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Did Bill Ayers write Obama’s book “Dreams From My Father”? Part FIVE of FIVE


Who Wrote
“Dreams From
My Father” ?

by Jack Cashill

October 2008



That much said,

preliminary QSUM analysis

supports an Ayers-Obama link.

Systems designer Ed Gold–

with twenty years of high-level

experience in image

and signal processing,

pattern recognition,

and classifier design and


volunteered to run a QSUM

scan on multiple excerpts

from both memoirs.

“I have completed the analysis,”
he wrote me,
“and I think you will be
pleased with the findings.”

In assessing the signature of
sample passages from Dreams,
he found
“a very strong match to all of
the Ayers samples that
I processed.”

Like Juola,

Gold recognized the limitations

of the process and of his own


He has volunteered to make

the raw data available to more

established authorship

authentication experts,

and I will be happy to

pass that data along.

Gold saw the complementary value, however,
in text analysis,
as did Juola,
who encouraged me
“to do what you’re already
doing . . .
good old-fashioned literary
detective work.”

Given that advice,
I dug deeper into both memoirs
and established one metaphoric
thread that ties the two books
together in a way I believe is
just shy of conclusive,
a thread that leads back to
Bill Ayers’s stint,
after dropping out of college,
as a merchant seaman.

“I’d thought that when
I signed on that I might write
an American novel about a
young man at sea,”
says Ayers in his memoir,
Fugitive Days,
”but I didn’t have it in me.”

The experience had a
powerful impact on Ayers.

Years later, he would recall
a nightmare he had while
crossing the Atlantic,
“a vision of falling overboard
in the middle of the ocean
and swimming as fast as I
could as the ship steamed
off and disappeared over
the horizon.”

Although Ayers has tried to
put his anxious 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.

“Memory sails out
upon a murky sea,”
Ayers writes at one point.

both he and Obama are
obsessed with memory
and its instability.
The latter writes
of its breaks,
its blurs,
its edges,
its lapses.

Obama also has a fondness
for the word “murky” and
its aquatic usages.

“The unlucky ones drift
into the murky tide of hustles
and odd jobs,”
he writes,
one of four times “murky”
appears in Dreams.

Ayers and Obama also speak
often of waves and wind,
Obama at least a dozen times
on wind alone.

”The wind wipes
away my drowsiness,
and I feel suddenly exposed,”
he writes in a typical passage.

Both also make conspicuous
use of the word “flutter.”

Not surprisingly,
Ayers uses “ship” as a
metaphor with some frequency.

Early in the book he tells us
that his mother is
“the captain of her own ship,”
not a substantial one either but
“a ragged thing with fatal leaks”
launched into a
“sea of carelessness.”

Obama too finds himself
“feeling like the first mate
on a sinking ship.”

He also makes a metaphorical
reference to “a tranquil sea.”
More intriguing is Obama’s
use of the word “ragged” as
an adjective as in the highly poetic “ragged air” or “ragged laughter.”

Both books use “storms”
and “horizons” both as metaphor
and as reality.

Ayers writes poetically of an
“unbounded horizon,”
and Obama writes of
“boundless prairie storms”
and poetic horizons-”
violet horizon,”
“eastern horizon,”
“western horizon.”

Ayers often speaks of “currents”
and “pockets of calm”
as does Obama, who uses both
as nouns as in “a menacing calm”
or “against the current” or
“into the current.”

The metaphorical use
of the word “tangled” might
also derive from one’s
nautical adventures.

Ayers writes of his
“tangled love affairs”
and Obama of his
“tangled arguments.”

In Dreams,
we read of the
“whole panorama of life out there”
and in Fugitive Days,
”the whole weird panorama.”

Ayers writes of still
another panorama,
this one
“an immense panorama
of waste and cruelty.”

Obama employs the word
“cruel” and its derivatives
no fewer than fourteen
times in Dreams.

On at least twelve occasions,
Obama speaks of “despair,”
as in the “ocean of despair.”

Ayers speaks of a
“deepening despair,”
a constant theme
for him as well.
Obama’s “knotted,
howling assertion of self”
sounds like something from
the pages of Jack London’s
“The Sea Wolf.”

In Obama’s defense,
he did grow up in Hawaii.

the short Hawaii stretch of
his memoir is largely silent
on the island’s natural appeal.
Sucker Punch again
offers a useful control.

It makes no reference at all,
metaphorical or otherwise,
to ships, seas, oceans, calms,
storms, wind, waves, horizons,
or to things howling,
or murky.


And yet I have spent a good
chunk of every summer of my
life at the ocean.

If there is any one paragraph
in Dreams that has convinced
me of Ayers’ involvement it
is this one,
in which Obama describes
the Black Nationalist message:

“A steady attack
on the white race…
served as the ballast that
could prevent the ideas
of personal and communal responsibility from tipping
into an ocean of despair.”

As a writer,
especially in the pre-Google
era of Dreams,
I would never have used a
metaphor as specific as
“ballast” unless I knew exactly
what I was talking about.
Seaman Ayers most surely did.

One more item of interest.

In his 1997 book,

A Kind and Just Parent,

Bill Ayers walks the reader

through his Hyde Park

neighborhood and identifies

the notable residents therein.

Among them are Muhammad Ali,
“Minister” Louis Farrakhan
(of whom he writes fondly),
“former mayor” Eugene Sawyer,
“poets” Gwendolyn Brooks
and Elizabeth Alexander,
and “writer” Barack Obama.

In 1997,
Obama was an obscure
state senator,
a lawyer,
and a law school instructor
with one book under his belt
that had debuted two years
earlier to little acclaim
and lesser sales.

In terms of identity,
he had more in common
with mayor Sawyer than
poet Brooks.

The “writer” identification seems
forced and purposefully so,
a signal perhaps to those in the
know of a persona in the making
that Ayers had himself
helped forge.

None of this,
of course,
proves Ayers’ authorship
but the evidence makes him
a much more likely candidate
than Obama to have written
the best parts of Dreams.

The Obama camp could
put all such speculation to
rest by producing some
intermediary sign of
impending greatness —
a school paper,
an article,
a notebook,
his Columbia thesis,
his LSAT scores —
but Obama guards these
more zealously than Saddam
did his nuclear secrets.
And I suspect,
at the end of the day,
we will pay an equally
high price for Obama’s
concealment as Saddam’s.

Jack Cashill is the author,
among other books, of
How Intellectual Hucksters
Hijacked American Culture.
He has a Ph.D. in American
studies from
Purdue University.



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