In Which I Discover Bill Ayers In My Head

Of all the bits of lunacy unleashed by the prospect that Barack Obama might actually win the election, my personal favorite was Jack Cashill’s claim that Bill Ayers had ghostwritten Barack Obama’s Dreams From My Father, based on such stunning evidence as this:

“Although there are only the briefest of literal sea experiences in Dreams, the following words appear in both Dreams and in Ayers’ work: fog, mist, ships, seas, boats, oceans, calms, captains, charts, first mates, storms, streams, wind, waves, anchors, barges, horizons, ports, panoramas, moorings, tides, currents, and things howling, fluttering, knotted, ragged, tangled, and murky.”

Guess what? Cashill is back with a new installment, which is even funnier. His first piece of evidence: Both Obama and Ayers not only quote the same line from Sandburg’s Chicago, they misquote it in the same way: “Hog butcher to the world”, not “Hog butcher for the world.” I misremembered it as ‘to the world’, which just goes to show that I am, in fact, Bill Ayers. But I’m not alone: writers for the Chicago Tribune, the Washington Post, the San Francisco Chronicle, and even, to my amazement, Reason’s Nick Gillespie all turn out to be Ayers too. Who knew?

But wait! There’s more:

“In his Indonesian backyard Obama discovered two “birds of paradise” running wild as well as chickens, ducks, and a “yellow dog with a baleful howl.”

In Fugitive Days, there is even more “howling” than there is in Dreams. Ayers places his “birds of paradise” in Guatemala. He places his ducks and dogs together in a Vietnamese village being swept by merciless Americans. In Parent, he talks specifically about a “yellow dog.” And he uses the word “baleful” to describe an “eye” in Fugitive Days. For the record, “baleful” means “threatening harm.” I had to look it up.”

Wait: they both mentioned yellow dogs? And ducks? Well: that settles it. It also means that Bill Ayers wrote Old Yeller and Make Way For Ducklings. As a birder, I should also note that while Obama managed to put his birds of paradise in Indonesia, where Birds of Paradise are actually found, either Ayers’ bird was an exotic captive or he just appropriated the name because it sounded nice.

I didn’t have to look up ‘baleful’. Funny thing, that. Moving right along:

“Ayers is fixated with faces, especially eyes. He writes of “sparkling” eyes, “shining” eyes, “laughing” eyes, “twinkling” eyes, eyes “like ice,” and people who are “wide-eyed” and “dark-eyed.”

As it happens, Obama is also fixated with faces, especially eyes. He also writes of “sparkling” eyes, “shining” eyes, “laughing” eyes, “twinkling” eyes, and uses the phrases “wide-eyed” and “dark-eyed.” Obama adds “smoldering eyes,” “smoldering” being a word that he and Ayers inject repeatedly. Obama also uses the highly distinctive phrase “like ice,” in his case to describe the glinting of the stars.”

Twinkling eyes? That’s evidence?

Cashill does not think that Ayers wrote The Audacity of Hope, though. That had to have a different author. Why?

“In Audacity of Hope, Obama does not use (…) most of the distinctive words or combinations of words in Dreams. In Audacity, for instance, there are virtually no descriptions of faces or eyes, and the few that the author does use are flat and cliched — like “brave face” or “sharp-eyed.” In Dreams, seven different people “frown,” twelve “grin,” and six “squint.” In Audacity, no more than one person makes any of these gestures. (…)

These two Obama books almost assuredly had different primary authors.”

It would be foolish, in the face of this evidence, to point out that Dreams is a memoir while Audacity is a campaign book about policy, and thus that one would expect both more description and more striking language in the first than in the second. Likewise, after extensive analysis, I have concluded that while I seem to myself to have written both my scholarly publications and my blog posts, I cannot have done so, since there are lots of phrases — ‘Oh Noes!’ and ‘Ya Think?’ leap to mind, as does the word ‘blog’ — that never appear in my scholarly work, but do appear in my blog posts.

The explanation is obvious. As I said, since I remembered Sandburg’s poem wrong, Bill Ayers apparently ghostwrites my memories. He probably writes my blog posts too. I just wish he had told me himself, rather than leading me to infer his presence in my head on the basis of all this literary “analysis.”

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