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Tilting at Windmills

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October 7, 2009

SOME FOLKS CAN'T TAKE A JOKE.... In some right-wing circles, there's a belief that Barack Obama's first book, "Dreams From My Father," was actually ghost-written by Bill Ayers. It wasn't, of course, but like the rest of the bizarre conservative conspiracy theories, reality doesn't much matter.

Birthers, meet Ghosters. The overlap is considerable.

National Journal caught up with Ayers at a book festival recently, and the '60s-era radical decided to have a little fun at the right wing's expense.

When [Ayers] finished speaking, we put the authorship question [on "Dreams From My Father"] right to him. For a split second, Ayers was nonplussed. Then an Abbie Hoffmanish, steal-this-book-sort-of-smile lit up his face. He gently took National Journal by the arm. "Here's what I'm going to say. This is my quote. Be sure to write it down: 'Yes, I wrote Dreams From My Father. I ghostwrote the whole thing. I met with the president three or four times, and then I wrote the entire book.'" He released National Journal's arm, and beamed in Marxist triumph. "And now I would like the royalties."

He pulled the same gag soon after with a conservative blogger.

In general, Ayers joking around about a silly conspiracy theory wouldn't be especially noteworthy, but as Dave Weigel reports, a surprising number of conservatives took Ayers seriously.

People he's duped so far: Jonah Goldberg, his mother Lucianne Goldberg, Tom Maguire, Dennis Byrne, Carol Platt Lieblau, and a bunch of other conservatives, some of whom try to split the difference by suggesting that Ayers is revealing a little bit of truth behind the sarcasm. How embarrassing.

Ron Chusid added, "The gullibility of conservatives, or more precisely their willingness to believe without bothering to fact check anything which confirms their biases, is amazing.... [T]hose guys will believe anything if it fits into their narrow worldview."

Now that the Washington Post and New York Times have taken a special interest in what right-wing voices are concerned about, I hope the papers are paying close attention here: a few too many on the right have poor critical thinking skills and will run with any story they hope is true.

Steve Benen 2:00 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (33)

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what a bunch of idiots. who would believe such a thing? certainly not me - because i know the truth, which i will now reluctently share just to put all this to rest.

i wrote Dreams From My Father for Obama. i just gave WM the scoop - Fox, eat your heart out.

now can I have those royalties?

Posted by: zeitgeist on October 7, 2009 at 2:09 PM | PERMALINK

I think it was around the time of Iran-Contra that someone placed International Man of Mystery Ollie North's intellectual savvy to the point of surprise that he wasn't walking around DC dressed in a barrel clutching a bag of magic beans.

They may be stupid or they may have become stupid by pandering to the stupid for so long. After a while, there is no objective difference.

Posted by: Steve Paradis on October 7, 2009 at 2:13 PM | PERMALINK

Much of the world subscribes strongly to Disney's First Law: Wishing will make it so. The fanatical ideologues of the right have a corollary to the law: If I believe it and I repeat it often enough it becomes so.

Therefore without the intervention of any gray matter, anything that seemingly reflects poorly on Obama becomes true because it is obvious that it must be because they want it to be.

Or something like that. Very similar to the mumbo-jumbo of some religions. You have to accept it as an article of faith.

Posted by: rrk1 on October 7, 2009 at 2:14 PM | PERMALINK

Can't blame Ayers. It's SO easy to fuck with dimwit conservatives that it would take a saint to resist the temptation.

Posted by: Steve LaBonne on October 7, 2009 at 2:19 PM | PERMALINK

I read it on the internet ,,,it must be true and why hasn't Bill Gates set me my money for forwarding that email?

Posted by: johnR on October 7, 2009 at 2:24 PM | PERMALINK

Bill Ayers just needs some info from me so I can get my hands on that Nigerian bank deposit!

Posted by: TGTrollop on October 7, 2009 at 2:32 PM | PERMALINK

One would think that Jonah Goldberg could recognize a joke. He sees one in the mirror every morning.

Posted by: ckelly on October 7, 2009 at 2:46 PM | PERMALINK

Well, these are the people who are still convinced that a couple of kids dressed up like actors in a high-school production of Guys and Dolls managed to obtain terrible, incriminating evidence against ACORN, when what obviously happened was that ACORN workers who knew they were being punk'd decided to punk 'em right back.

Posted by: T-Rex on October 7, 2009 at 2:49 PM | PERMALINK

I never understood WHY Obama would want Ayres to ghostwrite? Etc. None of it makes sense, right down to Ayres' recent "admission" --why? Indiscipline?

Conservatives must think the real world works like bad fiction. The villains leave all sorts of clues in plain sight, for no reason. The good guys discover these clues, but the rest of the world won't listen; the little band of good guys has to save the world themselves! And then we all say, "wow you were right, we're so sorry, thanks for saving everything."

Global warming, the birthers, it all fits this template.

Posted by: Half Elf on October 7, 2009 at 2:52 PM | PERMALINK

Does Jonah go on the Brooklyn Bridge and scream at people to get the hell off of his property?

Posted by: 2Manchu on October 7, 2009 at 2:53 PM | PERMALINK

I've seen the argument behind this and it's quite credible.

Decide for yourself:

Also consider that Obama, besides his 2 excellently-written books, has written absolutely nothing of note. Though he edited the Harvard Literary Review, he contributed nothing. Any papers or poems he's indisputably authored have been ... clumsy at best.

Bill Ayers, by contrast, is a gifted writer who churns out prose effortlessly. And he knew Obama from the early '90s, and of course was looking for ways/people to bring about country-transformative change.

While averse to conspiracy theories, I'm leaning toward believing this one.

(As for Ayers, he would've made his joking response because he was afraid of looking awkward making a serious, dismissive response, like he did the first time he was confronted with this charge, by a Washington Times reporter).

All that aside I like Obama as president and hope he does well for the country.

Posted by: Osweet on October 7, 2009 at 3:04 PM | PERMALINK

My own sense of humour may be a tad skewed but I've always thought that Republicans are genetically wired to have none. To the extent that, when I meet a Repub who can laugh at something beyond a basic pratfall-type stuff (you know -- preschool and kindergarten level), I'm dubious whether they're true Repubs. In my 36yrs in US, I've met 3 -- three! -- Repubs with well-developed "funny bone".

HalfElf, @ 14:52. There's no reason for Ayers to have written Obama's memoirs but, obviously, *someone* has had to. We all know that Obama himself is barely semi-literate -- the poor slob can't even read off the teleprompter...

Posted by: exlibra on October 7, 2009 at 3:04 PM | PERMALINK

i suppose if the wingnuts keep pressing this, you know, and it gits on the Beck show or something, well, i guess the white house'll just haft pay ayers the royalties...

but maybe they can get olympia snowe to come out in the rose garden and tell the white house press corps that she thinks it's the best thing to do...

Posted by: neill on October 7, 2009 at 3:06 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe Russ Feingold could look into this.

Posted by: Half Elf on October 7, 2009 at 3:15 PM | PERMALINK

Republicans don't do sarcasm. It's one of those "grey" areas that isn't supposed to exist. That's why so many of them think Stephen Colbert is on their side.

Posted by: bdop4 on October 7, 2009 at 3:18 PM | PERMALINK

Republicans have trouble with humour. Their idea of funny is an old lady slipping on the ice and breaking her leg. If the old lady happens to be a member of a minority it qualifies as a belly buster.

Posted by: J. Frank Parnell on October 7, 2009 at 3:25 PM | PERMALINK

I've seen the argument behind this and it's quite credible.

I think you used the wrong word there. The one you're looking for is "laughable."

Tell me, how did Obama manage to read Fugitive Days and hire Ayers to ghostwrite Dreams From My Father when Dreams was published in 1995 and Fugitive Days was published six years later in 2001? Is this another of those conspiracy theories you guys have that rely on Obama having perfected time travel?

Posted by: Mnemosyne on October 7, 2009 at 3:26 PM | PERMALINK

I thought it was a collaborative effort by Karl Marx and Adolph Hitler.

Posted by: qwerty on October 7, 2009 at 3:31 PM | PERMALINK

These are the same people who'll be lining up to buy Sarah Palin's book. Which she totally wrote.

Posted by: Scott Forbes on October 7, 2009 at 3:36 PM | PERMALINK

Not that this is an uncommon mistake but nonplussed mean at a loss of what to say and is not a synonym for unfazed which means what the author at the national review apparently was shooting for when discribing Mr. Ayers reaction.

Which of course kind of points out the idiocy of someone at the national review misusing a word while putting forth the conspiracy theory that Obama couldn't have written his books because of a lack of command over the English language.

Posted by: Greg Hanigan on October 7, 2009 at 3:36 PM | PERMALINK

Seriously - how stupid, not to mention how completely socially clueless, do you have to be not even to understand the concept of sarcasm?

Ayers should have just gotten rid of Leary by telling her that the word "gullible" isn't in the dictionary.

Posted by: DH Walker on October 7, 2009 at 3:37 PM | PERMALINK

Osweet, if you find anything "plausible" that was published in American Stinker, you need to get up to speed on critical thinking. Obama has a distinguished academic career and abundant evidence of his facility with language, no matter what the party line says about how he has to use a Teleprompter. (So did Reagan, Bush 41 and Bush 43, but that's been popped down the memory hole along with the last 8 years). This is the sort of story people will believe only because they want to. And they want to because a) it gives them a way to make a closer case of guilt-by-association with Ayers, whose connections to Obama are otherwise not very damning, and b) it allows them to comfort themselves that the eloquent Black Democrat isn't intelligent after all.

Posted by: T-Rex on October 7, 2009 at 3:41 PM | PERMALINK

Harvard Law Review.

Not Harvard Literary Review.

Posted by: zeitgeist on October 7, 2009 at 3:48 PM | PERMALINK

This is how we beat them.

You know how, after a long day of beating your head against the wall over the latest GOP lies, damn lies and outright ridiculousness, the only cogent retort you ever hear seems to come from Jon Stewart?

There's a reason for that.
Humor works.
It's the fastest, most easily understood way to hold a mirror up to these clowns and show them how ridiculous they are.

Consider the sinking feeling you get every time you see a non-crazy talking head try to debate these idiots. First they try reason. Then they try shouting. Then, they just give up. And the lunatic sitting there swearing Barack Obama Is Actually Elvis And Has A Secret Plan To Convert Grandma To Islam leans back wearing a shit-eating grin.

The only way to successfully combat these fools is to hold their ridiculousness up to them.

"Yes, Sean, we're trying to kill Granny. We think that's what's best for Amurka."

"Yes, Sean, we're cryptosocialists. Did someone show you our secret Workers' Handshake, comrade?"

...and so on.

We really ought to be doing more of this. Unless you think another sober, fact-based lecture from Paul Krugman will turn the tide.

Posted by: Cazart on October 7, 2009 at 3:49 PM | PERMALINK

After reading the Reason article, I am more
likely to believe that Obama wrote Fugitive Dreams.

Posted by: catclub on October 7, 2009 at 3:54 PM | PERMALINK

Republicans have trouble with humour. Their idea of funny is an old lady slipping on the ice and breaking her leg. If the old lady happens to be a member of a minority it qualifies as a belly buster.

They also seem to really enjoy wearing t-shirts that detail with subtle hilarity how stupid and unreasonable the opposite sex is, how much fun shopping can be and why fishing is superior to work.

Posted by: shortstop on October 7, 2009 at 4:10 PM | PERMALINK

"his bit about my proving it and splitting the proceeds"

The woman is dumber than a sack of broken hammers. LOL!

Posted by: Silver Owl on October 7, 2009 at 4:55 PM | PERMALINK

Thought you could slip that one past us about George Bush shirking his National Guard duty, did you, John C? I've got news for you -- he did. Karl Rove managed to change the subject by making it all about whether one document that Dan Rather used was authentic, but the dozens of interviews with people who knew him when he was supposed to be reporting for Guard duty and didn't pretty much cement the case. Of course it didn't matter, because he sobered up and Found Jeebus later, which washed everything away.

As for the other items on your list, you can find a few conspiracy theorists on the far left who believe them, but not in anything like the numbers of Republicans who claim to believe the birth certificate malarkey, and you'll find even fewer elected Democratic members of Congress encouraging them.

Posted by: T-Rex on October 7, 2009 at 5:08 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, John C, good to see you. Have you come up with any actual examples of the "poll after poll" you claimed proved that Obama voters couldn't identify his policies?

'Cause, you know, yesterday you failed to come up with a single example when called on your lie. Then you cried like a little girl and ran away. But today's a new day! So where are the links?

Posted by: shortstop on October 7, 2009 at 5:16 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, damn -- John C has found us out.

At least I think he has -- his command of the English language is, shall we say, somewhat less than that of Bill Ayers. I mean, really...

"Yet, curiously enough - from what political party contains 99% of the people that believed the following?"

...is supposed to be a sentence in English that is comprehensible by anyone sober with an IQ above room temperature? I defy anyone to diagram this sentence.

You know what I think this proves? John C actually wrote Sarah Palin's "book" and all her speeches. The similarities are amazing: complete lack of knowledge, inability to construct coherent sentences, etc., etc.

BTW, John C -- Chimpy did shirk his National Guard duty, Trig is not Sarah Palin's biological offspring (talk about your missing birth certificates!), and heterosexuals are just as likely to contract AIDS when performing the same activities as non-heterosexuals.

Posted by: David in NYC on October 7, 2009 at 5:19 PM | PERMALINK

I thing we should Spartacus this one. Every time you hear someone say Ayers wrote Dreams From My Father, stand up and say, "No, I wrote Dreams From My Father."

Posted by: Cap'n Chucky on October 7, 2009 at 5:30 PM | PERMALINK

A few years ago, some right-winger and I had some correspondence. He then got the bright idea to get about 20 people who had all written letters to our local paper and they could form a group and share commonly-agreed-upon stories.
The first few stories were unobjectionable, but he put out one that the progressives in the group had lots of problems with. He was like "No, no, no, this isn't for debating! This is for sharing stories we all agree to."
He presented a story to me about how the CIA had Saddam Hussein's archive and oh boy, did it contain a lot of explosive stories! I pointed out that the archive probably contained nothing of value (Sure enough, they were opened up a few months later and were utterly unimpressive). He was flabbergasted and asked how I could tell as he only gave me the first three paragraphs. It took about five paragraphs for me to explain it all. He said "Well, yeah, but IF it were true, it'd be one heck of a story."
The poor guy just had NO capacity for critical thinking!

Posted by: Rich2506 on October 7, 2009 at 8:35 PM | PERMALINK

the byword over at *sadly, no!* (i think) is that everything jonah writes is the stupidest fucking thing ever written until the next time he writes something. it's a pretty good theory.

your pal,

Posted by: blake on October 7, 2009 at 10:50 PM | PERMALINK



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