Saturday, October 27, 2012

Joel Gilbert's Evolving Disclaimer

In my first full post on Joel Gilbert and his pseudo-documentary Dreams From My Real Father, I showed how Gilbert has a history of rewriting the past when it comes to his movies. I noted below that Joel Gilbert keeps changing the claims on his website to avoid admitting that he's been discredited.

But what I discovered in reviewing Dreams From My Real Father on Netflix Streaming is that he's actually changed the movie itself.

Approximately one minute into the film appears a "Director's Note." It's basically a disclaimer, and it reads not unlike the disclaimers in Kevin Trudeau's fake-medical-advice books. Here's what it says on the DVD:

"This film's contents are based on actual events, interviews, and archives, as well as re-creations of probable events, using reasoned logic, speculation, and approximated conversations in an attempt provide a cohesive understanding of Obama's history.

"Is this the true story Barack Obama should have told, revealing his true political foundations and his agenda for fundamentally transforming America?"

Talking Points Media quoted this disclaimer back in May 2012. So did Gilbert fan Jack Cashill. Here's a screenshot from the film itself:

But that's not what you see if you watch the movie on Netflix, where it was made available for streaming just a few weeks ago. Rather, the Netflix version of the film carries this "Director's Note":

Notice the difference? Look what follows the words "reasoned logic" in the first sentence.

Apparently, the original DVD version of Dreams From My Real Father was based on "speculation," but the Netflix version isn't.

Interview on KRUU

I gave an interview with KRUU-FM about Gilbert's movie and about my new book, Bullspotting.

It's the first radio interview I've given in a long time (I have a few more scheduled), but I had fun and I thank the host for having me on to talk.

You can listen to the show at

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Joel Gilbert's Ever-Changing Story

On the radio Tuesday, I stated that I'd be willing to debate Joel Gilbert on the air. I have absolutely ZERO expectation that he'll accept such an offer; he wouldn't let me interview him because he suspected what I knew, and he's certainly smart enough to not voluntarily step into the ring with someone who's already proven six ways from Sunday how dishonest he is. I mean, I've literally written a book on misinformation.

Instead, the best he can hope to do is to make up excuses that might buy him some time, and change the details of his story as part of a move-the-goalposts effort. Even before I'd started debunking his film he'd already demonstrated a propensity for evolving his story. For instance, in the film he claims that Stanley Dunham knew Frank Marshall Davis in 1960 as part of his CIA work, and was responsible for introducing Frank to his daughter Ann and for covering up her pregnancy by Frank. Yet on the radio, Gilbert repeatedly claims that when Ann came back from Indonesia in 1970, she told her dad "Remember that old Communist guy I used to hang out with? I want Barry to be raised by him." As if 1970-Stanley would have no recollection of everything 1960-Stanley knew and did. The stories are completely incompatible, but Gilbert doesn't care. He simply never tells them both together.

Or, take his own website, and how he's changed it in response to my very own posts on this blog. As I've proven, with greater and greater illustration, just how false Gilbert's claims are about the publication of his 'nude photos,' Gilbert has reacted by editing his website to change his story.

Here's a visual aid to show exactly how he's been altering his story as it appears on his Breaking News #2 page:

Original version: "Frank Marshall Davis' photos of Ann Dunham appear in these vintage men's magazines."

But it was all too easily proven that the photos weren't in those magazines shown. So he started claiming that those weren't the exact covers, but rather that the photos were just in those series.

First altered version: "Frank Marshall Davis' photos appear in these titles of vintage men's magazines."

Of course, then I showed, on video, that his own pictures appeared in Exotique #23, published in early 1958. Moreover, Exotique stopped publication in 1959. Yet his little graphic there is showing FOUR covers of Exotique, even though he's still claiming the photos were TAKEN in 1960. So he changed his story again, so it now claims that the pictures appeared just in these sorts of men's magazines, not the specific titles.

Second altered version: "Frank Marshall Davis' photos appeared in many titles of men's magazines throughout the 1960's."

Moreover, now he's also added a subscript claiming that my reprint collection shows incorrect dates. He provides no evidence of this, and for good reason: he's lying again. I didn't show the dates as represented in the book's introduction, or in the table of contents; I showed the copyright dates as they appeared on the reprinted pages from the original magazines. The collection didn't change the copyright dates on the reprinted pages; that would be silly. But Gilbert has backed himself into a corner at this point, and he's just making up whatever lies he can to avoid admitting his deception.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Quoted in the Orlando Sentinel

I was contacted earlier this week by a reporter for the Orlando Sentinel, for a story on the bulk mailings of Dreams From My Real Father. The article is now online:

Anti-Obama DVD floods local mailboxes

The reporter includes a number of quotes and comments from me, which I won't reproduce in full here. But I'm quite happy with the closing quote he picked:

Gilbert insists the Obama film, which also alleges that the president's grandfather was a CIA operative, is a serious documentary. Collins considers it something else entirely.

"Typical conspiracist nonsense," he said.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Joel Gilbert vs. The Complete Exotique

I previously said that there was more to come on Joel Gilbert and his "Dreams From My Real Father," and this is the latter of those follow-ups.

There were some people who still doubted that Gilbert's pictures actually did appear in 1958. And so, I procured a copy of The Complete Exotique, and in the video below I flip through the pages of the book itself to show the photos and their publication dates. If it still proves necessary, I can also scan in pages from the books themselves.

Needless to say, Joel Gilbert's credibility is undeniably shot. Anyone who trusted him or gave him the benefit of the doubt should be taken advantage of.

UPDATE: It seems my video must have upset Mr. Gilbert, who filed a takedown notice with YouTube, presumably because my video criticizing his movie included a short clip from his advertisement in order to show the false claims he's making.

No worries, though. I'd already planned on uploading a shorter version of the ad that got to the books faster (I recognized that eight minutes made for a long video). And here it is:

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Joel Gilbert Really Is Lying To You

(Title and graphic inspired by Joel Gilbert)

At the end of my last post, I mentioned that I had two developments in my research on Joel Gilbert that came too late to be included in my initial series on him and his movie, and so I would be following up with those two. This is the first of those developments.

In Part 5 of my series, "Joel Gilbert's Phantom Evidence", I discussed a number of claims that don't actually appear in Dreams From My Real Father, but which Joel Gilbert has taken to repeating in interviews.

For instance, on October 4, Gilbert told his interviewer that Ann Dunham and Frank Marshall Davis were intimate, and he said the following to support his claim (at about the 30:14 mark):

Gilbert: "We do have photos of them together in various compromising positions, we did cover things up to be respectful."
Now if you've watched Dreams From My Real Father, you know that the movie contains precisely ZERO photos of Ann and Frank "together". Not in compromising positions, or even in casual situations. There are no photos whatsoever of the two of them even sharing a frame. And he hasn't released such photos anywhere else. Gilbert is clearly not referring to photos he has secreted away; his qualifier about "cover[ing] things up to be respectful" makes no sense if the photos are just sitting on his hard drive.

No, Gilbert is telling his radio audience that he has pictures of Ann Dunham and Frank Marshall Davis "together in various compromising positions," and he wants them to believe that such photos are in his movie. But they're not. He knows they're not. He's lying.

But that's not the biggest lie that Gilbert has invented for interviews and the radio. Here is how WND's Jerome Corsi describes Joel Gilbert's Hawaiian 'investigation':

Before releasing a small sample of the pin-up photographs he claims shows a nude Ann Dunham posing for Davis, Gilbert undertook extensive research.

He traveled to Hawaii to inspect and photograph the Honolulu address that the FBI file documents as Davis’ residence beginning in 1956...

“The Davis house is an English Tudor architectural style dwelling, very uncommon for the Hawaii islands,” Gilbert told WND. “There are no similar houses in the neighborhood or anywhere else that I visited in Hawaii.”

The current owner of the house gave Gilbert permission to enter, photograph and document the house. “The flooring in the photos of Ann stands out, as at first glance it appears to be expensive wood flooring,” he said. “However, once inside the house and peeling away a corner covered with layers of linoleum, I realized that it was a simple piece of plywood that had been varnished.”

Gilbert found one complete original piece of plywood in a shed behind the house that was an exact match to the flooring in the setting where the “Ann Dunham and friends” pin-up photographs were taken.

Noteworthy also were the windows appearing in the pin-up photos. “The windows in the living room of Frank’s house were tall and narrow – a design unique to English Tudor style houses,” he noted.

“The windows at 2994 Kalihi Street appear to match the tall, narrow windows with their bottom sill low to the floorboards seen in the pin-up photos.”

Gilbert took measurements of the windows and the floor at various angles, as well as video footage and still photographs of the living room.

Also, here is Gilbert on Alex Jones:

"I actually went to the house in Hawaii...and we took the measurements and found that that was the house, and the photos are traced to Davis."
And I'm not about to list all the numerous times Gilbert has repeated this in his nine appearances on Peter Boyles' show. Listen for yourself if you're interested.

I pointed out before that although Gilbert keeps discussing these supposed findings of his, he has yet to actually show any of these photos or videos of the house. What I learned this Monday was WHY.

On Monday, October 1, I finally got the chance to speak with the owner of 2994 Kalihi Street. He'd been wondering when or if anyone would reach out to him about Gilbert's movie. We spoke for over 45 minutes, and during that time, he told me just how dishonest Gilbert's account has been.

It turns out that Gilbert originally contacted the owner (who I'll call "Jack") in the latter months of 2011, claiming to be with the History Channel. He said that he was working on a program about the poetry of Frank Marshall Davis, and wanted permission to visit Davis' house as part of his research.

It wasn't until March or April of 2012 that Gilbert finally asked to schedule a visit. By this point, Jack, who knew a little about the conspiracy theories circulating about Davis and his house, was suspicious of Gilbert. But he allowed him to come to the house, and even allowed him to come in to take photos. Jack had a hunch he knew what Gilbert was going to be looking for, and he thought that by letting him see the interior for himself, that Gilbert would see and understand that the nude pictures were not taken inside the house at 2994 Kalihi.

Jack's suspicions about Gilbert were confirmed when Gilbert whipped out a measuring tape. Gilbert had not previously asked to do any measuring, and Jack naturally recognized that the dimensions of his rooms would be utterly irrelevant to a History Channel documentary about Davis' poetry.

As Jack explained to me, what's the truth about the floors in his house? The truth is that they don't match the floors in the nude photos. The windows? They don't match the windows in the nude photos. The room seen in the published photos is plainly not a room inside the house at 2994 Kalihi Street.

Thus, it took Jack quite by surprise when a friend contacted him after Gilbert began promoting his movie, to let Jack know what was being said about his house. What he found surprised him. Whereas he had thought that by letting Gilbert inside the house that it would make Gilbert realize that his theory was wrong, Gilbert had instead gone a different route: he had simply decided to lie about what he found in Jack's house. He lied about the floors. He lied about the windows. He lied about finding the room from the photos. And that wasn't all: Gilbert's claim to have found "a complete original piece of plywood" in a shed that matched the flooring in the photos? That didn't happen at all, says Jack.

What's more, Jack was later contacted by Jerome Corsi himself, and Jack told him as well how his house bore no resemblance to the room seen in the photos. And displaying a complete disregard for journalistic integrity, Corsi simply ignored what Jack told him, and instead has reported Gilbert's story as the truth.

Now I'm sure some people will read this post and respond with "Why doesn't Jack show pictures proving his house doesn't match the photos?" Several reasons:

1) If I were to post pictures of the inside of Jack's house, there would be no way for me to prove to readers that it actually was the inside of *Jack's* house. It could just as easily be the interior of some other house. Such an objection would certainly be inevitable from people who want to believe Gilbert; if they don't trust my account of Jack, they're not going to trust the pictures either.
2) Even if it were conceded that the photos did indeed depict the house at 2994 Kalihi, the next inevitable objection would be that he and I had simply omitted pictures of some part of the house. A particular room, or even just a particular angle of a room. So once again, people would find a reason to conclude the pictures were unsatisfactory.
3) Apart from the issue of whether such pictures would actually persuade Gilbert's faithful, Jack is simply not interested in sacrificing his privacy to the extent of posting extensive pictures of the interior of his home on the internet. Certainly not in an effort to satisfy the doubts of some conspiracy theorists. Remember, any such photos are automatically tied to his street address; ask yourself if you would publish a bunch of photos of the inside of your house, tagged with your street address.
4) Finally it's not Jack's burden to prove that it's not his house in the nude photos. Nor is it mine. Joel Gilbert is the one who has claimed, again and again and again, that he found proof that the rooms match. That he took pictures and video showing that they match. And yet he put NONE of that in his movie, and he's produced NONE of that to the public, even though it's been six months since he visited Jack's house, and even though he continues to tout his 'investigation' in interviews.

(Notice, too, that I couldn't care less about Gilbert's claims about "measurements." Numbers that Gilbert himself wrote on paper isn't proof that those numbers are reflective of the inside of Jack's house, or that they're accurate estimates of what's seen in the published photos; remember, I've established that Gilbert knowingly lies to his audience. Also, I think the photos only show a total of two walls in the room, so any comparison of measurements would be speculative at best.)

Joel says he has the photos and video to prove his claims, so it falls to him to produce those photos and/or video to back those claims up. It's not Jack's job to sacrifice his privacy to prove Joel wrong. Joel already lied to Jack about why he wanted to come into the house in the first place, and he already lied to the world at large about what he found there.

And that's why you're never going to see those photos or video of 2994 Kalihi Street from Joel Gilbert. Not in his movies, not in his ads, not on his website, and not in WND articles that Jerome Corsi writes about him. He'll talk about them on the radio, where he can't be asked to show anything. But to show any actual photos he took would only prove what a liar he is.

Joel Gilbert. He lies to his research subjects about who he works for. He lies about what he's researching and why. And he lies about his findings to his audience.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Bullspotting: Finding Facts in the Age of Misinformation

A commenter below writes:

I liked this post so much I ordered your book from I am in awe.
Indeed, if you notice the ad in the sidebar, I have a book that's due to be released by Prometheus Books in a little under two weeks from now. As the title might suggest, it's something of a field guide for skepticism and critical thinking. And yes, I do utilize Birtherism as an illustration on several occasions.

It's my first book, and it actually grew out of an initial proposal that was Birther-centric. Given the evolution of this project, it remains my hope to write another book about the strange history of Birtherism and other Obama-related conspiracy theories (if only to justify the time I've spent following them).

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Fever Dreams From My Real Father #1: The Nude Photos Debunked

At the center of Gilbert's theory that Frank Marshall Davis is Obama's father is a series of nude and fetish photographs. They were the focus of his second promotional video for the DVD. They're featured prominently on his website, and he consistently references them in radio interviews. Radio host Peter Boyles has called them the "Rosetta Stone" that will unlock Obama's secret past, and Alex Jones declared "It's her in these photos."

The "her" to which Jones refers is Obama's mother Ann Dunham, who Gilbert claims is the woman depicted in these photos. Three of the photos were originally posted on the website of The Astute Bloggers in October 2008, where it was claimed that they had been forwarded by a reader. Even though one photo plainly bore a watermark of "", some people were convinced that the photos were of Ann Dunham. Over time, the claim evolved so that it was Frank Marshall Davis who was said to have taken the photos as well (perhaps an unsurprising development, as The Astute Bloggers website was also responsible for starting the rumor that Frank was Obama's father).

Here's what the narrator of Dreams From My Real Father has to say on the matter:
"At some point, she agreed to pose. These photos were taken a few weeks before Christmas 1960, when Mom was about five weeks pregnant with me. There's no mistaking: this is MY mama."
Gilbert has further elaborated on the photos outside the film itself. In his website Q&A:
I also obtained seven indecent photos of Ann Dunham, Obama’s mother, taken at Frank Marshall Davis’ house, suggesting an intimate connection between Dunham and Davis...

What new revelations are in Dreams from My Real Father?
First, I make the case that Barack Obama’s real father was Communist Frank Marshall Davis. Next, the relationship between Davis and Obama’s mother, Ann Dunham, is illustrated with seven indecent photographs of Dunham, some including other women, taken at Frank Marshall Davis’ house in Honolulu.

On the 'Breaking News' portion of his website:
Racy photos of Barack Obama's mother, Ann Dunham, have recently surfaced in vintage fetish and bondage magazines. The photos, taken at Frank Marshall Davis' house in Honolulu, appeared in Bizarre Life, Exotique, Secret Pleasures, and Battling Babes.
And in interviews:
But if you look at the many, many photos of Ann Dunham and the naked girl in the pictures -- especially you can see her teeth; she has some recessed teeth on the left side -- it's very obviously Ann Dunham.

Most people didn't take the photo claim very seriously, because the woman in the pictures doesn't really look all that much like Ann Dunham. Sure, she bears a passing resemblance, in the same sense that as a bespectacled young white guy, I bear a passing resemblance to Daniel Radcliffe. Frankly, the woman in the photos looks a lot more like Joan Collins than Ann Dunham.

Since their original appearance in 2008, some have attempted to debunk the photos by identifying the model. This has proven fruitless, and unsurprisingly so; many mid-century nude and fetish models were nameless faces, anonymous to the world at large.

To his credit, Gilbert did somehow locate additional photos of the mystery woman he claims is Ann. And as noted above, he named several magazines where he claims they appeared. Both on his website and in Dreams, he shows the covers of six specific issues, and the website (on the right) flatly states "Frank Marshall Davis' photos of Ann Dunham appear in these vintage men's magazines." The magazines Gilbert shows are:

Exotique #2
Exotique #4
Exotique #6
Exotique #14
Secret Pleasures
Battling Babes
Bizarre Life #9

The last three magazines were published in 1958, 1957, and 1969, respectively. Exotique was published between 1955 and 1959.

Curiously, though, the pictures Gilbert shows appear in NONE of the issues he identifies. I consulted with the owner of a fansite for these magazines, who checked and confirmed that Gilbert's photos are nowhere to be seen in these issues. I personally reviewed copies of Exotique #14, Battling Babes and Secret Pleasures, and they included NO pictures of the mystery model.

What Secret Pleasures DID feature, on page 26, was this photo:

Who is the woman? I have no idea. But look at the chair she's seated on. At the pillow in the chair. At the window behind her. At the record player to her right, and the records peeking out below her leg. At the cabinet behind her, and at the floor beneath her. Look familiar?

That's right, it's the exact same setting as the 'Ann' photos. Published in a 1958 men's magazine. And it's not the only one. From Exotique #25, pages 7 and 40, respectively:

Again, does that setting look familiar? Same couch, same floor, same picture on the wall, even the same random pillow arrangement on top of the couch as seen in other photos in Gilbert's videos. The woman is even wearing the same spiked-ball earrings as Gilbert's 'Ann'. Who is she? I don't know, but she looks an awful lot like the woman who appears with Gilbert's 'Ann' in several photos in his movie.

Now granted, these photos alone don't prove that the mystery model couldn't be Ann. Perhaps Davis took these in 1958, and he didn't change the arrangement of his room for two years. That's odd, and hardly the most compelling explanation, but it's not impossible. (Even though Gilbert himself would likely concede that these are from the same photoshoot.)

Unfortunately for Gilbert, that's not all. Further up this post, there's a screenshot of Gilbert's own website, with a video still that shows the woman he claims is 'Ann' sitting on a couch, pulling a black opera glove onto her left arm. That image appears in Gilbert's Dreams and in his promotional videos as well, but he's never released a full-size copy of that photo.

I found one, however:

This picture appeared in Exotique #23, on page 22. In 1958. When Ann Dunham was only 15 years old. Two years before Ann Dunham even moved to Hawaii.

It can also be found reprinted in volume 2 of the 3-volume Exotique hardcover collection.

We may never know who the mystery model is. But the Dunham family didn't move to Hawaii until the summer of 1960. Unless Ann Dunham had access to a time machine in the 1960s, it simply cannot be her.

Moreover, Joel Gilbert knows this. He found that opera glove photo; it was not circulating the web as an 'Ann' photo prior to his videos. He knows it came from Exotique, a magazine that ceased publication in 1959. From WND: "Gilbert found that several of the photos in the collection appeared in a magazine called Exotique, published by pin-up photographer Leonard Burtman, who worked in New York City."

Thus he knows this picture was published two years before Ann first stepped foot in Hawaii, years before she could have met Frank Marshall Davis. And yet he explicitly claims, multiple times, that the photo was TAKEN at Christmastime 1960. This is not a lie of ignorance or mistake; it is a lie of pure, fully-informed malice.

And that's the BEST-case scenario for Gilbert. Gilbert knows that Ann was born in 1942, and he knows he found these pictures in 1958 magazines. If Gilbert truly believes that these ARE somehow pictures of a 15-year-old Ann, then he's been distributing hundreds of thousands of DVDs featuring nude and erotic pictures of someone he believes to be an underage girl.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Gilbert has thus far refused to disclose the actual sources of the erotic photos he put in his videos. He identified six issues, none of which checked out, and five of which contradict his 1960 date anyway. As shown above, to disclose the true issues would be to destroy his own claim that the photos are of Ann, and to let his audience know that he's lying to them. And so he refuses to cite his sources, even when they're just magazine issue numbers.

So there you have it. The people who've said 'Frank Davis took naked pictures of Stanley Ann Dunham in December of 1960' are provably wrong. The woman they claim is Ann was having her photographs from this very shoot published at least as early as 1958. When Ann was a 15-year-old in Washington, years before she ever stepped foot on Hawaii or could have conceivably even met Frank Marshall Davis. Joel Gilbert has unnecessarily obscured the actual publication dates of the pictures he found, because he knows those simple facts will prove to everyone that he's lying about them being taken in 1960, and lying about Frank Marshall Davis taking them of Ann, and lying about them being evidence of an intimate relationship between Frank and Ann.

As I wrote in my first post in this series, "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." I'm sure some people will still prefer to believe in him and his photos, and nothing will convince them otherwise. To them, I can only say this: just as Joel Gilbert has known for months, you now know that his photos were being published in 1958. Possibly even earlier. So if you still want to believe that the woman in those photos is Ann Dunham, that means you also have to believe that the woman in those photos is no more than 15 years old. Keep that in mind as you talk about them, and post them online, and save them on your computer. I know you're not doing anything illegal or morally disgusting (because it's not Ann), but what are you telling yourselves?

Finally, even though I've reached #1 in this series and I think I've solidly proven my case, I had two more research developments on Monday that I'll be typing up in the next few days. So be sure to keep an eye out for those to come.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Fever Dreams From My Real Father #2: "Anne" vs. Ann

The following scene begins at approximately 22:30 in Dreams From My Real Father:

"In Sex Rebel Black, I think he [Frank Marshall Davis] memorialized the encounters with my [Obama's] mom.

"Anne came up many times the next several weeks.
She obtained a course in practical sex from experienced and considerate practitioners.
I think we did her a favour, although the pleasure was mutual.
I’m not one to go in for Lolitas. Usually I'd rather not bed a babe under 20.
But there are exceptions. I didn't want to disappoint the trusting child.

Joel Gilbert has repeated this claim in interviews, both on the radio and in an April 2012 article by Jerome Corsi at WorldNetDaily:

Davis also penned a scurrilous, autobiographical sex novel, titled “Sex Rebel: Black,” in which he detailed an illicit sexual relationship with an underage woman named “Anne.” Gilbert believes the name was a thin disguise for Obama’s mother, Stanley Ann Dunham.

It should not surprise the reader at this point that Gilbert is being incredibly disingenuous in this claim, in multiple respects. It is critical here to note that immediately prior to the film scene quoted above, Gilbert shows and even highlights in yellow portions of actual scanned pages from Sex Rebel Black. This is not merely second-hand rumor that he is repeating uncritically; he has seen and read the relevant material from Sex Rebel Black, and knows full-well what he's misrepresenting.

To begin with, although the screenshot above shows how the movie seems to depict a single, uninterrupted quote from the book, that is not at all the case. The quoted words from Sex Rebel Black that are seen and spoken by the narrator are taken from two different parts of Chapter Seven, the chapter that discusses "Anne." The first two sentences are taken from page 76; the latter sentences from page 72:

This is what appears on page 76, with the words quoted by Gilbert bolded:

Anne came up many times the next several weeks, her aunt thinking she was in good hands. Actually, she was. She obtained a course in practical sex from experienced and considerate practitioners rather than from ignorant, insensitive neophytes. Neither of us would have thought of voluntarily breaking her in at thirteen, but she was already on the way toward leading an active sex life.
Notice how Gilbert cuts out the latter half of the first sentence, which refers to Anne's "aunt," and the words that follow the second, including her stated age of "thirteen," and thus would be obviously inconsistent with the theory he's presenting.

Then, from four pages earlier, on page 72, the rest of Gilbert's blockquote:

I think we did her a favour, although the pleasure was mutual. I’m not one to go in for Lolitas. Usually I'd rather not bed a babe under 20. But there are exceptions. I didn't want to disappoint the trusting child.
That is merely how Gilbert has misrepresented the very text he's put onscreen. Does his theory that "Anne" is actually Ann Dunham hold any water? Are "Anne" and Ann at all similar? Not in the slightest.

Davis actually describes "Anne" in considerable detail in Chapter Seven, and in every single respect she is wholly unlike Ann Dunham. Moreover every contextual detail about the setting makes it impossible that "Anne" could be Ann Dunham. To wit:

  • "Anne" is only thirteen years old. When Ann Dunham was thirteen, she had just moved to Seattle from Kansas. (p. 71)
  • The setting for the entire encounter is in Davis' upstairs "apartment" in Chicago. Not in his house in Hawaii, as Gilbert's film suggests. (p. 73)
  • "Anne" is "a niece of Dad's former landlady," and she is said to be living with her aunt in Davis' apartment building. (p. 71)
  • "Anne" is from Jamaica. (p. 72, 78)
  • "Anne" is said to have a mixed racial heritage, consisting of ""Chinese, English, Jew and West Indian Negro." Her appearance is described as follows: "Her hair - long, thin, shiny black and straight - reached her waist. Her smooth young skin was the rich color of antique gold." (pp. 72-73)
  • And perhaps most significantly, the entire chapter is set in 1939 or 1940, at least two years before Ann Dunham was even born.
If that wasn't enough, Davis further undermines Gilbert's theory on page 75, where he acknowledges that he and "Anne" never actually completed any act of sexual intercourse. Were Davis to have fathered a child with "Anne," it would have been an immaculate conception.

Davis describes what happened on "Anne" on page 78, in the final paragraphs of Chapter Seven, and again it bears no resemblance whatsoever to the life of Ann Dunham:

The clouds of World War II hovered and Anne's aunt had already announced she would be returned to her family in Jamaica while transportation was still possible. She left shortly after the run-in with Doris.

Later I learned that soon after reaching home she was knocked up by a Chinese merchant who paid her several thousand dollars to keep quiet. After V-J day in 1945 she returned to the U.S....she became engaged several times in California and Chicago only to have her fiances back out...

I saw her once on a crowded elevated train in 1947, but had no opportunity for more than a hurried hello. She smiled warmly and returned my greeting. Maybe it was best that I didn't talk with her; as stunning and ripe as she looked at twenty-one I would have tried to resume where we left off a few years before. I have never seen her since, nor have I ever bedded another nymphet.

In sum, absolutely nothing about "Anne" resembles Ann Dunham, except the pronunciation of their first names. When Ann Dunham first moved to Hawaii in 1960, she was a seventeen-year-old white girl from Kansas who lived with her parents in a house several miles from Davis; whereas "Anne" was a thirteen-year old mixed-race girl from Jamaica who lived in a Chicago apartment with her aunt prior to World War II, who was impregnated by a Chinese merchant in Jamaica, and who he never saw again after 1947. If Davis were writing about Ann Dunham, it would mean that he changed absolutely every aspect of the setting for his encounter with her, as well as every personal detail about Ann except her name.

More importantly, Gilbert knows every bit of this. His film actually shows pictures of pages 71 through 73, carefully cropped so as not to share any of the above-cited inconsistencies. The 'quote' he puts onscreen and has read aloud by his narrator is cobbled together in such a way that shows he's not only read the chapter, but that he knows what words (i.e., "her aunt") to leave out. He is fully aware how implausible his theory is, but he not only continues to repeat it, but he actively ignored and obscured the overwhelming evidence that contradicts it.

Finally, it is worth noting that Gilbert's claims regarding the "Anne" of Chapter Seven are wholly inconsistent with Gilbert's claims regarding the nude photos he says were taken of Dunham by Davis. Note how even in Gilbert's truncated quote above, Frank still refers to "we" and "practitioners," whereas in the movie, Gilbert has Frank engaging in a one-on-one affair that he wants to hide from his wife. Once again, Gilbert's penchant for dishonesty results in inconsistent stories. In any case, those nude photo claims will be annihilated for good in the final installment of this series. If you haven't been convinced yet of Gilbert's rampant dishonesty and disingenuousness, you will be.

Fever Dreams From My Real Father #3: Factual Failings

No matter how thoroughly I puncture Gilbert's credibility, I'm sure there will be some people who will respond with "But you didn't disprove every single thing in the movie," as if it were necessary to do an item-by-item refutation of every assertion in an hour-and-a-half long movie.

Sorry, but I'm not doing that. For one, that's more trouble than it's worth. For another, Dreams From My Real Father is so devoid of anything resembling substantive evidence that 90% of the itemized rebuttals would consist of me saying "Gilbert provided absolutely no support for this statement; meanwhile, the available evidence says..."

Or to put it another way, factchecking spin and misrepresentations can be useful. But Dreams From My Real Father is mostly just fiction, and factchecking fiction is a waste of time.

And yet there are still instances where Gilbert does make some easily fact-checkable statements...and he's easily proven wrong. Let's look at several.

First, during the "Gramps was a CIA operative" portion of the film, the 'Obama' narrator says:

"Arriving in Honolulu from Kenya in August of 1959 was Barack Hussein Obama...He was welcomed at Hickham Air Force Base by none other than my grandfather, in a traditional Hawaiian ceremony."

This photo accompanying that line is this:

But that photo's not from 1959, and it's not from a welcome ceremony. (It's also far from certain that the white man is Stanley Dunham.) No, that photo first appeared online at in 2008, where it's explained "Obama's father, Barack Obama Sr., center, is shown wearing floral leis on his graduation day at the University of Hawaii in the early 1960s."

And if Gilbert thinks CBS was wrong, then he still provides absolutely nothing to support that, or to support his assertion that it's from 1959. More likely, Gilbert simply saw where the photo's been passed around by Birthers claiming it's a welcome party (this erroneous claim appeared in the Wayne Madsen article that Gilbert has previously pulled from), and didn't bother to check the facts.

Second, as mentioned in Part 4:

Noteworthy also were the windows appearing in the pin-up photos. “The windows in the living room of Frank’s house were tall and narrow – a design unique to English Tudor style houses,” he noted.

“The windows at 2994 Kalihi Street appear to match the tall, narrow windows with their bottom sill low to the floorboards seen in the pin-up photos.”

There's only one window visible in the pin-up photos. And it has a bottom sill that's roughly two feet off the ground, not "low to the floorboards." Gilbert can't even describe the pin-up photos correctly.

And the notion that tall and narrow windows are "a design unique to English Tudor style houses"? Gilbert has apparently been in very few apartment buildings.

Third, also as discussed in Part 4:

As illustrated in his documentary, Gilbert found a newspaper photograph of Davis sitting on a couch in his living room that appears to be an exact match for the couch seen in the pin-up photographs.
The film shows this newspaper photograph. It shows Davis sitting on a couch that has separate cushions along the back. The couch in the pin-up photos does NOT have separate cushions; it merely has a raised seam. You can't even see the whole couch, but just the minimal portion we do see shows that it's not the same couch.


Fourth, Gilbert dabbles in Birtherism in the film:

On August 4, 1961, a midwife was called to the house. A few days later, Gramps phoned in my birth to the Hawaii Department of Health, as was the norm for home agreed, he declared the father 'Unknown.'
So if Gramps told the DoH that the father was "Unknown" just a few days after August 4, then that creates a real mystery as to why the newspaper announcements on August 13 and 14 declared that a son was born on August 4 to "Mr. and Mrs. Barack H. Obama."

Gilbert, of course, resolves this conflict with one of the typical conspiracist tricks: by completely ignoring that the newspaper announcements exist.

Fifth, from later in the film:

Thomas Ayers had arranged a job at the firm for Bernardine Dohrn, where she worked with Michelle Robinson. They were friends. When Bill's dad got me a summer intern position at Sidley Austin, Bernardine told me Michelle might be a good match...When I married her a few years later, I married my father. I called her my "bitter half."

It's odd that Bernardine could introduce Obama to Michelle at work, since Obama's internship was in the summer of 1989 and Bernardine had stopped working at Sidley Austin in 1988.

Also odd: the implicit suggestion that after Michelle Malkin started a one-woman habit of referring to Michelle as Obama's "bitter half" in 2008, Obama went back in time and started using that negative term himself. (And lest this is defended as a joke, remember the Gilbert quote from my first post, where he says the film is about telling the truth, not entertainment.)

Sixth, in the course of talking about Obama's role in voter registration efforts in Chicago:

Later, eight of the nineteen 9/11 hijackers were registered under Motor Voter.
This is a common claim among 9/11 conspiracy theorists, and there is no shortage of websites that repeat it, but it has no actual basis in fact. This rumor can be traced back to the (incorrect) claim that the hijackers may have been able to register to vote; but there's no evidence that any of them actually were. And in fact, they weren't eligible to register at all; the original rumor resulted from a misunderstanding of the law. For a guy who's (rightfully) dismissive of 9/11 Trutherism, here Gilbert is just regurgitating one of the Truthers' own cherished myths.

And finally, about seven minutes from the end of the film, there's a montage with this quote from an Obama speech playing over it:

"There are millions of working families in this country who are now forced to take their children to food banks for a decent meal. The free market, it doesn't work. It has never worked."
It sounds like a single, uninterrupted quote. And Gilbert's edited the video in such a way that even makes it look like a single, uninterrupted quote.

But it's not. Rather, it's cobbled together from no fewer than three different portions of Obama's speech. They're not even in the same order. The first sentence is from the 23:23 minute mark in the linked video. The three words "The free market" are from 11:00. And "it doesn't work. It has never worked" is from 16:18.

Yes, Gilbert actually splices the subject of one sentence onto the predicate of another. Then he follows *that* with a line from 20:50, and finishes with a sentence taken from 38:18. It's a Frankenstein quotation, stitched together from five disparate parts of a speech, but with the seams hidden by visual cutaways to unrelated images.

This, of course, is just a tiny sampling of the myriad falsehoods that are liberally sprinkled through Dreams From My Real Father. Gilbert doesn't merely relate imaginary stories or cite to unproduced evidence, but he also gets the facts wrong. A lot.

And as will be discussed tomorrow, there's nowhere that Gilbert's falsehoods are more blatant than at the very heart of his thesis.

Fever Dreams From My Real Father #4: Family Portraits

One of pieces of 'evidence' that Gilbert features most prominently, and which has been part of the "Davis is Obama's secret daddy" claims for over four years, is that the two men supposedly look alike.

Most photo comparisons of Obama and Davis involve pictures where the two men are posed similarly; when they're not, you get results like the one seen above. I, and I daresay most people, don't see any greater resemblance between the two men than would be present between *any* two random African American men. (The absurd 'Malcolm X as father' claim at least has the benefit of the two men looking slightly similar.)

Still, if someone is primed to see a resemblance, I don't really feel like wasting words trying to convince them otherwise, any more than I'd be interested in debating a viewer of Gilbert's Paul McCartney Really Is Dead movie that the secret messages they hear in backwards lyrics are just pareidolia.

For instance, does Obama look that much more like Frank Marshall Davis than he does, say, another famous Davis?

Still, maybe even the true believers can consider this: Frank Marshall Davis and Barack Obama Sr. each had other children. More to the point, each had a mixed-race son named Mark. Mark Davis was the son of Frank Marshall Davis and his second wife, Helen Canfield. Mark Ndesandjo was the son of Barack Obama Sr. and his wife Ruth Ndesandjo. Below is a picture of Obama with the two Marks:

You can decide for yourself which Mark the President bears a stronger resemblance to, and who you think is more likely to be his half-brother.

Fever Dreams From My Real Father #5: Joel Gilbert's Phantom Evidence

Joel Gilbert wasn't interested in talking to me, but he's been more than happy to chat with people who aren't likely to challenge him. He's been the subject of several WND articles, he's made multiple radio appearances with folks like Alex Jones, and he's appeared on the Peter Boyles Show alone at least eight times.

And there's an odd feature that recurs in these interviews: Gilbert keeps citing evidence that he says he discovered, evidence that he says supports his theories, but it's evidence that's not actually in his movie.

For instance, when I called Peter Boyles' show and said that the nude pictures are not of Ann Dunham, Peter challenged me to explain why the floorboards match. My response: I haven't seen any evidence that they DO match. I've seen the wooden floor in the old black-and-white photos...but that's it. There are no comparison shots from Davis' house in the movie, or on Gilbert's website. Gilbert SAYS he took photos, and he SAYS that the photos match, but he hasn't actually PRODUCED any such photos for anyone else to independently look at and draw their own conclusions. And even though he claims on the radio that the photos he took are strong and compelling evidence, he hasn't provided any justification for why, if that's true, he hasn't shared those photos.

WND says that Gilbert has made "many research trips to Hawaii," and Gilbert has made repeated claims as to what he found on those supposed trips.

He's even produced a couple of things which, if you give him the benefit of the doubt, could have been procured on such a trip. Exciting things like high school yearbook photos of Frank Marshall Davis' children (who look nothing like Obama), and a photo of a vice raid at the Negro Elks Club in 1952 (which occupied Davis' house before he moved there in 1956). In a video interview with Alex Jones, Gilbert showed viewers a picture he said he took...of the outside of Davis' house, taken from the street. Basically, stuff that has absolutely no bearing on his substantive claims about Obama's relationship with Frank Marshall Davis.

Meanwhile, Gilbert keeps referring to other evidence in interviews that he insists validates his theories. He certainly wants his radio listeners to think that he's discovered such proof. But strangely, THAT evidence is missing from his actual movie, omitted in favor of things like stock footage of airplanes taking off and landing.

For instance:

He traveled to Hawaii to inspect and photograph the Honolulu address that the FBI file documents as Davis’ residence beginning in 1956.

The current owner of the house gave Gilbert permission to enter, photograph and document the house.

Funny thing: Dreams From My Real Father contains precisely ZERO photographs taken by Gilbert inside the Davis residence. Not of the floors, or the windows, or the furniture, or even just the shape of the rooms.

Of course, that could be explained if the photographs wouldn't prove anything. So what does Gilbert say he found inside?

“The flooring in the photos of Ann stands out, as at first glance it appears to be expensive wood flooring,” he said. “However, once inside the house and peeling away a corner covered with layers of linoleum, I realized that it was a simple piece of plywood that had been varnished.”
The film never so much as mentions the subject of flooring. When I called the Peter Boyles Show last week, Mr. Boyles wanted me to explain how the floorboards "match." I pointed out that there's nothing to compare; the movie never shows any comparison photos of the floorboards to show that they DO match. I was being asked to explain a supposed similarity between photos that ARE on the internet, and phantom photos that Joel Gilbert has talked about but never produced.

Gilbert found one complete original piece of plywood in a shed behind the house that was an exact match to the flooring in the setting where the “Ann Dunham and friends” pin-up photographs were taken.

And yet, no comparison pictures of the flooring appear in the film. Neither does the claim that matching flooring was discovered, or any pictures of this "original piece of plywood."

However, here Gilbert at least provides some vague description of the wood he says he saw...and it doesn't match what is seen in the black-and-white photos. The nude photos obviously don't show the boards' color or stain or varnish, but they do show that they're boards. Roughly four inches wide. Plywood, by contrast, comes in sheets; Gilbert even claims to have found a "complete original piece" of plywood, not boards.

(There's also the rather dubious notion that even after changes of ownership of the house, the same plywood sheets would still be hanging around after more than 50 years.)

Noteworthy also were the windows appearing in the pin-up photos. “The windows in the living room of Frank’s house were tall and narrow – a design unique to English Tudor style houses,” he noted.

“The windows at 2994 Kalihi Street appear to match the tall, narrow windows with their bottom sill low to the floorboards seen in the pin-up photos.”

1) Nowhere in the film does Gilbert claim that the windows match.
2) If Gilbert took any photos of these windows to show they match, he didn't include them in the movie for some reason.
3) His description of the windows in the pin-up photos isn't even accurate. Look at the pictures in Gilbert's own video. There's only one window visible, and its bottom sill is roughly two feet from the floor. Like with the plywood, when Gilbert actually deigns to provide even a minimal description of what he supposedly saw, his descriptions don't match what can be plainly seen in the old photos.

Gilbert took measurements of the windows and the floor at various angles, as well as video footage and still photographs of the living room.
The movie makes no reference to measurements of the windows or measurements of the floor, nor does it include any video or photographs of the house.

So in short, Gilbert claims he gained access to the Davis house at 2994 Kalihi Street, discovered and photographed all kinds of stuff inside the house that he says absolutely proves that the nude photos wer taken inside THAT house...and then he left ALL of that evidence out of his movie.

And that's not all: while he's been publishing 'Breaking News' follow-ups on his website about yearbook photos and 1952 vice raids, what has he NOT published? Any of this evidence he claims to have procured inside the house. He's claimed he took photographs, video, and measurements, and to date, he hasn't produced even a single photograph that he took inside that house.

There's another claim about the interior of the house that Gilbert made to Alex Jones:

"Even the couch is an exact match to the couch that Frank Marshall Davis sat on in many photos."

"Many photos"? If Gilbert claims there are "many photos" of Davis sitting on this "exact" couch, where are they? Because they're certainly not in his movie. In the movie, Gilbert shows exactly one photo of Davis sitting on a couch. Given that it was taken the same month Davis first moved to Hawaii in 1948, and several years before he lived in the house in question, it's uncertain whether that was even HIS couch he's sitting on.

And more importantly: it's NOT an exact match. The couch in the 1948 photo plainly has separate cushions across the back, whereas the couch in the nude photos does not; it merely has a raised seam. Gilbert's one and only photo shows that they're not the same couch at all.


It's the same as with his claims about the floorboards and the window: when Gilbert provides any detail at all to support his claims that the photos match Davis' house, all he does is provide information that suggests they're actually DIFFERENT.

The interior of the house is also not the only area where Gilbert has cited phantom evidence. For instance, here's what the film says about Obama's birth:

On August 4, 1961, a midwife was called to the house. A few days later, Gramps phoned in my birth to the Hawaii Department of Health, as was the norm for home agreed, he declared the father 'Unknown.'
While this amusingly conflicts with Birther fictions that Obama was born in Kenya, Gilbert still provides no evidence to support 1) a home birth, 2) a midwife, 3) a phoned-in registration, or 4) that the father was declared as "Unknown." In fact, the existence of two newspaper announcements from the following week for "Mr. and Mrs. Barack Obama" rather undercut the notion that the father was "Unknown."
Neighbors of Davis have said Obama began visiting Davis every week at his home from the time Obama was 10 years old.
What neighbors? Gilbert drops this tidbit, but never identifies the neighbors, or quotes what they had to say, or how they would know that a visiting 10-year-old was a young Obama. There's no evidence to support this testimony of these anonymous "neighbors," not on Gilbert's website and certainly not in his film.
“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,’” he said.
Gilbert loves to repeat the claim that Ann Dunham instructed her father to take her son to see Davis; he's stated this on virtually every appearance on the Peter Boyles Show. His supporting evidence for this private instruction from daughter to father? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. It's indistinguishable from something that he simply made up. Also, as was pointed out previously, this instruction from daughter to grandfather is incompatible with Gilbert's thesis in the movie that Gramps was a CIA agent who wanted to conceal his daughter's relationship with Frank.

Speaking of Boyles' show, Gilbert dropped another evidence-less claim on Boyles' September 26th broadcast:

"There are written catalog numbers on the bottom of those photos. I have taken those to handwriting analysis folks and they have all agreed that it is highly likely that it's Frank. It's almost exactly."
Gilbert's movie was released three months ago, and I've listened to a lot of his interviews, and this was the first time I'd heard him cite evidence from "handwriting analysis folks." And of course, just like the neighbors, these are anonymous handwriting analysis folks. After all, Gilbert can't risk having someone like me follow up with them to see if he's telling the truth. Keeping his supposed experts anonymous provides the illusion of credibility, without even needing real people.

What makes this last bit so brazen is that Gilbert has done this before. Remember, in his introduction to Paul McCartney Really Is Dead, Gilbert tells his viewers that he had his mysterious tapes of 'George Harrison' tested by "three different forensic labs." And he told an interviewer the same story about having the tapes forensically tested. That was obviously made-up, since Gilbert has retroactively declared his film a "spoof." Then it was anonymous and unaccountable "forensic experts"; now it's anonymous and unaccountable "handwriting analysis folks." But otherwise, it's Gilbert playing the same game with his audience.

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?