A Congressman Signs Up for the Dinesh D’Souza Tantrum Tour

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
July 24 2014 10:16 AM

A Congressman Signs Up for the Dinesh D’Souza Tantrum Tour

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Dana Rohrabacher has his thumbs up for Dinesh, thumbs down for Google

Photo by Shuji Kajiyama/AFP/Getty Images

Dinesh D'Souza's America—a movie and companion book not to be confused with the country in which most readers are seeing this post—is trudging toward a decent performance. Not a blockbuster, but decent. Last weekend America finally started to be removed from theaters, and its box office gross fell 30 percent from the previous weekend. That's comparable to the fall-off for 22 Jump Street, a movie people are seeing without being told that their ticket sale will make a political statement. At this rate, the movie will be lucky to gross half as much as D'Souza's surprise 2012 hit, 2016: Obama's America.

Enter Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, the pot-decriminalizing, climate change-denying iconoclast conservative from SoCal, who tells the Hollywood Reporter that Congress should investigate whether Google biased search results against the movie. The company buckled after America producers wrote a letter asking why their movie was not showing up swiftly in searches for the seven-letter word. It was being outpaced, for a while, by Captain America: The Winter Soldier, a movie with an anti-surveillance theme that has grossed almost $250,000,000 more than D'Souza's widely panned documentary.

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Rohrabacher:

This doesn't deserve to be ignored. We need to verify the statistics in some way, and I will be suggesting the appropriate committee or subcommittee have some kind of hearing on this. We know there were significant incidences, and that would suggest there was intent behind Google's nonperformance.

In other words, the federal government should investigate a private company to determine whether it ever biased search results against a privately distributed movie, even after the results were rejiggered so successfully that when you now type in America, you are immediately informed of which nearby empty theater is playing the D'Souza movie.

It's a fun story, but Rohrabacher is a pretty marginal figure on the Hill. (He's the 13th-most senior Republican, and will become the ninth-most senior after the 2014 elections, but he's never held a leadership position or a full committee chairmanship.) The threat of hearings is mostly a reflection of D'Souza's successful campaign to cry "censor" and "bias" and draw more attention to the content he's selling. 

Anyway. Today, Rep. Paul Ryan will release the poverty-fighting plan he has been talking about for most of 2014. The conservative discussion will resettle.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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