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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Don't Feel Sorry For Dinesh D'Souza

Somewhat tarnished conservative commentator Dinesh D'Souza was sentenced Tuesday to an eight-month custodial term in a glorified halfway house, and a five-year probationary term, for willfully violating federal campaign finance law by recruiting straw donors to give money to a United States Senate candidate who lost her 2012 general election by more than 30 points.

Before certain gullible right-wing useful idiots think D'Souza is some sort of ideological martyr who "fought the system" and then "beat the system," a careful reading of court documents shows D'Souza must serve eight months in a halfway house. This means he is likely free to work during the day but must return at night, with exact details to be determined according to the facility to which he is assigned. This is a custodial sentence, which the rest of the fawning news media is happy to ignore. There will be restrictions on D'Souza's freedom; it just is not "jail" per se but also not a "non-custodial" sentence like straight probation. While it won't be hard time, not in the hitting large rocks into small pebbles sense, it is no cake walk either. Some of the halfway houses in New Jersey are so bad that inmates cannot wait to escape even on the verge of completing their full custodial sentences (usually years of prison followed by a halfway-house stint meant to transition them to the outside world). D'Souza must also do one eight-hour day per week of community service each week for the five year probationary term. Yet for a non-violent first offender whose biggest offense may be hubris combined with a matching arrogance, the sentence does not seem out of line.

Since the charges were announced, D'Souza's public stance has raised my suspicions. First of all, he has shown little to no contrition. He made a huge mistake, but for this type of mistake it is hard if not impossible to claim it was an innocent misunderstanding. D'Souza appears to have reasoned that campaign finance laws are either unfair or even unconstitutional, and therefore that self-serving judgment gave him the moral authority to break the law.

Generally, people who decide on their own that certain laws should not apply to them often have serious and wide-ranging problems with respecting authority, and respecting their fellow man. Sometimes this mentality is a serious red flag as it can indicate a wide or all-encompassing narcissism manifesting itself in a blatant, chronic disregard for any and all rules, laws and conventions of behavior.

But in the case of D'Souza, I suspect this is all a form of Machiavellian calculation. It is, in my theory, all about the money.

D'Souza is trying to fashion himself as some sort of martyr, some sort of victim of the oppressive, dreaded left-wing progressives who unfairly target conservatives (see the Internal Revenue Service scrutiny of tea party groups trying to get tax-exempt status, often with laughable applications that evidenced their noncompliance!). Occupying this anti-hero space is good business; it helps someone sell books, get paid speaking gigs, that type of thing. (As another example, some people have gotten very rich hawking books about President Obama's alleged foreign birthplace.)

Maybe, just maybe, it is that pursuit of financial success which is driving D'Souza's apparent arrogance. But what does that say when a supposed veteran leader of the conservative journalistic corps is willing to publicly flaunt his crime -- yes, D'Souza has admitted to federal felonies -- in order to advance his career?

From this corner, it appears the movement for which D'Souza claims to speak is actually tarnished and degraded by his actions, statements and association.

Some genuine contrition would go a lot way and make D'Souza look much more credible and -- and this needs to be written -- would make him look more like a mature adult.

Whether that is as profitable as milking victim status -- like so many left-wingers D'Souza claims to oppose -- is a valid question.

Maybe D'Souza is just all about trying to play the rubes, the Tea Party folk, the unsophisticates who don't live within 50-100 miles of a major urban center, for fools and dupes who will dependably buy his books, pay to attend his speeches and treat him as some brave patriot.

Unfortunately, there are too many gullible, impressionable room-temperature IQ types who are prone to using someone like D'Souza as the moral authority with which to disregard (i.e., break) the laws just because they disagree with the current Administration.  Belief that one is allowed to nullify laws which one believes (often without any basis whatsoever, but why sweat the details?) to be unjust, unfair or inconsistently enforced is a sure recipe for someone to get in major legal trouble.

Then again, it was Karl Marx who wrote about the 'useful idiots.'

Let's hope this disgraced filmmaker-commentator isn't playing his customers for fools.

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