In 2004 I covered the American Film Renaissance in Dallas, a conservative film festival organized in part in response to the documentary advocacy of Michael Moore whose Fahrenheit 9/11 had hit theaters that same year.
The festival represented a cultural counteroffensive of sorts, mounted by a new generation of conservatives who aimed to co-opt the language of countercultural agit-prop which until then had mainly been the prerogative of the left. Like similar initiatives (for instance the Liberty Film Festivals organized in Hollywood by Govindini Murty and Jason Apuzzo) the stated intent was to seize the initiative from the liberal elites which were to become relived tropes of Trumpian rhetoric.
Not even the most optimistic of the young lions gathered in Dallas at the time could have imagined all-encompassing success to be so nigh. In those neocon times ideological conservatives were content to criticize the Bush administration and the Republican establishment from the right. But the seeds were being sown for the alt-right movement which a mere dozen years on was to storm the most powerful government in the world and install Steve Bannon as its figurehead.
In the festival program of mediocre propaganda documentaries and religiously themed films, one stood out that year: Michael Moore Hates America, a parody of Moore’s Roger & Me directed by Michael Wilson. When I interviewed him back then, Wilson had the soft-spoken, grad student demeanor of the well-read young conservative, only becoming visibly impassioned on the subject of Ayn Rand, whom, like many festival participants, he venerated as the spiritual fountainhead of the doctrine then emerging as major ideological current in the new right.