Yavelow Study Confirms Ayers Hand
In Obama's "Dreams"

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© Jack Cashill

 2006 WorldNetDaily.com - November 2, 2008

In early October, a friend of Chris Yavelow’s forwarded him a copy of my article, “Who Wrote Obama’s Dreams From My Father.” In the article, I make the case that erstwhile terrorist Bill Ayers had a substantial and easily detectable hand in the writing of Obama’s lyrical masterwork, one that Time Magazine has called “the best-written memoir ever produced by an American politician.”

The friend knew that Yavelow, an award-winning composer and author, had worked for years developing what he believes is the most comprehensive linguistics tool for authorship detection, a software product trademarked as FictionFixer.

Yavelow contacted me and I sent him some relevant materials. When he ran the two books nominally by Barack Obama, the 1995 Dreams From My Father and the 2006 Audacity of Hope, through FictionFixer, he concluded, “They were written by different people.”

As Yavelow explains, authors don’t go from a 3.8 percent use of the passive voice in 1995 to an 8.3 percent use in 2006. For developing writers, the use of the passive almost always diminishes with experience.

Yavelow cites a score of other characteristics that change too conspicuously from one Obama book to the next, among them the Flesch Reading Ease score, the use of gender words, sentence starters, adverbs, discouraged words, sensory triggers, and more.

When, however, Yavelow compared Obama’s Dreams with Bill Ayers’ memoir, Fugitive Days, he found the similarity of the two books “striking.” He then quickly corrects himself: “’Striking’ is an understatement for the relationship FictionFixer uncovered between Fugitive Days and Dreams From My Father.”

For instance, Dreams averages 17.61 words and 26.48 syllables for non-dialogue sentences. Fugitive Days averages 17.62 words and 26.27 syllables.

Another example is what Yavelow calls “attributions”—e.g., he “asked,” she “said,” they “wondered.” Some authors use as few as three. Many use fewer than twenty. Dreams, however, uses 36; Fugitive Days 34, and with only four exceptions—three of these used only once—the two books use the very same attributions.

Yavelow compares the two books on any number of other characteristics and concludes, “There is a strong likelihood that the author of Fugitive Days ghost-wrote Dreams From My Father using recordings of dialog (either tape recorded or notes). Alternatively, another scenario could be possible: Ayers might have served as a ‘book doctor’.”

By the standards of this profession, it is remarkably easy for the layman to follow.

Unbeknownst to Yavelow, three other individuals or teams had volunteered to run analyses of the books using off-the-shelf software, which allows for easier testability.

Andrew Longman, a consulting instrumentation scientist presently working in test engineering, observes: "The Ayers-Obama matching shows a measurable and substantial effect. It is easily and objectively distinguishable from comparison to a third document.”

Longman adds a useful bit of advice: “These results achieved through good methodology should readily stimulate scientists skilled in the particular relevant fields to construct their own tests, place objective metrics on the correlation between the Ayers-Obama documents, and publish results.  We strongly think this bears immediate investigation by the academic community at large as the initial data presented is highly suggestive that these two documents share large portions of authorship."

Systems engineer Ed Gold, with twenty years experience in pattern recognition and classifier design, ran tests of his own. His conclusion: “The statistical style analysis performed by our research team suggests that the writing style of Dreams From My Father is significantly more similar to the style observed in Fugitive Days than to the style found in other works by Barack Obama such as Audacity of Hope. 

Gold continues, “Even more interesting, when we extract those sections of Dreams From My Father that Dr. Cashill believes to be Ayers' writing and treat this as a unique document, the style analysis software identifies a stronger correlation between this sample and Ayers' Fugitive Days than we see between this same sample and the remainder of Dreams From My Father!  Thus we have reason to believe that Dreams From My Father had at least two authors, and one author's measured style features more closely match those of Ayers than they match those of the other author(s)."

A team based at a large state university, who have chosen to remain anonymous to keep their jobs, came to the same conclusion Gold did. “Under the Q-value statistic,” they contend, “segments of Dreams consistently compared as well with Fugitive segments as it did with other segments of Dreams itself.  In contrast, Dreams compared poorly with other documents.”

“Using the chi-square statistic,” they add, “Obama's and Ayers's books were indistinguishable while Obama's book was easily distinguishable from books by other authors.”

In an earlier correspondence I had with Patrick Juola of Duquesne, one of the nation’s leading authorities on literary forensics, he cautioned that “the accuracy simply isn't there.”

As he explained, the best-performing methods range between 50 and 90 percent in accuracy and for high stakes issues like this one, “The repercussions of a technical error could be a disaster (in either direction).”

Juola added, “A better approach is simply to do what you're already doing . . . good old-fashioned literary detective work.”

That much said, the media have insisted on the confirmation of science, however imprecise. They assuredly hoped that I would not get it. Now that I have, and from four sets of independent researchers, I am sure they will find some new reason to ignore the most consequential literary fraud of our time.

As I document in my book Hoodwinked, literary fraud is surprisingly easy to get away with if the presumed writer is advancing a cause that the literary gatekeepers wants to see advanced. Although there are obvious exceptions, the people who guard the cultural gates tend to be liberal on sexual and social issues, socialist on economic ones, internationalist in their worldview, and Democratic in their voting preferences.

Can one even imagine, for instance, the frenzy of investigation that would follow a Sarah Palin release of a book as stylish as Dreams, especially if she claimed it as her own?

Parallel stories

One need not be a forensic linguist to see Ayers’ hand prints on Obama’s Dreams. Indeed, my single best source to date has been a 39 year-old father of three who, when not running a small Midwest construction business, has been combing through the books of Ayers and Obama.

Joe the Builder—given Joe the Plumber’s fate he prefers to remain anonymous--spotted at least two of the stories that bleed from the 1993 Ayers’ book To Teach into the 1995 Obama book Dreams From My Father. They bear repetition.

In To Teach, Ayers lays out the difference between “education” on the one hand and “training” on the other. “Education is for self-activating explorers of life, for those who would challenge fate, for doers and activists, for citizens,” Ayers writes.

“Training,” on the other hand, “is for slaves, for loyal subjects, for tractable employees, for willing consumers, for obedient soldiers.”

In Obama’s Dreams, these thoughts find colloquial expression in the person of “Frank,” the real life poet, pornographer and Stalinist, Frank Marshall Davis.

“Understand something, boy,” Frank tells the college-bound Obama. “You’re not going to college to get educated. You’re going there to get trained.”

Frank shares Ayers’ distaste for training. “They’ll train you to forget what it is that you already know,” Frank tells Obama. “They’ll train you so good, you’ll start believing what they tell you about equal opportunity and the American way and all that shit.”

Frank also tells Obama that “leaving your race at the door” is an essential part of the university’s training mission. Ayers makes the same case about training in reference to Indian schools, which insist, according to Ayers, that students be “stripped of everything Indian and taught to be like whites.”

In the same 1993 book, To Teach, Ayers tells the story of an adventurous teacher who takes her students out to the streets of New York to learn interesting life lessons about the culture and history of the city.

As Ayers tells it, the students were fascinated by the Hudson River nearby and asked to see it. When they got to the river’s edge, one student says, ” Look, the river is flowing up.” A second student answers, “No, it has to flow south-down.”

Upon further research, the teacher discovers “that the Hudson River is a tidal river, that it flows both north and south, and they had visited the exact spot where the tide stops its northward push.”

In his 1995 book, Dreams From My Father, Obama shares a stunningly similar story from his own brief New York sojourn. As Obama tells it, he takes an unlikely detour to the exact spot on the parallel East River where the north-flowing tide meets the south-flowing river.

There, improbably, a young black boy approaches this strange man and asks, “You know why sometimes the river runs that way and then sometimes it goes this way?” Obama tells the boy it “had to do with the tides.”

In his 1997 book, A Kind and Just Parent, Ayers tells of a useful reading assignment from the 1992 book, The Kind of Light That Shines on Texas, by black author Reginald McKnight.

The passage in question deals with the travails of Clint, the first black student in a newly integrated school, who tries to distance himself from Marvin, the only other black boy in the school.

“Can you believe that guy?” Clints tells a white student. “He’s like a pig or something.  Makes me sick.” Upon reflection, Clint thinks, “I was ashamed.  Ashamed for not defending Marvin and ashamed that Marvin even existed.”

In Dreams, Obama reflects on his own first days as a ten year-old at his Hawaiian prep school, a transition complicated by the presence of “Coretta,” the only other black student in the class.

When the other students accuse Obama of having a girlfriend, Obama shoves Coretta and insists that she leave him alone. Although “his act of betrayal” buys him a reprieve from the other students, Obama, like Clint, understands that he “had been tested and found wanting.” These are three such parallel stories that have been found. I suspect that there are more.

Style parallels

A few days ago I received an email from a Boston-area writer and composer, Jay Spencer, who suggested some additional parallels between Obama’s Dreams and Ayers’ books that had evaded me. Even the casual reader cannot help but acknowledge them.

Remember that the young Ayers served as a merchant seaman, and although he has tried to put his ocean-going days behind him, the language of the sea will not let him go.

“I realized that no one else could ever know this singular experience,” Ayers writes of his maritime adventures. Yet curiously, much of this same nautical language flows through Obama’s earth-bound memoir.

Although there are no 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, barges, horizons, ports, panoramas, moorings, tides, currents, and things howling, fluttering, knotted, ragged, tangled, and murky. This is not coincidence. This is fraud.

Indeed, landlubber Obama knowingly manages to use “ballast” as a metaphor. Who knows from Ballast? I don’t.

Despite the fact that I have spent a good chunk of every summer of my life at the ocean, the only two of the above words to appear in my own semi-memoir on race, Sucker Punch, are “current” and “tide.”

Not surprisingly, two of the more conspicuous parallel structures that Spencer discovered involve the flow of elements that intrigue Ayers—water and language.

Writes Ayers in Fugitive Days: “The debates swam above and around and through us . . . . The confrontation in the [Student Union] flowed like a swollen river in to the teach-in, carrying me along the cascading waters from room to room, hall to hall, bouncing off boulders.”

Writes Obama in Dreams: “I heard all our voices begin to run together, the sound of three generations tumbling over each other like the currents of a slow-moving stream, my questions like rocks roiling the water, the breaks in memory separating the currents, but always the voices returning to that single course, a single story.”

I would bet my house against Obama’s mailbox that the gifted writer Ayers wrote both these passages. Now, note the rhythm, cadence, and layered structure of the following two excerpts, both dealing with waves.

Writes Ayers in A Kind And Just Parent: “The hard ground is frozen through, the wintry waves upswept--all white and frosty--transposed in midcrash from furious motion to arctic glass. A fading, fragile sun offers no heat and precious little light to our dark smudge of a city nestled between Lake Michigan and the vast, flat plains stretching westward.”

Writes Obama in Dreams: “The trembling blue plane of the Pacific. The moss-covered cliffs and the cool rush of Manoa Falls, with its ginger blossoms and high canopies filled with the sounds of invisible birds. The North Shore's thunderous waves, crumbling as if in a slow-motion reel. The shadows off Pali's peaks; the sultry scented air.”

No one who has seen Obama’s earlier writing or paid heed to his casual speech could make a serious case that Obama was capable of writing either of these two cited passages from Dreams.

The early Obama

Before 1995 all that Barack Obama had managed to publish was some bad undergraduate poetry, a wonkish tract on community organizing, and a leaden case comment on abortion law.

Despite being named president of the Harvard Law Review—more of a popularity than a literary contest—Obama has, most unusually, written nothing under his own name for the HLR or any other legal journal.

The Obama camp has refused all inquiries on grades, SAT scores, LSAT scores, student theses, or any other documents that would flesh out what Politico calls Obama’s “scant paper trail.”

Sometime between 1992 and 1994 Simon & Schuster cancelled the advance that it had offered Obama. Obama had not been able to finish the commissioned book on his own. Ayers could help. He provided an informal editing service for like-minded friends in the neighborhood.

Fellow radical Rashid Khalidi—he of the LA Times tapes controversy--attests to this in the very first sentence of the acknowledgements in his book, Resurrecting Empire. “There are many people without whose support and assistance I could not have written this book, or written it in the way that it was written,” he writes. “First, chronologically, and in other ways, comes Bill Ayers.”

There was a good deal of literary back-scratching going on in Chicago’s Hyde Park. Obama, for instance, wrote a short and glowing review of Ayers’ 1997 book, A Kind and Just Parent, for the Chicago Tribune. In that same book, perhaps with a self-congratulatory wink, Ayers cites the “writer” Barack Obama as one among the celebrities in his neighborhood.

Obama’s memoir was published in June 1995. Earlier that year, Ayers helped Obama get appointed chairman of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge grant. In the fall of that same year, 1995, launched Obama’s political career with a fundraiser in his Chicago home. In short, Ayers had the means, the motive, the time, the place, and the ability to burnish Obama’s literary star.

The evidence strongly suggests that Ayers transformed Obama from the struggling literalist of 1994 into the sophisticated postmodernist of 1995, and he did so not by tutoring, but by rewriting, including the very Introduction and Preface.

Postmodern themes

Jay Spencer noticed another characteristic obvious in both Dreams and Fugitive Days, “the notion popular in leftist academic circles . . . that we understand our lives in terms of a personal story or narrative.” Spencer adds, “These stories exist as part of a larger social narrative, and an unquestioned narrative denies the reality of other stories and perspectives.”

Spencer had apparently not seen the work I had done on this same postmodern theme, but he does add still more useful parallels. Here are two. There are a score more. The first is from Dreams on the subject of a clueless relative:

“I know how strongly Gramps believed in his fictions. . . . I suspect that black people became a part of these fictions of his, the narrative that worked its way through his dreams.”

This one from Fugitive Days on the subject of a clueless relative:

“Mom's script was already written as a simple smiley face, but I wanted more than that relentlessly sunny atmosphere, the enveloping gleam of an untroubled narrative.”

This one is from Dreams on the merging narratives of ordinary people:

“. . . the stories of ordinary people were the stuff out of which families, communities, economies would have to be built. . . . The stories . . . formed a counternarrative buried deep within each person.”

This one is from Ayers on the merging narratives of ordinary people:

“It's important not only to know that there are various perspectives, but to acknowledge that in any community or school or family, I am one person, that many stories are being lived and enacted.”

In assessing the postmodern diffidence of the 1995 Introduction and the 2004 Preface to Dreams, Ohio State classics professor, Bruce Heiden makes a fascinating claim: Obama takes no credit for the actual writing process beyond the curiously passive, “What has found its way onto these pages is a record of a personal, interior journey.” Adds Heiden with a smile:

As Obama tells it, his authorship of Dreams was miraculous, because although he lacked the writing skill to be the author of anything, and he didn’t want to be the author of a memoir in particular, and he resisted becoming the author of a memoir, and he tried in vain to become the author of a different kind of book . . . Dreams from My Father, nevertheless somehow it ‘found its way’ onto the page with Barack Obama’s name under the title as the author.

The evidence strongly suggests that Ayers transformed Obama from the struggling literalist of 1994 into the sophisticated postmodernist of 1995, and he did so not by tutoring, but by rewriting, including the very Introduction and Preface.

To be sure, there are other postmodernists in Chicago, maybe even in Hyde Park, but few who write as stylishly and as intelligibly as Ayers and fewer still who make their services available to would-be authors of a leftist bent.

The media and the evidence

The following passage, one of the very few in the major media to condescend to the question of Barack Obama’s altogether likely literary fraud, nicely captures their willful blindness on the subject.

“The bizarre accusation Jack Cashill made . . . that Obama didn't write "Dreams From My Father" (and that Bill Ayers did) has caught fire in the blogosphere and on talk radio.”

So writes the proudly clueless Kirsten Powers in the only half-blind New York Post. Into this breach steps the London Times. What has attracted the paper to the story, however late in the day, was the failure of some supportive fundraisers to muster enough cash up front to liberate a study of the Ayers-Obama connection by Oxford professor, Peter Millican. The intellectual property guardians at Oxford apparently won’t take a down payment and an IOU.

What might just keep the London Times in this story is the transparency and consequence of the deception. As Joe the Builder has shown, one does not have to be an Oxford Don to find it.

Yavelow's "Obama-Ayers" Evaluation (PDF)

Who is Jack Cashill?


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Editor's note: For a more complete account of this phenomenon, read Jack Cashill's amazing book, "Hoodwinked: How Intellectual Hucksters Have Hijacked American Culture.


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