What Dinesh D'Souza Gets Wrong About the Left

You have got to be kidding. Dinesh D'Souza publishes a book called The Enemy Within: The Cultural Left and its Responsibility for 9/11, and then gets space in the Washington Post to declare his critics hysterical? D'Souza and his publisher have clearly embraced Ann Coulter's road-to-riches strategy: make the most outrageous attacks imaginable on your opponents and then ride your faux indignation at their response all the way to the bank. It's hard to believe the Post felt it worthwhile to publish D'Souza's self-serving piece.

Here's a tip: When an author feels compelled to write, "I am not ... an unqualified right-wing hack," it's red-flag time. Especially when he's blaming Planned Parenthood, People For the American Way, advocates for gay equality and the Vagina Monologues for 9/11, while ludicrously dismissing the idea that U.S. foreign policy had anything to do with those attacks. For the record, Bin Laden's 1998 fatwah calling on Muslims to kill Americans everywhere was all about foreign policy - nothing there about the "culture war."

D'Souza, whose career as a "scholar" has been funded and nurtured by right-wing institutions, is not the first ideologue to suggest common cause between "traditionalists" in the U.S. and Muslim countries. Chuck Colson has warned that same-sex marriage would be "like handing moral weapons of mass destruction to those who use America's decadence to recruit more snipers and hijackers and suicide bombers. ... Preserving traditional marriage in order to protect children is a crucially important goal by itself. But it's also about protecting the United States from those who would use our depravity to destroy us."

What is D'Souza's solution? How many constitutional principles, how many gains in human rights and dignity, must be sacrificed to bargain for peace from "traditionalists" abroad? Must the goal of equality and freedom for women be abandoned to avoid "undermining" what he calls Muslim society's "patriarchal and traditional values"? If advances toward equality for gay men and lesbians in America are inciting hatred, what is the necessary response? Would it be enough to make gays invisible again on television except to demonize them, or would we need to bring back laws that make criminals out of gay people? Or embrace more horrific "traditions" now resurgent in Iraq?

D'Souza says he fears that "the extreme cultural left" is "whispering into the ears of the Democratic Congress." But the very existence of a Democratic-majority Congress is a sign that most Americans, not some "extreme" fringe, believe the war in Iraq is a mistake. D'Souza's gripe is with the American people, who watch the TV programs and support the cultural gains he decries. Sixty percent of Americans support some legal recognition of gay and lesbian couples; even more support protections against discrimination in housing and employment. Americans by huge majorities support contraception. This past fall, voters in South Dakota overturned a draconian ban on women's access to abortion. Are South Dakota voters the "enemy" D'Souza is warning us about? Or is it the Arizona voters who rejected a constitutional amendment to ban legal recognition of same-sex and other unmarried couples?

For progressive Americans accustomed to being attacked by right-wing pundits for supposedly lacking faith in our freedom or a commitment to defending it, there's something unsettling, to say the least, about people like D'Souza urging Americans to sacrifice their freedom in order to avoid offending "traditionalist" Muslims.