The top ad on the Drudge Report Monday was for Dreams from My Real Father, a conspiracy movie about President Obama that exposes his true genealogy: he's not the son of a Kenyan anti-colonialist, as birthers may have lead you to believe but of an American alleged communist and sexual libertine named Frank Marshall Davis. This is one of many October surprises, stunts designed to throw the presidential election one way or the other. The Atlantic Wire will be profiling them until Election Day.
The plan: Director Joel Gilbert sure hopes his film will be a poll-moving surprise -- he's mailed millions of copies to voters in swing states. The mailers are to "bypass the establishment media blackout on his film," birther site World Net Daily reports. "It’s shocking that in the land of the First Amendment, in the ‘information age’ no less, a state of censorship exists on so many levels in the American media today," Gilbert complained. Of course, Gilbert is making a common mistake: the movie is not so much being censored as it is being made fun of.
Surprise! Dreams from My Real Father, a documentary directed by Joel Gilbert.
Surprise theory: Obama's real father is not Barack Hussein Obama, Sr., the Kenyan who met Obama's mom at the University of Hawaii. Obama's real dad is Frank Marshall Davis, a black newspaper editor, labor activist, and alleged communist. Obama's maternal grandfather convinced Obama Sr. to marry his daughter, Stanley Ann Dunham, to cover up her pregnancy by Davis. The reason Obama is so radical is because he got radical genes from his real dad.
Is it true? Come on, guys.
Evidence: Dreams from My Real Father's website says it "weaves together the proven facts with reasoned logic in an attempt to fill-in the obvious gaps in Obama's history." Some of the reasoned logic and evidence:
- Davis lived in Hawaii from 1948 until his death in 1987.
- Obama referred to a mentor named Frank in Dreams from My Father. This is a reference Davis, Obama's sister said. But if Davis was important to Obama, Obama doesn't seem to have been important to Davis. "John Edgar Tidwell, who wrote the introduction to Davis's memoir and edited a collection of his work, said that there was no mention of Mr. Dunham or Mr. Obama in any of Mr. Davis’s papers," the Daily Telegraph reported.
- Davis wrote an erotic novel titled Sex Rebel: Black in which he says he had an affair with a 16-year-old. Gilbert thinks that girl was Dunham. On the Internet, there are old erotic photos -- sort of Betty Paige lite -- of a woman who kind of looks like Dunham (check the teeth!), but with a smaller chin. This is taken as proof his mom did porn.
- There is a photo on Obama's Facebook page where his mom's hand looks dark behind Obama's elbow. This is evidence that there was a black guy in the picture, that it was probably Davis, and that he was photoshopped out, Stalin-style. This has not lead to widespread questioning of whether someone photoshopped her hand to be darker, OJ-style. Another reason it's so suspicious, Gilbert says, is that Dunham looks only 25 in the photo, even though, based on Obama's apparent age, she should be closer to 30. Where some see beauty secrets, others see paternity secrets.
- Obama is black, and Davis is black, so they look alike in a superficial way (they're both black). A comparison from the promotional video:
Virality of surprise: The documentary was released in April. Since then, it's gotten attention on a few right-wing blogs, like American Thinker. The chairman of the Alabama Republican Party swore by the film's veracity in September, telling a gathering of the Eastern Shore Republican Women, "I’m going to tell you about another movie. The name of it is Dreams From My Real Father. That is absolutely frightening. I’ve seen it. I verified that it is factual, all of it. People can determine." Gilbert is working hard to get attention for his film. It was distributed at a Paul Ryan event in Waukesha, Wisconsin, Slate's Dave Weigel reports. Gilbert has mailed 4 million copies to voters in swing states in September and October.
Controversy of surprise: While the Davis controversy hasn't gotten much attention in the mainstream media, it is quite controversial among birthers. If Obama's dad is Davis, then he's an American citizen -- and qualified to be president of the United States. As Talking Points Memo's Ryan J. Reilly explains, this has created a schism between Birther king Jerome Corsi, who's given attention to the film, and Birther queen Orly Taitz. Taitz wrote on her website, "JEROME CORSI IS DESTROYING THE CASE ON WHICH I WORKED FOR 4 YEARS 24/7/365. HE IS GRATUITOUSLY MAKING UP AN AMERICAN FATHER FOR OBAMA. WHAT IS HIS MOTIVATION TO DO SO? TELL WND AND CORSI TO STOP THIS."
Surprise impact: October Suprises get their power by co-opting the news cycle and making people change their minds about the candidates. This one, so far, seems to be confined to the looniest of the right-wing, and we highly doubt any of them were considering voting for Obama anyway.