American Greatness sat down with filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza for an exclusive interview about his latest film, Police State, which opens in theaters October 23 and 25. Find showings in your area at PoliceStateFilm.com.
AG: There are so many alarming parts of the film, one of which is the interview by former U.S. Air Marshal Sonya LaBosco. She said that all air travelers to Washington, D.C. on January 6, 2021 — whether or not they were in town for the U.S. Capitol rally or not — ended up on the terrorist watch list. So, you could be in town for something totally non-political, and yet you ended up on the watchlist?
DD: Yeah, Sonya is a retired U.S. Air Marshall and current executive director of the National Air Marshal Council. She says that not only in the immediate aftermath of January 6th, but now, and by this I mean two years later, you have people who went to the U.S. Capitol on that fateful day in 2021 who are still not just on a list, but still being followed by U.S. Marshals today.
There are U.S. Marshals who will board a flight just because that business guy or that kid who, let’s say, went to D.C. because he was being handed off to his dad for the weekend, and then would go back to his mom — that kid, who’s maybe 12 years old, now has a federal marshal following him when he gets on a plane because he might be a “terrorist.”
There’s a kind of insanity to the whole thing. Police states generate this kind of insanity because they follow a logic that is not logical at all, but rather an internal consistency to it.
So if it is the case that if you are not a dangerous guy, why are you on the manifest? And if you are on the manifest, why aren’t they following you?
Even though the ordinary U.S. air marshal goes, this is crazy, I’m following a 12 year old kid, what’s he gonna do? Nothing.
But nevertheless, they do it because bureaucratically, the agency wants to be able to say, “We are taking January 6th and domestic terrorism with the utmost seriousness.”
This way they are part of the DHS project to go after “domestic extremism.” This is a basis for going to Congress for appropriations and money. It’s lie built upon lie built upon lie, all to ultimately justify this huge, bureaucratic, monstrous and tyrannical enterprise.
AG: The movie tells the sad story of Matthew Perna, who committed suicide after he was hit with terrorism charges for being at the U.S. Capitol on January 6. He entered the Capitol for 14 minutes, chanted “USA,” didn’t go outside “the velvet rope” in the building. And after he killed himself, the prosecutor told Matthew’s aunt that Matthew should just have stuck around because the charges would have been dropped.
Were you aware of that story before, and then sitting with his aunt and going through that story, what came to mind for you with that?
DD: I was aware of the outline of the story, and Geri Perna, Matthew’s aunt, and the congressional testimony she provided was very abbreviated because they cut her time to three minutes.
The story isn’t merely “I’m the aunt of a January 6th defendant who took his life.” The story is that “my nephew didn’t do anything all that outrageous, should have received perhaps a small penalty proportionate to the act of trespassing and going into an unauthorized building.”
But what the government did was they kept postponing the trial and escalating the charges. This is a legal bludgeon that they use to break the will of these defendants. And this guy was ultimately facing the prospect of years in prison. In fact, imagine the idea of being classified as a terrorist.
He didn’t even obstruct an official proceeding (as he was charged) because the official proceeding had been adjourned before he even got into the building. So even that charge was inapplicable to him.
And so for the prosecutors, this is nothing more that — I won’t call it a game because a game is just played for enjoyment. They’re playing it with a very serious ideological purpose behind it.
They want to break the will of these defendants. And in this case, they succeeded. But the moment they succeed, they then feign innocence. Like we had nothing to do with that. Oh no, this is just the legal process. Oh, it’s very unfortunate what happened.
There’s just a bitter sense of helplessness, raw emotion, and frustration that comes out in the interview. That’s the kind of thing that I make movies to deliver because that’s ultimately, I think, what shows people that you’re dealing with something that is truly vile and monstrous.
AG: We had televised congressional hearings of the “January 6th Commission.” Why do you think there was never a “June 2020 Commission” to investigate what happened with the burning of cities amidst the George Floyd riots?
DD: It’s because the two parties have a completely different psychological approach to politics.
During the Obama years, for example, every time Obama would do something downright deliberate and in some cases malevolent, the conservatives would all tell me, “Dinesh, Obama doesn’t understand. We simply have to explain to him why giving Iran the means to get a nuclear weapon is not conducive to our security. We simply have to explain to him that putting a wrecking ball into the economy is not good for our economic future.”
It was so difficult to convince Republicans that there’s no point telling Obama this. He knows this. In fact, that’s why he was doing it. He wants to undermine American wealth and power abroad. He sees the U.S. as a colonial power that has had an unjust kind of dominance in the world. And he thinks taking us down a notch or two or three is actually a very good thing for, in a sense, setting the ship of the world right side up.
Now, the left and its aggression, its police state tactics, I think, have been greatly emboldened by the timidity and pusillanimity, the cowardice, of the Republicans.
The Democrats think like this: “We’ll try to pack the court, but the one thing that scares us. Is that if we fail, what if the Republicans try to pack the court?”
But then the Republicans come along and say, “we refuse to pack the court. Even if we had complete power, we insist on having nine members. We are ideologically and philosophically committed to nine.”
So the Democrats go, “This is fantastic. What could be greater? We’ll make an attempt to do this. If we fail, there’ll be no downside. There’ll be no cost to us because the other side is completely committed to nine, no matter what.”
Or to take a more, even stronger example, the Democrats say “we will weaponize the police agencies of government. We’ll go after Dinesh D’Souza. He’s a filmmaker, but he’s kind of a thorn in our side. Let’s try to lock him up for a few years.”
The Democrats would be deterred from doing that if they thought if the Republicans ever come to power, they’re going to target Michael Moore and Whoopi Goldberg and other people and lock them up.
But the Republicans go, “oh no, we wouldn’t dream of doing that. We’re not like the other guys. They may be gangsters, but we are law abiding people. We’re better than they are. We act on principle”
And the Democrats go, “What could be greater? We’ve got absolute suckers as our opponents where we can do all this stuff to them in the full knowledge that they will never do it to us.”
So I think that this right here shows why Republicans are not the party of the police state, but they do bear some complicity for the police state because they have not taken the obvious steps of stopping it.
I mean, imagine if you were to go out West in a covered wagon in the 19th century or the late 18th century. You go with your family, you build a ranch, you’re surrounded by outlaws with long guns, and you know that their goal is to burn your ranch, rape your wife, kill your kids, and you say, “oh no, I’m not going to go get my rifle because I’m better than they are. I’m not going to use the same vile tactics that they do. In fact, instead I’m going to write, you know, a strongly worded op-ed in National Review online.”
I mean, you wouldn’t even know what to say to such a person because their behavior is so out of congruence with the reality of the situation. So this is a little bit,, I guess I’m venting some of my frustration at Republicans and at the right, simply because they do not seem to have a clear, high comprehension of what they’re up against.
And this is again why I make movies, because it’s one thing to tell someone that the FBI can come through your door, it’s another thing for them to see it. So, a movie comes the closest to bringing that experience to ordinary Americans, who I think naively think that, “you know what, I’m not Trump, I didn’t go in the Capitol, I pay my taxes and therefore I’m safe.”
AG: The movie also details the machinery of the police state targeting moms who have attended school board meetings to address what’s being taught in their kids’ schools. Do you see that type of targeting getting worse?
DD: Well, just recently, there was a cover story in Newsweek about the fact that the FBI is now making a sort of official classification of MAGA Republicans as potential domestic terrorists. They don’t use the name Trump, they don’t use the name MAGA, but you have senior FBI officials quoted in the article saying, that’s who they’re referring to out of a certain sort of rhetorical neutrality.
So I fully expect them to do it because, see, the way the government operates is once they say things and they put them into bureaucratic documents, they then create task forces.
These task forces are distributed across the different agencies of government. They meet regularly. They have meetings.They’re always pushing forward an agenda.
So even if some individual decides this is not somewhere he or she want to go, there’s enormous bureaucratic momentum to move in the direction that was defined at the outset. This stuff is not going to stop unless we stop it.
We can’t be in denial or feel that somehow this is a false alarm or it will stop itself. We don’t want to be like the antelope who thinks that what it heard in the trees is not a predator ready to jump on its back, but rather, just movement of the wind. No, it’s a predator.
And it’s no consolation to say, “Okay, there’s a predator, but it’s going to jump on somebody else’s back, not mine. So I can keep grazing placidly.”
No, your turn will come. You may be next.
So once the jaws of the police state slam shut, and this is really where I kind of leave you with the movie, your options are really limited.
In fact, at that point, the only thing that you can do is run. You try to get out. You try to get your family out. You try to get your money out. You try to get out yourself. And even then, the police state at that point is in a position to stop you. So we don’t want to get there. We want to block this police state while we have powerful institutions — and we do.
The Supreme Court, the Republican House, Republican Attorneys General, and Secretaries of State.
There are cultural institutions that are standing in the way. So, we don’t have a full fledged police state, but we have been moving with alarming speed in that direction.
And we need to not only block it, but we need to roll it back.
AG: Final question: What would you say to convince someone who’s not very “political,” has never really watched a documentary like this, to see this movie?
DD: First, people want to go to movies that everybody’s talking about. So one of the things you try to do with a movie is break out of your own precinct and expose people who normally would not know anything about this to what this movie really is about.
That’s what we do with a trailer. To our good fortune, Elon Musk recently shared our trailer on X. It already had three and a half million views, but as of this conversation it has now passed 50 million views.
So think about that. That means there’s a lot of people in the middle or not very political or on the Left who are now exposed to what the movie is about.
I started to make the movie by saying, let me, let me talk about the way in which the Left is building this police state. Then I realized that the strange thing is that if you talk to people on the Left, particularly the people in the pundit class, they think that we’re building a police state.
So if you say to them, is America becoming a police state, they go, “oh yeah, of course it is. Trump’s leading it. Trump is the authoritarian.”
So I reoriented the sort of central theme of the movie, not so much to, are we becoming a police state, to who is, in fact, the evil force behind this police state and how do you begin to answer that kind of question?
So the movie says you answer the question by defining a police state.
Number one, what is it that police states are and what do they do?
Number two, how did we get one? How did it get started? What’s the genealogy of the police state?
Number three, how does the police state operate? What are its inner working?
And number four, who’s running it?
And when you answer those questions, it’ll be very clear. You will know for sure whether it’s the Left or the Right that is building the police state.
Check out the full trailer for “Police State” here: