If you were a physician, would you enter an African village where people were dying from Ebola virus epidemic if some local people threaten to kill you because they mistakenly think you are causing the deaths since whenever doctors show up more people die?

Eight youths, some armed with slingshots and machetes, stood warily alongside a rutted dirt road at an opening in the high reeds, the path to the village of Kolo Bengou. The deadly Ebola virus is believed to have infected several people in the village, and the youths were blocking the path to prevent health workers from entering.

“We don’t want any visitors,” said their leader, Faya Iroundouno, 17, president of Kolo Bengou’s youth league. “We don’t want any contact with anyone.” The others nodded in agreement and fiddled with their slingshots.

Singling out the international aid group Doctors Without Borders, Mr. Iroundouno continued, “Wherever those people have passed, the communities have been hit by illness.

Health workers here say they are now battling two enemies: the unprecedented Ebola epidemic, which has killed more than 660 people in four countries since it was first detected in March, and fear, which has produced growing hostility toward outside help. On Friday alone, health authorities in Guinea confirmed 14 new cases of the disease.

Workers and officials, blamed by panicked populations for spreading the virus, have been threatened with knives, stones and machetes, their vehicles sometimes surrounded by hostile mobs. Log barriers across narrow dirt roads block medical teams from reaching villages where the virus is suspected. Sick and dead villagers, cut off from help, are infecting others.

“This is very unusual, that we are not trusted,” said Marc Poncin, the emergency coordinator in Guinea for Doctors Without Borders, the main group fighting the disease here. “We’re not stopping the epidemic.”

Efforts to monitor it are grinding to a halt because of “intimidation,” he said. People appear to have more confidence in witch doctors.

Health officials say the epidemic is out of control, moving back and forth across the porous borders of Guinea and neighboring Sierra Leone and Liberia — often on the backs of the cheap motorcycles that ply the roads of this region of green hills and dense forest — infiltrating the lively open-air markets, overwhelming weak health facilities and decimating villages.

It was in this rural area, 400 miles over bad roads from Guinea’s capital, Conakry, where the outbreak was first spotted, and where it has hit hardest. More than 80 percent of those infected have died in this region, and Guinea has recorded more than twice as many deaths as the other countries.

In Koundony, more than one-eighth of the population, including the headman, are dead; many others have fled.

There is no known cure for the virus, which causes raging fever, vomiting, diarrhea and uncontrolled bleeding in about half the cases and up to 90 percent of the time, rapid death. Merely touching an infected person, or the body of a victim, is dangerous; coming into contact with blood, vomit or feces can be deadly.

Now the fear of aid workers, principally from Doctors Without Borders and the Red Cross, is helping to spread the disease, health officials say, creating a secondary crisis.

Villagers flee at the sight of a Red Cross truck. When a Westerner passes, villagers cry out, “Ebola, Ebola!” and run away.

This month, Doctors Without Borders classified 12 villages in Guinea as “red,” meaning they might harbor Ebola but were inaccessible for safety reasons.

As recently as April, the epidemic seemed to be under control. But in the past two weeks, its center appeared to have shifted across the border to Sierra Leone, where most of the new dead were being recorded. The sick are being hidden and the dead buried, without any protection.

Last week, the Sierra Leone Health Ministry reported that its lead doctor fighting Ebola had contracted the disease, and the virus had spread to a fourth country, with a confirmed fatality in Nigeria. Over the weekend, an aid organization working in Liberia, Samaritan’s Purse, said that two Americans, a doctor who was treating Ebola patients and an aid worker on a case management team, had tested positive for the virus. And the Liberian government said Sunday that one of its most high-profile doctors had died of Ebola, according to The Associated Press.

Back in Guinea, in the village of Wabengou, residents placed a tree in the road to block outsiders. They also attacked an official delegation from Conakry, rushing its cars, banging on the vehicles and brandishing machetes, according to Doctors Without Borders.

“We don’t want them in there at all,” said Wabengou’s chief, Marcel Dambadounou. “We don’t accept their presence at all. They are the transporters of the virus in these communities.”

He was surrounded by grim-looking men from Wabengou, standing at a crossroads on the way to his village; none of them demurred.

“We are absolutely afraid, and that’s why we are avoiding contact with everybody,” he said, “the whole world.”’

Doctors Without Borders has set up an emergency treatment center in the regional capital, Guéckédou, but a nurse there said the center had diminishing appeal.

“Here, if the people come in, they don’t leave alive,” said the nurse, Fadima Diawara.

It may not help win confidence that the medical teams wear top-to-toe suits and masks, burning much of the outfit after helping a patient.

The wariness against outside intervention has deep roots. This part of Guinea, known as the Forest Region, where more than 200 people have already died of the disease, is known for its strong belief in traditional religion. The dictator who ruled Guinea with an iron fist for decades, Ahmed Sékou Touré, was only partly successful in a 1960s campaign to stamp out these beliefs, despite mass burnings of fetishes.

Addressing villagers this month in Bawa, where a woman had just died, the regional prefect from Guéckédou, Mohammed Cinq Keita, warned: “There is no root, no leaf, no animal that can cure you. Don’t be fooled.”

Near the border with Sierra Leone this month, Doctors Without Borders discovered an Ebola patient who had been privately “treated” in the village of Teldou and then returned to his relatives in another village, possibly infecting untold others.

“Extremely, extremely concerning,” said Sylvie Jonckheere, the charity’s doctor on the scene. A colleague in full gear lectured the villagers of Teldou as the rain started, but was met with indifference or hostile stares; some turned their backs on him.

As the aid workers drove off, the private nurse who administered a shot to the Ebola patient defended his treatment. “I couldn’t say that he had the illness,” said the nurse, Eduard Leno. “His body was hot, that’s all.”

Asked why the patient had not been sent to the clinic in Guéckédou, he said angrily: “We are in the bush here. You can’t just send someone away. How will society view you?”

Local officials have begun a campaign to open the closed villages — there have even been some recent arrests in Kolo Bengou — but in tiny Koundony, fear is palpable.

On a recent day, a Red Cross truck drove up to the cemetery to deliver the body of Marie Condé, 14, wrapped in plastic sheeting.

As the body was carried off the truck, a high-pitched wail pierced the country stillness. “There is no cure!” a woman cried. “There is no cure!”

The gravedigger, Marie’s half brother Famhan Condé, 26, was sweating as he heaved shovels of dirt. The grave, he said, would be the 26th he had dug since the epidemic began.

“We’re all scared here,” he said. “There’s no solution. We can do nothing. Only God can save us.”

If you were a ferry captain, what would you do if the owner of the ferry insisted on loading heavy cargo from his other businesses beyond the limits for the weight the ferry should carry?

After all the lavish galas in his honor at landmarks like the Louvre and Versailles, the tens of thousands of devotees following his religious teachings for decades, the hundreds of homes and businesses reportedly stashed around the globe, Yoo Byung-eun ended up alone, his body splayed on its back and rotting in the weeds, empty liquor bottles by his side.

Weeks before, nearly 10,000 police officers had raided his church’s compound in the largest manhunt in South Korean history, armed with backhoes to dig up underground hiding places, only to leave empty-handed. They had almost caught him once, it turned out, but Mr. Yoo slipped away, hiding in a secret room behind a wall in a distant villa, almost $1 million in two suitcases at the ready.

After a lifetime of craving recognition, of building a flock that showered him with cash and helped fund a business empire selling everything from toys to ships, Mr. Yoo found his moneymaking machine brought more than his own undoing, prosecutors say. It also contributed to one of the worst peacetime disasters in the nation’s history — the sinking of the ferry Sewol in April, which killed 304 passengers, the vast majority of them high school students.

Millions of dollars from the web of companies, including the one that owns the ferry, went to Mr. Yoo, 73, and his two sons, prosecutors say, squeezed from the business through an increasingly perilous set of decisions that enriched his family at the expense of the passengers.

Scores of cabins and even an art gallery laden with marble were added to the ferry’s upper decks, making the ship top-heavy. So much extra cargo was crammed on board that there was sometimes no space to secure it properly with chains and lashings. And, prosecutors say, the ferry’s crucial ballast water, needed to balance all the additional weight, was deliberately drained so that the vessel would not sit too low — a telltale sign to inspectors that the ferry was dangerously overloaded to bring in more money.

“It was a miracle that the ship actually sailed as far as it did; it could have tipped over any time,” said Kim Woo-sook, dean of the graduate school at Mokpo National Maritime University. “For them, cargo was cash.”

Few events in recent memory have rattled South Korea more deeply than the sinking of the ferry, a disaster captured in haunting text messages and cellphone videos from students as the ship slipped into the Yellow Sea.

As the ferry first started tilting, some students did not yet grasp the danger, shouting, “This is fun!” and joking about posting the event on Facebook. But as the ship listed farther, panic spread, with students yelling, “We don’t want to die!” and recording hurried goodbyes to their parents.

“This looks like the end,” one boy shouted into a smartphone, before another cut in: “Mom, Dad, I love you.”

Reinventing a Swindler

Such scenes reverberated around the world. Since then, scores of people have been arrested in connection with the sinking, including regulators, the captain, officers and members of the crew. But at the heart of the tragedy, and the investigation into how it happened, sits one of the nation’s most eccentric, and now reviled, families.

“The Yoo Byung-eun family, which is the root cause of this calamity, is inviting the ire of the people by flouting the law rather than repenting before the people and helping reveal the truth,” said President Park Geun-hye, who has also been widely criticized for her government’s failure to prevent the disaster, much less find Mr. Yoo before his death. His wife and two of his four children are now in custody, and one son remains at large.

The Yoo family’s representatives did not provide answers to questions about the disaster, their businesses or their church. Many church members have said, however, that Ms. Park is trying to demonize the Yoos to deflect criticism from her government. But dozens of interviews with regulators, Coast Guard officials, prosecutors, dockworkers, crew members and family business associates seem to confirm the prosecutors’ contention that the Yoo family played a crucial role in the tragedy by cutting corners on the ferry’s safety, even as it was spending lavishly on itself.

The family used a sprawling group of at least 70 companies on three continents as a personal A.T.M., prosecutors say. In their own names or through companies that they control, family members own at least $8 million worth of real estate in the United States alone, including a condominium at the Ritz Carlton in Manhattan, and have the rights to be an American distributor of Debauve & Gallais, the French maker of luxury chocolates once favored by Marie Antoinette. In France, they own an entire hilltop village.

The family also spent tens of millions of dollars to lionize Mr. Yoo, a convicted swindler known best in South Korea in connection with the mass suicide of 32 members of a splinter group of his church more than two decades ago.

Hoping to reinvent him as a Zen-like artistic genius, a family business donated $1.5 million to the Louvre, which then etched his new identity — the pseudonym Ahae — in gold on a marble wall at the museum. The family inaugurated a worldwide tour of his photos at Grand Central Terminal in New York and spent nearly $1 million to rent space as part of a deal to exhibit his work for months at Versailles, the palatial former home of French monarchs.

A sumptuous affair to begin the event, catered by a Michelin-starred chef, drew ambassadors and celebrities like the mother of Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, the singer-model wife of the former French president, according to Le Figaro. At a separate concert at the end of the exhibition, the London Symphony Orchestra played, premiering a brand new piece: Symphony No. 6 “Ahae.”

In one of their more damning findings, prosecutors say that so much money was being siphoned away from the ferry company to Mr. Yoo and his relatives that it was starved of funds and spent just $2 last year on safety training for the Sewol’s crew members. The money went to buy a paper copy of a certificate.

During the accident, the chaos caused by the lack of training was clear. Some crew members readily admitted in interviews after the disaster that they had no idea what to do during the emergency, had never done evacuation drills and made fatal mistakes like repeatedly telling passengers over the intercom to “stay inside and wait” as the ship began to sink, dragging scores of students down with it.

The ferry company was able to cut corners so dangerously because South Korea’s system for regulating ferries — like so much of regulation in South Korea — is based on trust, riddled with loopholes, manpower shortages, petty corruption and a reliance on businesses to police themselves. The broad, tacit acceptance of lax safety standards to keep the economy humming has been blamed for everything from building collapses to a nuclear energy scandal over fudged testing results that has raised serious questions about the safety of the country’s 23 reactors.

Public outrage since the ferry accident has pushed President Park to vow to strengthen safety standards by rooting out what she called “layers of corruption,” including collusive ties between regulators and businesses.

Prosecutors and government auditors said Coast Guard officials turned a blind eye to problems with safety checks after they had been taken to the resort island of Jeju, where they were wined and dined by the ferry company. Other inspectors admitted that they eyeballed boats from a distance to see how deeply they sat in the water, effectively guessing whether they were overloaded with cargo.

Members of Mr. Yoo’s church, known as Salvationists, say such discoveries are behind the government’s push to investigate the Yoos, saying it hopes to shift attention away not only from its own regulatory failures, but also the badly fumbled rescue attempt of the ferry, which had only 172 known survivors. The accident left Ms. Park’s government in disarray. Her prime minister tendered his resignation, and her approval ratings have plummeted.

“It’s as if all the problems are solved once they crack down on Yoo Byung-eun and the Salvationists,” said Yi Tae-jong, who operates an online archive of Mr. Yoo’s sermons and is a church spokesman. “From the days of founding our church, he is our biggest mentor.”

Grand Childhood Ambitions

Mr. Yoo’s grand ambitions started in boyhood. A sickly child, he dreamed of becoming “a sculptor greater than Michelangelo,” according to a collection of sermons published in 1981. But soon after high school, in the 1960s, he found a new calling: religion.

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Would you pay more for fast food knowing that the food was locally sourced and environmentally friendly?

The numbers were startling: Shares of Chipotle Mexican Grill shot up 12 percent on Tuesday after the company reported a nearly 26 percent spurt in its quarterly profit. For the fast-food industry, this was fresh evidence that the world of Big Macs and Doritos Locos Tacos has room for a menu with healthier-than-average food and higher-than-average prices.

But it came as no surprise to a new generation of smaller fast-food chains that are coming up fast behind Chipotle and its peers, and taking its “food with integrity” mantra even further.

A handful of rapidly growing regional chains around the country — including Tender Greens, LYFE Kitchen, SweetGreen and Native Foods — offer enticements like grass-fed beef, organic produce, sustainable seafood and menus that change with the season. Most promise local ingredients; some are exclusively vegetarian or even vegan. A few impose calorie ceilings, and others adopt service touches like busboys and china plates.

And despite the higher costs and prices, all are thriving and planning national expansions, some directed by alumni of fine dining or of fast-food giants like McDonald’s.

Their success marks a milestone: After decades of public hand-wringing about the empty calories and environmental impact of fast food, the farm-to-table notions that have revolutionized higher-end American restaurants have finally found a lucrative spot in the takeout line. The result already has a nickname: farm to counter.

“This is not a passing fad,” said B. Hudson Riehle, the research director for the National Restaurant Association, who added that locally grown food and sustainability were the top two customer priorities reported this year in the group’s annual poll of American chefs. “It’s only going to get stronger.”

This month, Veggie Grill, a vegan chain with 25 stores on the West Coast that serve nachos and Buffalo wings made with meat substitutes, showed up at No. 7 on Restaurant Business magazine’s annual list of the 50 fastest-growing small chain restaurants  in the United States, with a reported $26.6 million in sales in 2013; the company says its revenues jumped 47.9 percent from the previous year. 

At No. 10 was Tender Greens, which brought in more than $40 million in revenue last year from just 12 stores; that is over $3 million per restaurant — about 25 percent more than at Chipotle and Panera Bread, chains that are far better established.

LYFE Kitchen, which is to open a New York City branch this fall, brought in more than $3 million in its first year at one store in Palo Alto, Calif.

These ambitious new chains make up only a sliver of the nation’s $683 billion restaurant industry. But all are within its swiftest-growing segment, “fast-casual,” a subset of fast food that includes places like Chipotle and Panera, whose offerings are marketed as a rung or two higher than those of Burger King or Taco Bell: fewer frozen and highly processed ingredients, more-comfortable seats, better coffee and (sometimes) healthier food.

Fast food is served with a halo of virtue nearly everywhere these days: Subway introduced wholesome-sounding “nine-grain” bread in 2009, and McDonald’s made itself the country’s largest buyer of apples when it started selling apple slices in 2004.

Chipotle, the first chain to dive deeply into animal-welfare issues with its vow (since suspended from time to time) to serve only “naturally raised” antibiotic-free meat, recently posted controversial YouTube videos that demonize factory farming and boast of its relationship with small family farms.

But in order to be green enough for today’s customers, and to justify charging $12 for salad, the newer chains promise an even more exalted level of nourishment.

By adapting to the seasons, by eliminating genetically modified ingredients and mainly by serving “real” food — the kind of salad a Whole Foods shopper might toss at home, or the grilled herb-dusted albacore tuna that the same person might order in a more expensive restaurant — these chains set a higher standard for fast food.

That means no protein-powder shakes, turkey wraps and egg-white omelets, the staples of standard “healthy” chains, and more choices like the Cobb salad at Dig Inn, an eight-store chain in New York City that opened its first restaurant in 2011.

The substantial bowl of greens and grape tomatoes is tossed with blue cheese free of bovine growth hormones, local organic hard-boiled eggs, what the menu calls “naturally raised” bacon, freshly squeezed lemon juice, extra-virgin olive oil and yogurt (476 calories in all, for $9.19).

“Good food doesn’t have to be expensive,” Adam Eskin, the chain’s founder, said. “It’s not calorically defined. It’s not about being vegan or vegetarian or pescatarian. It’s just knowing where your food comes from and exactly what’s in it.”

Some of these terms are little more than buzzwords and branding: “Naturally raised” is not a category recognized by the Agriculture Department, and it is debatable whether consumers should be concerned about the amount of growth hormone in a tablespoon of cheese.

Still, posting the same prestigious ingredients usually seen on fine-dining menus on the wall of a fast-food chain is a bold move, and will soon become a challenge for the chains that plan to go national.

“Local and seasonal works for us in California,” said Erik Oberholtzer, a founder of Tender Greens, a Chez-Panisse-meets-Chipotle concept that now has 14 stores in California; the company works with Scarborough Farms, a 400-acre, family-run farm in Oxnard, Calif., as an investor as well as a supplier. “I don’t know if it would be scalable.”

If anyone has experience in scalability, it is the founders of LYFE Kitchen. Mike Donahue and Mike Roberts left McDonald’s in 2006; Mr. Roberts had been the company’s global chief operating officer, and Mr. Donahue its chief communications officer in the United States. Between them, the two had spent nearly 50 years nurturing the world’s largest restaurant chain and responding to near-constant criticism of its agricultural, ethical and nutritional practices.

“Having worked at the scapegoat for everything that’s wrong with food in America, we know what issues consumers care about,” Mr. Donahue said.

In 2011, with more than 100 investors, they opened the first LYFE Kitchen; now they simply refer to McDonald’s as “the old place.”

“At the old place, we had to learn everything about GMOs, recycling, animal welfare, calories, sodium, fat, social responsibility,” Mr. Donahue said. “We took all of that and poured it into the new place.”

LYFE Kitchen has a mission to go with its name (an acronym for Love Your Food Everyday) and motto (Eat Good. Feel Good. Do Good.). Each of its 10 restaurants, strategically distributed from California to Illinois, has a wall of fluffy herbs growing in the dining room, serves only grass-fed beef, uses china instead of plastic and keeps all entrees under 600 calories.

“We want to be the place where the vegan can come for the portobello burger with almond-milk cheese, with the Neanderthal friend who just wants a really good cheeseburger,” Mr. Donahue said. “We want to beat the vegetarian veto, where one person gets to decide where the whole group is going to have lunch.”

Coming from the other end of the culinary spectrum, Mr. Oberholtzer arrived at a similar place.

“Most of my career was centered on feeding what you might call the 1 percent,” said Mr. Oberholtzer, a chef who worked at Chez Panisse and Lark Creek Inn in the Bay Area and was executive chef at Shutters on the Beach, an upscale hotel in Santa Monica, Calif.

In 2006, he and two partners left Shutters and began putting their longstanding relationships with food producers to work at Tender Greens, which serves mainly vegetables (locally grown) in salads with meat (humanely raised) and seafood (sustainably fished).

Mr. Riehle, of the restaurant association, said chains like Tender Greens were perfectly timed to compete for the substantial combined buying power of health-minded baby boomers and idealistic, tech-savvy younger diners.

“The boomers are still strong but dwindling in numbers, and people between the ages of 18 and 34 are growing into their strength as consumers,” Mr. Riehle said. “A decade ago, I don’t think there was enough overall awareness of food issues to support this kind of enterprise.”

SweetGreen, which has 27 outlets in and around the cities of Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Washington, was started in 2007 by three Georgetown University seniors and is tightly connected to that younger demographic; its founders, Nicolas Jammet, Nathaniel Ru and Jonathan Neman, are all still under 30. (Mr. Jammet grew up in the kitchen, the son of André and Rita Jammet, who owned La Caravelle, the luxe New York restaurant that closed in 2004.)

Although Mr. Jammet said the target customer for their seasonal, local salads is an active, in-the-know type of any age (they use the term “conscious achiever”), SweetGreen has branded itself with events like SweetLife, an annual music and food festival; an active social media presence and a smart Instagram feed; and careful partnering with trendy urban brands like SoulCycle and Lululemon.

And more than the other chains, SweetGreen uses its loyalty program and its mobile apps to track, predict and guide customers’ behavior. In addition to where they eat and what, customer profiles include gender, age, ZIP code and other data that provide clear, real-time feedback.

“We’ve been bringing in a lot more men since we added these,” Mr. Jammet said, pointing to steaming canisters of organic wild rice, quinoa and farro. “Some of them still just don’t see salad as a meal.”

If a friend was running for Senate, and you already donated to his campaign, would you ask two other people to donate $10,000 each and promise to repay them for their political contributions?

Nobody wants the summer to end, but especially not Dinesh D’Souza.

In June, he published, “America: Imagine a World Without Her,” which spent a week as the No. 1 book on Amazon, and is currently No. 2 on the New York Times nonfiction best-seller list.

In July, he released a companion film, which has grossed more than $12 million, already roughly the same as the total of such well-known documentaries as “Hoop Dreams” and “Roger & Me,” counting inflation.

But in September, he will stand before a judge in a Manhattan courtroom and face a possible prison term after pleading guilty earlier this year to a violation of campaign-finance laws.

“The whole experience has been undoubtedly traumatic,” Mr. D’Souza said of his prosecution. “But I’m determined not to let it deter me.”

Even with the prospect of jail time looming, Mr. D’Souza has emerged as the right-wing media star of the moment, a seemingly constant presence on talk radio and Fox News. During the run-up to the film’s release, he appeared at screenings across the country, arriving, rock-star style, on a tour bus emblazoned with a giant image of his face.

Animating both the book and film is Mr. D’Souza’s claim that America is under attack from within — and that the enemy is its own government, as well as its progressive collaborators in Hollywood, academia and the mainstream media. In Mr. D’Souza’s telling, their goal is to undermine the country’s self-image and standing by replacing the narrative of American greatness and exceptionalism with one of guilt and shame.

Mr. D’Souza has long been known as a conservative provocateur, but his latest incarnation as a right-wing Michael Moore represents a significant departure for a man who was once seen as the next William F. Buckley Jr. His success as a documentarian has also opened up the possibility of a new medium for conservatives, one that has mostly been dominated by liberals.

“With film, you have a grand platform to alter the national conversation in a profound fashion,” said the radio host Laura Ingraham, who has known Mr. D’Souza since college. “I think that’s more important in many ways than the daily television hits or radio shows.”

Mr. D’Souza’s surging popularity stems in part from his background. Born and raised in India, he graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Dartmouth and has been affiliated with some of the country’s most respected conservative think tanks.

Both his book and the film are rife with controversial assertions. “How, for example, did Obama get elected as a complete unknown?” Mr. D’Souza asks in the book. “There is a one-word answer: slavery. America’s national guilt over slavery continues to benefit Obama, who ironically is not himself descended from slaves.”

Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the House and co-host of CNN’s “Crossfire,” says Mr. D’Souza’s roots and scholarly bona fides give him “credibility” in right-wing circles. “A lot of conservatives feel comfortable being told things by Dinesh that they might not exactly feel comfortable being told by someone else,” he said.

After Dartmouth, Mr. D’Souza worked at the Policy Review, a conservative journal in Washington, before joining the Reagan administration in 1988 as an adviser. His first book, “Illiberal Education,” published in 1991, was at the center of a debate over so-called political correctness on America’s college campuses.

Since then, however, Mr. D’Souza’s career has taken a series of unexpected turns. His views have drawn criticism not only from the left but also from the right. His 2007 book, “The Enemy at Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11,” ignited outrage among some conservatives, who considered its thesis — captured succinctly in the subtitle — not only deeply flawed but irresponsible. And in 2012, Mr. D’Souza abruptly resigned as president of King’s College, a Christian school in Manhattan, after it surfaced that he was involved with a woman who was not his wife.   

Mr. D’Souza, 53, said his foray into filmmaking began after a talk with the billionaire Joe Ricketts, a major donor to right-wing causes. According to Mr. D’Souza, Mr. Ricketts was taken with his 2010 book, “The Roots of Obama’s Rage,” and wanted more Americans to be exposed to its thesis, which argues that Obama is carrying out the anticolonial agenda of his Kenyan father.

“A book can reach 50,000, maybe 100,000, people,” Mr. Ricketts said, as recalled by Mr. D’Souza. “How do you reach a million people?”

“You have to make a movie,” Mr. D’Souza replied.

The result was Mr. D’Souza’s first film, “2016: Obama’s America,” which was released during the 2012 campaign and is currently the second-highest-grossing political documentary of all time, behind only Mr. Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11.” Mr. Ricketts invested in “2016: Obama’s America,” but not in the most recent film.

In the process of becoming one of the most influential voices on the right, Mr. D’Souza has alienated a number of the conservative intellectuals who once looked up to him. Some accuse him of cynically using his academic credentials to advance false, reductive ideas in order to sell books and movie tickets.

“He was the all-star, the guy every student aspired to be,” said James Panero, who graduated from Dartmouth in 1998 and is now executive editor of The New Criterion, a conservative literary journal. “But I think the rewards of playing to the crowd, of throwing out red meat, have become too great.”

In a sense, Mr. D’Souza’s trajectory is emblematic of a broader shift in the conservative movement. The policy journals and think tanks that once played a key role in shaping conservative thought have been marginalized by the grass-roots populism of talk radio, Fox News, local political movements — and now, perhaps, documentary films.

“The idea that American politics is made by a kind of professional elite was always a bit dubious and is becoming less and less true,” said Mr. D’Souza.

A little controversy has also helped raise Mr. D’Souza’s profile. Costco carried his new book when it was first published, but decided to drop it several weeks later. The move provoked an outcry on the right, which accused the retailer of political censorship; the company’s co-founder, James D. Sinegal, is a major Democratic supporter.

Costco insisted that the decision had nothing to do with the book’s author. “We don’t do things based on political beliefs,” said Richard A. Galanti, the company’s chief financial officer. “The book wasn’t selling well, so we decided to pull it.”

Regardless, Mr. D’Souza exploited the opportunity, taking to Fox News, radio and Twitter to accuse the retailer of trying to silence him. The interest generated by the ensuing furor, coupled with the release of the companion film, drove up sales, prompting Costco to restock the book.

Mr. D’Souza also spied political motives behind his campaign-finance prosecution. Earlier this year, Preet Bharara, the United States attorney in Manhattan, announced criminal charges against Mr. D’Souza, accusing him of skirting contribution limits by arranging to have two people donate $10,000 each to the Senate campaign of a friend, with the understanding that he would reimburse them.

His lawyers accused the Justice Department of singling out Mr. D’Souza because of his condemnation of Mr. Obama — a claim the government vehemently denied. Mr. D’Souza pleaded guilty in May and faces up to two years in prison.

The criminal indictment makes a brief appearance near the end of Mr. D’Souza’s new film. Harvey A. Silverglate, a lawyer and outspoken critic of law enforcement, explains that on a normal day, the average American does three things that could be deemed felonies “by some ambitious Department of Justice prosecutor.” Soon after, Mr. D’Souza tells the story of the Internet folk hero Aaron Swartz, who committed suicide last year after being charged with computer fraud.

Enter Mr. D’Souza, in handcuffs: “the latest victim to be targeted by the Obama White House,” says the voice-over from the Fox News host Sean Hannity.

“Where will they stop?” Mr. D’Souza asks. “At the point where we stop them.”