Sunday, September 30, 2012

Fever Dreams From My Real Father #6: The Omniscient Joel Gilbert

Judge Snyder: Mr. Hutz we've been in here for four hours. Do you have any evidence at all?
Lionel Hutz: Well, Your Honor, we've got plenty of hearsay and conjecture. Those are kinds of evidence.

- The Simpsons Episode 3F16, "The Day the Violence Died"

Joel Gilbert doesn't like to cite sources. Dreams From My Real Father makes many, many extraordinary claims, but provides relatively little in terms of evidence or sources to support those claims.

In fact, so much of his movie is mired in rumor and conjecture, where Gilbert simply tells stories that are radically different than what's been previously published about Obama, that he provides relatively few significant facts to check. There are no sources indexed at the end of the film, or on his website. And the narration isn't citing source material. There are a few specific bits of evidence scattered throughout the film, mostly mundane historical dates that just establish the settings for the elaborate fictions Gilbert creates in them. The overwhelming amount of the film consists of little more than crap that Gilbert simply made up.

Gilbert uses his Faux-bama narrator to play a storytelling trick on his viewers; since the narration is in the first-person, Gilbert can make it sound like a personal confession, without having to produce any evidence to support the details of that confession. When the narrator makes some shocking factual claim, the video footage doesn't show anything that substantiates that claim; rather, the video prefers stock footage that simply illustrates the *idea* of what's being said, instead of actually PROVING it. The narrator says Gramps was in the CIA? Then the movie shows black-and-white stock footage of CIA agents. The narrator, speaking as Obama himself, doesn't cite sources; he simply tells stories as if he personally experienced them.

Listing every instance of this sort of hoodwinkery in the film is more than I care to do. For instance, consider this fairly shocking revelation by Gilbert:

I know, I've told the tale that my grandfather was an extremely restless furniture salesman...That was a cover story. Gramps was a Company Man. A spook! CIA! After Berkeley, Gramps signed onto Air Force Intelligence, working at Shepherd, then McConnell Air Force Base, before landing a job with the Central Intelligence Agency. In 1953, Gramps was posted to Lebanon as a CIA case officer at the U.S. embassy in Beirut. That's where Mom got her first taste of living in third world countries. And she loved it!

Seattle was home to many CPUSA members...In the fall of 1956, Gramps was assigned to Seattle to monitor CPUSA...In the summer of 1959, Gramps began commuting from Seattle to Hawaii, every two weeks for the CIA as Mom began her senior year. Gramps' job was to oversee the African students and recruit them as future CIA contacts.

You read that right: Gilbert says Obama's granddad was a covert CIA agent who worked on Air Force bases, moved to the Middle East, spied on domestic Communists, and commuted to Hawaii twice a month while recruiting African foreign-exchange students to work for the CIA.

Gilbert labels this part of his story "Chapter 2: My Gramps, Company Man." It begins just after the 13 minute mark in the movie, and Barack Senior gets his first mention just after the 18 minute mark. Inbetween is a full five minutes of film about the Dunham family and Stanley's supposed career as a CIA operative.

How does Gilbert fill those five minutes onscreen? Almost entirely with stock footage, '50s-era video clips, maps, etc. Here is a list of EVERY onscreen image in those five minutes that is directly tied to the Dunham family:

- During the first twenty seconds of "Chapter 2," Gilbert shows seven pictures of Stanley Dunham and his family, including baby Ann.
- Twenty seconds later, Gilbert shows Stanley Dunham's report card from Berkeley, which shows he got Cs in French.
- A minute later, Gilbert shows this photo of the Dunham family sitting on a couch, claiming it was taken in Lebanon.
- Two minutes after that, Gilbert shows four photos of Ann from her Mercer Island High School yearbooks.
- Another minute later, Gilbert shows two more yearbook photos of Ann.

And that's it. In a five-minute narrative about secret careers, international travel, Communist spying, and CIA recruitment, Gilbert's only onscreen evidence is a handful of mundane, publicly-available photos of Ann and her family, and a scan of her dad's college report card. So the evidence to support his 'Gramps was a CIA agent' story certainly isn't put onscreen for viewers to see. It's also not proffered in the narration, or in the credits, or on his website.

Still, Gilbert tries to spin two of these images into something more. He claims that because Gramps took French in college, that means he was preparing for a job with U.S. intelligence. By this logic, I believe virtually every college graduate in the last half-century must be seeking work with the CIA.

Second, in the couch photo, Ann's outfit has some writing on it that Gilbert thinks spells 'NDJ.' And Gilbert further speculates that that stands for College Notre-Dame de Jamhour in Lebanon, without, say, showing that the school ever had a logo that resembled the embroidery in question. (Also, if you put 'NDJ' into Google, the website for College Notre-Dame de Jamhour is a first-page result. Is the association Gilbert's drawing the result of actual investigation, or lazy Googling?)

In short, Gilbert produces so little in support of his CIA epic that a refutation would basically consist of saying 'Gilbert provides no evidence to support this statement,' followed by links to more credible sources.

And if you're wondering where Gilbert got the inspiration for this little CIA saga, I believe it originated with none other than conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, back in August 2010, when he published an 'expose' by fellow conspiracy journalist Wayne Madsen. The NDJ speculation seems to have first appeared in that article, and Madsen makes several other arguments that also appear in Dreams From My Real Father.

So rather than sharing every made-up, unevidenced claim in the film (as that would involve quoting so much of it that it might constitute a copyright violation), I've instead selected several narrator quotes that most perfectly illustrate Gilbert's willingness to fabricate stories out of thin air: the claims about private actions and conversations that Gilbert could not possibly know about.

[J]ust after New Years 1961, Mom realized she was pregnant. When she told Gramps, he yelled until she revealed who the father was, which made him yell louder. Mom screamed back, "It's your fault for dragging me to an island where I don't have any friends." Gramps knew that it was because of his job that Frank Marshall Davis had entered their home. He sunk into a haze of guilt, as he assessed the situation.

How could Gilbert know any of this? Simple: he couldn't. It's a private conversation between two people who are now dead. Gilbert just made it all up.

But then, Gramps realized he was in even bigger trouble: Frank Marshall Davis was under FBI surveillance, If they found out the #1 Communist on the island was his new son-in-law, he could lose his security clearance, and his job at the CIA. Then he really would have to sell furniture! Gramps decided to meet Frank Marshall Davis at a bar in Waikiki. Frank said he was sorry, but he was married with five kids and didn't want his wife to know. He suggested they find a substitute father to marry mom. A black man; that would legitimize the birth. Gramps liked the idea, and he knew just the guy: an African student under his supervision, who needed money: Barack Hussein Obama.

The next day, Gramps invited the Kenyan to the same bar and brought up the sham marriage. Barack said no; he was already married, with children in Kenya. Then Gramps explained, if you marry an American citizen, you can get a work permit and extend your visa to study for a PhD. Barack recognized the opportunity, and agreed under two conditions: number one, that the marriage take place away from Honolulu, and number two, that he bear no responsibility for the child. Gramps agreed the birth certificate would state "Father Unknown," and the deal was done.

You see, Joel Gilbert was apparently a time-traveling fly-on-the-wall in an unnamed Hawaiian bar in 1961. How else could he know that these conversations happened, or what was said in them?

So Gramps tracked down Barack at a government office in Nairobi. "Remember me?" he asked. Barack didn't want to bother; said he'd done his part of the deal ten years ago. So Gramps offered the Kenyan his own apartment and money to spend; a month-long Hawaiian vacation. All he had to do was show up at the school with ID, and keep up the ruse for young Barry.

As if Gilbert wasn't straining credibility enough already, now he's a time-traveling fly-on-the-wall in Kenya.

It should go without saying at this point that Gilbert is still providing no evidence to support the reality of any of these supposed conversations or events. While the narration provides these flights of fancy, the onscreen imagery continues to be dominated by stock video or public domain footage from the mid-20th century, publicly available photographs of Davis or of the Dunhams, video of old Davis interviews, old location photographs, maps, newspapers, etc.

Sure enough, at age twelve, I learned the truth. I was poking through some boxes at Gramps' place, when I found my birth certificate. Why was the father unknown? I demanded to know. Gramps slowly came clean, and I cried and cried. Why had no one told me the truth? Gramps dropped me off at Uncle Frank's house, where Frank tried to make light of the situation...

Rightfully, I was Frank Marshall Davis, Jr., son of the great Communist writer and poet. I told my father I wanted to change my name, but he said white folks are more accepting of Africans than they are of American Negros. You'll get a lot further with "My daddy's from Kenya."

You'll notice, of course, that Gilbert isn't even TRYING to explain to his viewers how he knows this stuff. He's too lazy to even engage in standard conspiracy theorist tropes of connecting-the-dots. He just has his first-person narrator say that it happened this way, and hopes that his audience won't pause to ask any questions.

Gilbert doesn't limit his omniscience just to conversations from Obama's childhood. No, he also knows all about secret interactions with Bill Ayers and Bill Ayers' dad, claiming that Obama met the Ayers not while working in Chicago, but a decade earlier in New York City, at a 1982 rally supporting Bernardine Dohrn:

Afterwards I struck up a conversation with Bill. We walked toward his apartment on 123rd street. It was like meeting the Beatles!...I told Bill I'd seen him and Bernadine on TV when they surrendered and left the Underground...I wanted to impress Bill, so I told him I joined May 19 because I was a Red Diaper Baby. That my father was Chicago Communist Frank Marshall Davis. Af first, Bill was shocked...Bill called his father and put me on the phone with him. That's when Thomas Ayers told me whenever I needed anything, just to let him know...That was the beginning of my thirty-year relationship with Bill Ayers and his family...

Bill said, "But my pipe bombs were pipe dreams. It's impossible to overthrow the government from the outside. That's why I'm shifting to academic indoctrination, to overthrow the system from within."

Evidence for ANY of this: none.

And lest Gilbert tries to defend himself by saying that all of these heretofore unknown private conversations are just dramatic license, remember what Gilbert himself said: "In my film I'm all about telling the truth. I'm not twisting anything. I'm not entertaining anybody." Either he's committed to telling the truth, or he's making stuff up; he can't have it both ways.

All of the above, of course, is just what Gilbert makes up in the movie itself. He's exhibited additional bouts of omniscience in the course of promoting the film. For instance, Gilbert told WND: "As Ann Dunham engaged in nefarious activities with Frank Marshall Davis, who was likely involved in pornography and prostitution, why would she bring 10 year-old Barry back from Indonesia and tell her father something to the effect of, 'I’m going back to Indonesia, but please take young Barry to Frank’s house a few times a week.'"

Gilbert has repeated this story of 'Ann told Gramps to take Barry to see Frank twice a week' many times, especially on Peter Boyles' radio show. So many times, in fact, that when Boyles had Dinesh D'Souza on the air to discuss his movie "2016," Boyles insisted that this scene was in Obama's own memoir. Gilbert's lied to Boyles so many times that even though he's never cited a source for this claim, Boyles is nonetheless convinced that Obama himself personally admitted to it in print.

Gilbert's narrative is so littered with lies that he cannot even keep them straight. In the film, Gilbert lays out a scenario where Stanley Dunham is a CIA agent who is tasked with monitoring Frank Marshall Davis, and in the course of his work he introduces Davis to his daughter Ann. The film then claims that Stanley orchestrates the 'Barack Obama Sr' cover story in order to save face at work.

In interviews, however, Gilbert repeatedly tells the story about Ann instructing Gramps to see the old black man she used to hang out with and listen to records with, as if Gramps had no particular knowledge of who Davis was. In the movie, Gramps is portrayed as a government agent who knows all about Frank Marshall Davis from the moment he moves to Hawaii; while on the radio, Gramps is a blissfully ignorant father who doesn't know Frank Marshall Davis from Miles Davis. If Gramps was ignorant of Davis in 1971, then he wouldn't have masterminded an elaborate coverup in 1961. And if he knew Davis as a Communist in 1961, then why would he risk his career and reputation to visit him twice a week with his grandson a decade later? Gilbert's willing to tell inconsistent fictions simply because he doesn't *care* about telling the truth.

As I said at the top, Joel Gilbert doesn't like to cite sources. And people who don't like to cite sources should always set off one's skeptical radar. Not only does Gilbert make numerous allegations that he fails to back up factually, but many of the tentpole moments in his film involve events and conversations that Gilbert could not possibly know about. In making these sorts of grand pronouncements, Gilbert has the burden of explaining what he discovered that supports them. And rather than live up to that burden, Gilbert runs from it.

UPDATE: It has come to my attention that the film actually carries a disclaimer that I failed to notice, which says that the movie includes such things as "re-creations of probable events, and speculation."

I failed to appreciate this, perhaps, because I was more taken by an entirely contradictory statement of Gilbert's, which I quoted in my initial post on his film:

"In my film I'm all about telling the truth. I'm not twisting anything. I'm not entertaining anybody." - Joel Gilbert, The Peter Boyles Show, Sep. 26, 2012

And yet he runs a Kevin Trudeau-style disclaimer that says his movie might be true, and that he actually just made up large chunks of it. Further reason why he is not to be trusted.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Fever Dreams From My Real Father #7: Gilbert's "Mockumentaries"

Dreams From My Real Father is not Joel Gilbert's first DVD documentary to present a wild conspiracy theory that attempts to completely rewrite the life of a world-famous individual with stories of cover-ups that extended over whole decades, and claims of astonishing new evidence that Gilbert says he uncovered. In 2010, Gilbert wrote and produced Paul McCartney Really Is Dead: The Last Testament of George Harrison, and in January 2012 he released Elvis Found Alive. Both were projects of Gilbert's production company, Highway 61 Entertainment.

Paul (available on Netflix streaming) makes the case that Paul McCartney died in 1966 and was replaced in the Beatles by a doppleganger. Gilbert's website claims that in 2005, he received a mysterious envelope with no return address, containing two microcasettes that featured George Harrison's extended confession of the cover-up. Images of the envelope and tapes are prominently featured in the film and on the website. In his introduction to the film, Gilbert says that he had the tapes tested by "three different forensic labs." The audio of 'George' is then used as the movie's narration for the following hour and a half.

Elvis, by contrast, argues that the King of Rock and Roll did not die in 1977, but instead faked his death and lived on as a federal drug enforcement agent named "Jon Burrows." As in Paul, Gilbert says he obtained previously-secret evidence to support this claim, this time through a Freedom of Information Act request. Gilbert features himself prominently in the film, as he claims to track down the living Elvis, who he interviews and convinces to record a new album. Somewhat inexplicably, Gilbert's Elvis even rants about Bill Ayers and "Barry Soetoro," conveniently segueing into Gilbert's next project.

Of course, in Dreams From My Real Father, the claim is that President Obama's entire lifestory is fictionalized, beginning before his birth, and that he is the biological and ideological son of poet Frank Marshall Davis. Just as in the other two films, Gilbert has insisted that this movie's claims are also based on astonishing evidence he gathered, even though the movie consists of almost nothing but existing footage and publicly available photos. Whatever extraordinary 'evidence' Gilbert obtained during his supposed trips to Hawaii somehow failed to make it onscreen. And just as Paul was narrated by a supposed George Harrison, and Elvis prominently featured the voiceover of a supposed elderly Mr. Presley, Dreams is narrated by an Obama soundalike.

There are plenty of reviews of these films online, detailing just how ridiculous and fact-impaired they are. The DVDTalk reviews are particularly thorough. One review offered up a description of Gilbert's work that perfectly encapsulates his Dreams as well: "The allegations are so preposterous, we were laughing out loud; had this been evidence offered in a courtroom, we’d have been removed."

With almost no time wasted, Paul gets off to an inauspicious start. Just after the opening montage and before Gilbert's introduction, this establishing shot appears:

If you think that looks're right. It's a stock image of an office building, with a fake "Highway 61 Entertainment" logo slapped on it:

Two minutes in, and Gilbert is already lying to his viewers. (Oh, and to any Birthers reading, that is how you prove something was Photoshopped.)

There's also an intriguing tidbit at the other end of Paul, in the closing credits. Lance Lewman is listed as one of two "Researchers" on the film. Lewman is a professional voiceover artist who just happened to also narrate two of Gilbert's other films: Atomic Jihad and Farewell Israel. If Gilbert simply hired his previous narrator to fake a British accent, then that makes his 'mysterious envelope' story all the more contemptible.

Nowadays, Gilbert would likely defend his Paul and Elvis films on the grounds that they weren't meant to be serious. On the Highway 61 website, they are listed under the category of "Spoofs/Mockumentaries."

That category, however, is a relatively new addition to Gilbert's company website. Previously, Paul and Elvis were promoted as straightforward documentaries, both in the films themselves and in Gilbert's promotional efforts. Gilbert's company website used to list Paul directly alongside his Middle-East documentary Atomic Jihad and one of his Bob Dylan retrospectives. As mentioned above, the introduction to Paul has Gilbert directly telling his audience a story about how he received the mysterious tapes in the mail, and how he spent five years having them scientifically tested. In this interview, Gilbert claims to have commissioned scientific testing on the mysterious tapes he says were mailed to him:

Gilbert: "we do have in L.A. forensic equipment in different film studios that we've worked with as well as somebody who's actually had some experience with the police. We went to three different places, each time trying to get a little more sophisticated in our comparison...we found out that the voice did match up quite well with some recordings and interviews from Harrison from the late '90s that he'd given and that it was extremely close to that. And that's how each time we tried to nail it a little closer to the point where we were told it's a high likelihood it is Harrison."

And, of course, if Paul was just a 'mockumentary' narrated by a George impersonator, then that means Gilbert was lying through his teeth when he discussed all these supposed forensic tests, and the "high likelihood" that it's Harrison's actual voice. In another interview, Gilbert claims his attorney said "the usage of Harrison’s voice is legal because the film is a both journalism and a documentary." Documentary, he said. Not spoof.

Nowhere is Gilbert's subsequent change-of-tune more obvious than on the film websites themselves.

The image to the right shows the Paul website as it appears today. It begins:

The "Paul is Dead" urban legend that exploded worldwide in 1969 was considered a hoax. In this mockumentary spoof of "Paul-Is-Dead," a voice on mysterious tapes reveals a secret Beatles history, chronicling McCartney's fatal accident. A package arrives from London with no return address. Inside are two mini-cassette audio tapes dated December 30, 1999 and labeled THE LAST TESTAMENT OF GEORGE HARRISON...

It plainly says "mockumentary spoof" in the second sentence. But that language wasn't added to the website until sometime after July 2011. The Paul website as it appeared in 2010, both before and after the DVD's September 2010 release, told a different story. It spotlighted Highway 61's role far more prominently, instead of the passive-voice construction of today ("A package arrives" "audio tapes dated"), and it never used the words "mockumentary" or "spoof" at all. Instead, as seen on the bottom right, it advertised the film as being a perfectly serious investigative expose:

Until now, the “Paul is Dead” mystery that exploded worldwide in 1969 was considered a hoax. However, in this film, George Harrison reveals a secret Beatles history, chronicling McCartney’s fatal accident, the cover up, dozens of unknown clues, and a dangerous cat and mouse game with “Maxwell,” the Beatles’ MI5 handler, as John Lennon became increasingly reckless with the secret. Harrison also insists that Lennon was assassinated in 1980 after he threatened to finally expose "Paul McCartney" as an imposter!

Highway 61 Entertainment has corroborated most of George Harrison’s stunning account of the conspiracy to hide McCartney’s tragic death. Harrison’s complete audio tapes narrate this film that includes all the newly unearthed evidence. The Last Testament of George Harrison may prove to be the most important document of rock and roll history, leaving little doubt that PAUL McCARTNEY REALLY IS DEAD!

What Gilbert says in 2012 is a "mockumentary spoof," in 2010 he was promoting as "the most important document of rock and roll history." Similarly, in 2012, he's claiming that the content of Dreams would earn any journalist a Pulitzer; what will he be saying about it two years from now?

Gilbert did the same rewriting of history with his Elvis movie, but even more blatantly. Here's a screenshot of circa the release of the DVD:

And here is as it appears today:

First sentence then: "ELVIS has been FOUND, ALIVE!"

First sentence now: "In this new mockumentary spoof of Elvis theories, Elvis has been FOUND ALIVE!"

And it wasn't just on his individual promotional websites that Gilbert did this. His original press releases and promotional materials treated the films as perfectly serious, and never used the word "mockumentary." Reviews noted that the movies were advertised as "documentaries." The DVD sleeves didn't call themselves "mockumentaries" or "spoofs." And Gilbert gave multiple interviews about the Paul film where he claimed the movie was a completely serious investigative piece, including doubling-down on the 'mysterious envelope' backstory.

Even over at the Internet Movie Database, Gilbert's Paul is today categorized under three genres: "Documentary | Fantasy | Music." But back in September 2010, just after the DVD was released, it had just one genre label: "Documentary."

When one is confronted with questionable evidence, a basic question to always ask is "How credible is the source?" Has he made grand pronouncements before, only to be subsequently proven wrong? Has he made similar mistakes in the past? Does he simply have a history of lying, and recycling the same sorts of lies?

In 2010, Joel Gilbert made a DVD movie about Paul McCartney where he declared to the world that he'd uncovered astonishing new evidence that would rewrite Paul's life as we know it...until he later changed his tune and said that it was just a big joke.

In 2011, Joel Gilbert made a DVD movie about Elvis Presley where he declared to the world that he'd uncovered astonishing new evidence that would rewrite Elvis' life as we know it...until he later changed his tune and said that it was just a big joke.

In 2012, Joel Gilbert made a DVD movie about Barack Obama where he declared to the world that he'd uncovered astonishing new evidence that would rewrite Obama's life as we know it...

...who do you think the joke's on this time?

Friday, September 28, 2012

Joel Gilbert's "Dreams From My Real Father" Exposed

Joel Gilbert's direct-to-DVD movie Dreams From My Real Father is to the Obama Birther movement what Dylan Avery's Loose Change was to the 9/11 Truthers. It is a slickly-polished piece of propaganda, designed to promote a fringe conspiracy theory through the presentation of extensive misinformation. But whereas Loose Change has inspired extensive, point-by-point debunkings, it's doubtful that anyone will ever give Gilbert's film that much attention. Not because it's *good* mind you, but simply because it's just that unimportant.

Or like one man said of the 9/11 Truthers, the political and spiritual predecessors to the Obama Birthers, "The very idea of the 9/11 Truth Movement, that the US was behind the attacks, is such utter nonsense that a film to debunk this theory is unnecessary." Ironically, that man was Joel Gilbert.

And yet, for the next few days, I'm going to be doing just that on a much more limited basis. Because although Gilbert may not be worthy of the effort, his claim of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to send free DVD copies to unsuspecting voters means that this is a fringe production with a promotion budget that is respectably mainstream. Moreover, Gilbert refuses to disclose who is funding this effort. So if some anonymous benefactor is willing to spend a half-million to raise public awareness of Gilbert's claims, I can afford a little time to demonstrate why he's untrustworthy and his claims are crap.

First, for the unfamiliar, Dreams From My Real Father is a DVD 'documentary' written and directed by Joel Gilbert. Its central thesis is that President Barack Obama is not actually the son of the man he says is his father, Barack Hussein Obama of Kenya. Rather, Gilbert proposes that Obama's *true* biological father is the African American poet and one-time Communist activist Frank Marshall Davis. Davis was a known friend of Obama's grandfather when Obama was young, but Gilbert says that Davis was much more, and he lays out his theory that Obama's mother and grandparents engaged in a multi-decade ruse to cover up the truth about Obama's paternity. Further details can be seen in Gilbert's promotional video and on Gilbert's website.

Where did these improbable allegations come from? Let's cover some history for a moment. In the spring of 2008, a rumor was begun online about where Barack Obama was born, and in June 2008 it blossomed into a full-fledged fringe conspiracy theory. Over the next few months it spread and grew, and it also began inspiring spin-off conspiracy theories about his birth and citizenship. That Obama was born in Canada. That Obama was adopted. That Obama was an Indonesian citizen. That Obama lost his American citizenship as a child. That Obama was never a U.S. citizen to begin with.

Then in September 2008, another new rumor was created at the right-wing website The Astute Bloggers. On September 1, site owner 'Reliapundit' complained about conspiracy theories that were circulating at the time regarding the parentage of Sarah Palin's infant child, and in response posed the question "OBAMA'S TRUE PARENTAGE: IS BARACK OBAMA REALLY THE BIOLOGICAL SON OF FRANK MARSHALL DAVIS?"

In isolation the post would seem to be little more than a satirical response to the ugly and baseless allegations that were being thrown at Palin. But Reliapundit didn't stop there. On September 13 he was arguing that Obama looks more like Davis than Obama Sr., and by September 30 he had assembled a list of questions that he suggested supported a secret father-son relationship between Davis and then-candidate Obama. (Nearly all of the points in the September 30, 2008 post at The Astute Bloggers are also in Gilbert's 2012 movie.)

Then on October 22, 2008, Reliapundit resorted to full-on "slut-shaming," publishing three nude photographs that he claimed were of Obama's mother as a teenager, and suggesting that the photos were taken by Frank Marshall Davis. These photos (which a watermark indicates were from "") are the cornerstone of Gilbert's movie.

At the same time that The Astute Bloggers website was publishing erotic photos, established Obama conspiracy theorist Andy Martin also started promoting the idea that Obama was the biological son of Frank Marshall Davis. Martin's rationale for this allegation was less developed than Reliapundit's, but his notoriety in anti-Obama circles accomplished something that the posts at The Astute Bloggers hadn't: the rumor began to spread. Within 48 hours, multiple anti-Obama blogs were republishing Martin's claim, and it wasn't long before they also began repeating the nude photo allegations.

(Right-wing blogger Pamela Geller made a seemingly unrelated post on October 24 offering up an even more outrageous theory about Obama's paternity: that he was actually the secret, out-of-wedlock son of civil rights activist Malcolm X. Whereas Martin and Reliapundit at least had the benefit of young Obama having known Davis, Geller doesn't expend much effort explaining how Obama's mother in Hawaii could have ever even met the New York-based Malcolm X.)

Since 2008, the rumor has mostly just floated around the internet, garnering a relatively insignificant following until Gilbert made it the focus of his movie. The news media has continued, justifiably, to ignore it, except to the extent that it is newsworthy: the (purpoted) fact that some unidentified financial backer is paying to have this thing sent to over a million unsuspecting voters.

So during this next week, I'm going to break down the ways in which Gilbert and his film are untrustworthy. It's not going to be a point-by-point debunking; my critique is going to be divided thematically.

Finally, here's a quote to remember in the next few days:

"In my film I'm all about telling the truth. I'm not twisting anything. I'm not entertaining anybody."
- Joel Gilbert, The Peter Boyles Show, Sep. 26, 2012
Gilbert has told the media and the public, repeatedly, that he means for his movie to be taken seriously. That he is credible, that his allegations are substantiated, and that he has the evidence to back them up. In short, that he can be trusted. But extraordinary claims demand extraordinary proof, and Gilbert can't deliver that. I can't promise that I'll convince everyone that Joel Gilbert is a charlatan and his film is a joke, but I think by this time next week, anyone who continues to trust Gilbert has some depressingly low standards for what they'll believe.