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.


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