(The definitive version of this post might be worth checking out.)
Part 1: The “Argument”
According to Jack Cashill—in an article first published at WorldNetDaily—Dreams from My Father was probably written by Bill Ayers. Cashill opens by demonstrating that Obama, unlike every undergraduate ever, published crap poems in a college literary journal. These crap poems “show not a glint of promise,” Cashill tells us, nor did a “heavily edited, unsigned student case comment” published in the Harvard Law Review. He then quotes an attorney consulted by Politico, who called it “a fairly standard example of the genre.” Cashill has a point here:
The “temperate legal language” of “a fairly standard example” of “a heavily edited, unsigned student case comment” is completely different from the style Obama would employ a few years later in his autobiography. Cashill is right to be suspicious. Who wouldn’t write their autobiography in the temperate language of an anonymous legal brief? What style is better suited to the tale of being abandoned by a father and raised to be a black man by a white woman in the wake of the Civil Right Movements?
But Cashill isn’t content to let the matter rest on logic. He consults an expert—in this case, Patrick Juola of the Authorship Attribution Program—and is advised to continue doing “good old-fashioned literary detective work” of the sort that’s proven the plays of William Shakespeare were written by Roger Bacon, Christopher Marlowe, William Stanley, Walter Raleigh, Edmund Spenser, or Edward de Vere. Cashill is no ordinary literary detective: in the past he has been called upon to rescue celebrity biographies, so he recognizes when someone, in this case “[w]hoever rescued Barack Obama’s Dreams from My Father[,] invest[s] considerable time to invent a distinct voice and style for an unknown author.” And who is this someone?
How does Cashill know? Because the “distinct voice and style” Ayers invents for Obama “is surely Ayers’ [own].” Ayers invented a style—his own—then wrote Dreams from My Father in it. To the untrained eye, that may sound ridiculous; but as a Doctor of Philosophy of Literature, I assure you his “deconstruction” of Obama’s autobiography is sound and valid.
His technical argument begins by pointing out that both Obama’s Dreams from My Father and Ayers’ Fugitive Days “are obsessed with memory and its instability.” Both address this heretofore unheard topic in the history of autobiography in a very similar style. Compare this passage from Obama:
Identity is funny being yourself is funny as you are never yourself to yourself except as you remember yourself and then of course you do not believe yourself you do not really believe yourself why should you, you know so well so very well that it is not yourself.
To this one from Ayers:
Now it could not be yourself because you cannot remember right and if you do remember right it does not sound right and of course it does not sound right because it is not right. You are of course never yourself.
The obsession with the instability of memory should be evident even to those who have never ghost-written celebrity autobiographies. But Cashill’s deconstruction is far from complete. He amasses a boatload of irrefutable evidence:
- Both Obama and Ayers “use ‘storms’ and ‘horizons’ as metaphor and as reality.”
- “Ayers and Obama also speak often of waves and wind, Obama at least a dozen times on wind alone.”
- The polyamorous Ayers has “tangled love affairs” while the undergraduate Obama has “tangled arguments.”
- “On at least 12 occasions, Obama speaks of ‘despair,'” an emotion Ayers has been known to feel.
- “Obama . . . has a fondness for the word ‘murky’ and its aquatic usages.”
- Both . . . make conspicuous use of the word ‘flutter.'”
- The “Fugitive Days” excerpt scores a 54 on reading ease and a 12th grade reading level. The “Dreams'” excerpt scores a 54.8 on reading ease and a 12th grade reading level.
If Cashill’s math fails to convince you—54 is quite close to 54.8, but numbers might not be to your taste—consider that in his analysis, he “introduce[s his] own book, Sucker Punch . . . [a]s a control.” How much more scientific does his deconstruction need to be?
Part Two: The Stupid
At The Corner, Andy McCarthy evaluates Cashill’s argument and proves himself to be an idiot by finding Cashill’s “lengthy analysis . . . thorough, thoughtful, and alarming—particularly his deconstruction of the text in Obama’s memoir and comparison to the themes, sophistication and signature phraseology of Bill Ayers’ memoir.” To be blunt: if you find Cashill’s identification of “sea imagery” and his lists of words both Obama and Ayers use to be particularly anything other than laughable pablum, you’re an eighth-wit.
If, however, you only use Cashill’s juvenile musings as a hypothetical which, if true, suggests all the unsavory things you already believe about Obama, then you’ve fully embraced the Cashill Doctrine. What do I mean by that? If you deconstruct Cashill’s name, you’ll find that it contains the words “cash” and shill.” “Cash” refers to paper bank notes which, in more robust times, could be exchanged for goods or services. A “shill,” according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is “one who poses as a disinterested advocate of another but is actually of the latter’s party; a mouthpiece, a stooge.” It goes without saying that shills often shill for cash, but in this case, I think we can say the shill’s shilling for cash and attention.
Because no one with any literary training can read Cashill’s tripe without recognizing it as the shoddy work of a dim student asked to compare and contrast two texts.