolith known as right-wing America, Moore speaks to individual Americans on the Right.
Wilmington, Ohio, is a place ripped from liberals’ collective nightmares. It’s a land of homecoming parades and county corn festivals with nary a juice bar or yoga studio in sight. During the film’s opening moments, the audience meets an array of Wilmington citizens. We hear a radio advertisement for a gun festival as a bearded local stands on his porch casually removing his .357 from its holster. As Moore’s name goes up on the Murphy Theater marquee, we are told, “Ohio Republicans tried to block Moore from performing in the state, with one local leader threatening to cut funds for the theater if the show goes on.” The voice also notes that the theater’s benefactor is the right-wing zealot Glenn Beck. For those not in the know, Beck is the right-wing Yin to Moore’s left-wing Yang. As Moore prepares to take the stage, there is never any doubt that he is immersed in a hostile environment.
Moore states his case in front of a “mixed crowd” in a state where he claims, “Trump got four times as many votes here than Hillary did in the primary.” Rather than admonish Donald Trump voters, Moore explains why he relates. Moore makes a strong case for conservative voters (particularly for disenfranchised white males) and relays his understanding of Trump’s appeal before slowly building a case for Hillary. Right from the onset, Moore gets the audience involved by calling out questions for the crowd to answer. Moore then further ingratiates himself by admitting that he has never cast a vote for Hillary or Bill Clinton (he sees them as Democratic centrists). As the film goes on you can see the crowd contemplating Moore’s pro-Hillary sentiments, and we can clearly see why. Throughout Michael Moore in TrumpLand’s brisk and brief running time, Moore is often funny, always engaging, and most importantly, non-confrontational.
Whether or not you agree with what Moore has to say, what separates his film from becoming a D’Souza-calibre rant session is that Moore’s film acknowledges political ideology that opposes the filmmaker’s views. Moore goes out of his way to depict his nemesis, Trump, in a positive light. Moore unearths a clip from the late 90s where an affable Trump states he foresees the Clintons working through their issues and living out a long and healthy marriage. Moore shows Trump acting like a decent human being and not a Republican boogeyman. This happens because Moore understands the political partisans that oppose his views are fully actualized people. In turn, he reaches out to them as he would a friend, co-worker or neighbor, not as soulless right-wing caricatures.
What separates Hillary’s America and Michael Moore in TrumpLand is that one is based on facts while the other is based on opinions. Moore steps on stage and delivers objective quantifiable data. When he discusses Clinton, he produces dates and times (and even the occasional photo). D’Souza’s takes the opposite approach. He weaves together a story about what he wants to be true. D’Souza often goes back hundreds of years to pull anti-Democrat facts that back his case against the party in 2016. Making matters worse, D’Souza doesn’t even bother to bring anyone on board who can refute his wild claims, so every single moment in the movie is weighted in his favor.
Through his film, D’Souza reveals himself as a right-wing sycophant, content to pour gas on the flames of political discourse. Hillary’s America yearns to reach propaganda status but is so poorly conceived it never rises above the level of agitprop hogwash. You would gain a better understanding of America’s political history by reading the Harry Potter series – and they take place in the United Kingdom. Moore uses his film to engage the “other side” in an earnest dialogue. When deciding how to govern the world’s most powerful country, a compassionate, fact-based, two-way dialogue should be the bare minimum, not an exception. While it’s a reach to say Michael Moore in TrumpLand extends the proverbial olive branch to those on the right, the film is still a positive step towards bipartisan discourse. Hillary’s America is nothing but a leap backwards into a pit of dissension.
Related Topics: Documentary, Politics