Plagiarism is a form of academic cheating which is universally condemned but nevertheless widespread because of growing dependence on electronic sources. There are other forms of academic cheating: (1) Having someone else write a paper for you; (2) Having someone else take an exam for you. These academic crimes are serious attempts at intellectual misrepresentation; the person who commits them is trying to represent himself as smarter than he really is. Academic cheating should result in the immediate expulsion of the student.
At the American Thinker, Jack Cashill has written a series of convincing articles showing that Bill Ayers is actually the ghost author of Dreams of my Father. This is based on a strong argument of literary criticism finding numerous and uncanny parallels between Obama’s Dreams and Ayer’s own memoir. Based upon their reading of Dreams, many have claimed that Barack Obama is a towering intellect, much smarter than George W. Bush. If Bill Ayers, the domestic terrorist, wrote Dreams of my Father then (1) Obama is an intellectual fraud, because he has represented this book as his own work; (2) Obama has also lied about his palling around with Bill Ayers–remember that Sarah Palin accused Obama of palling around with terrorists, and he denied that they were close; if Ayers wrote Dreams, or even had a significant role of any kind, then Obama has lied about their relationship.
Today, Jack Cashill has exposed the smoking gun, lines in a new book by Christopher Anderson, Barack and Michelle: Portrait of an American Marriage:
In his new book, “Barack and Michelle: Portrait of an American Marriage,” Best-selling celebrity journalist, Christopher Andersen, has blown a huge hole in the Obama genius myth without intending to do so.
Relying on inside sources, quite possibly Michelle Obama herself, Andersen describes how Dreams came to be published — just as I had envisioned it in my articles on the authorship of Dreams. With the deadline pressing, Michelle recommended that Barack seek advice from “his friend and Hyde Park neighbor Bill Ayers.”
To flesh out his family history, Obama had taped interviews with various family members. Andersen writes, “These oral histories, along with a partial manuscript and a truckload of notes, were given to Ayers.” Andersen quotes a Hyde Park neighbor, “Everyone knew they were friends and that they worked on various projects together. It was no secret. Why would it be? People liked them both.”
Andersen continues, “In the end, Ayers’s contribution to Barack’s Dreams From My Father would be significant–so much so that the book’s language, oddly specific references, literary devices, and themes would bear a jarring similarity to Ayers’s own writing.”
I cannot recommend Thomas Lifson’s American Thinker enough. It is one of the best sites on the WWW; it is the best source of conservative thought and reporting on contemporary events that I know.
Update: Ron Radosh has caused me to attenuate the tone of this post considerably, since he suggests that Christopher Anderson may not be completely reliable:
Now Andersen gives no sources or names; the Obamas did not cooperate with him. Skeptics will argue that we have no way of knowing whether his claims can be verified, and we have no way of knowing the veracity of those he interviewed. Who, for example, was the Hyde Park neighbor he spoke with? Some might even argue that he reached his conclusion after reading Cashill’s original blog, without citing it. Andersen faces the same credibility problem Bob Woodward faces, since he is often charged with making outrageous charges in some of his books without offering any proof that conversations he could not have been privy to took place. But Woodward’s use of such a technique never has hurt his reputation. After all, he is Bob Woodward. Reviewers of Andersen’s book have had no compunction in labeling much of what he writes as pure “gossip.”
Update 2: I have taught in both Canada and Africa, and I have encountered dozens examples of academic cheating. I am absolutely appalled by it, because at the graduate level, and even the undergraduate level, plagiarism is the sure sign that the student should never have matriculated. In every case, the administrators of the school wished to take a more lenient stance than I. I was in every case forced to give in against my better judgment (and against the policy of the school which was not being enforced). For example, in most cases the plagiarizing student was allowed to redo the assignment. What kind of punishment is that? There is no deterrent if the student will just be allowed to redo the paper. Now we have a US president who has committed academic fraud. It will only be when he has made a complete disaster of the greatest nation in the world that we will see that plagiarism is a serious crime.
I found it humiliating once to have been reprimanded by an academic dean for giving an African my musings on plagiarism (written months beforehand) in which I said that as any monkey can imitate human gesture, so also any poor student can copy words from books and represent them as his own. The student felt that I had written these words as a personal attack of him, and of course, for Africans, being compared to monkeys is a example of racism. So I was made to apologize to the student who had committed academic fraud. As I become older, I am becoming less tolerant of fraud and less worried about what such administrators think of me.
The second half of the statement, “The student felt that I had written these words as a personal attack of him, and of course, for Africans, being compared to monkeys is a example of racism,” is a bit overstated, I think. I never knew that comparing someone to a monkey could convey any racist message until I came to the States. Perhaps it is correct to generalize this statement when referring to African-Americans, but I am not sure it applies generally to Africans tout court.
Thanks for this comment. That’s just the way it was presented to me at the time, as being very hurtful to this student because he was African, and it was humiliating for me a non-African to compare him to a monkey. Of course, I wasn’t comparing him, in particular, to a monkey, but rather, the academic cheat to a monkey, for I had written those words many weeks before I came across his example of plagiarism.
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You appear to know a bit about plagiarism but it seems you don’t know anything about ghostwriting. I won’t comment on whether or not Obama had a ghostwriter, mostly because there is no way to ever know. If there is a ghostwriter, he or she most definitely signed a nondisclosure agreement.
But ghostwriting is not the same thing as plagiarism or fraud. Plagiarism involves taking someone one’s work without permission and without sourcing. It is illegal. Ghostwriting involves a person specifically writing for another person and being paid to do so. In other words, it’s legal, it’s a profession and it’s entirely common. Some of JFK’s books were written entirely by ghostwriters, Mozart used to work as a ghostwriter.
If you want to make an argument that ghostwriting should be considered in the same light as academic fraud then you have a lot of legwork to do. That legwork would include, by the way, arguing that the use of speechwriters is likewise intellectual fraud. And ought we consider Obama and intellectual fraud because he doesn’t write is own facebook status updates? To put my point simply, plagiarism is bad but using a ghostwriter is not plagiarism nor is it in any important way analogous to plagiarism.
Thanks so much for your comment.
The comparison between plagiarism and ghostwriting is based upon both being misrepresentation of the alleged author’s ability–not upon the legality of the act. Sure ghostwriting is legal. Yet it is nevertheless ALWAYS a misrepresentation of the alleged author’s own ability. Ghostwriting is not the same as the “as told to … ” format, which readily acknowledges the use of a professional writer.
If it was acknowledged that Obama has never written anything brilliant on his own, it would be one thing. But this is not the case. Cashill’s question was initiated by (1) earlier writing samples by Obama which were terrible and (2) the fact that a long time he worked full-time on Dreams, receiving advances, etc. and was unable to produce a manuscript. How all of sudden was he able to produce an extremely well-written memoir?
Many in the media today have touted Obama’s brilliance based upon his speeches (also written by others) and his two books (all while chastising Sarah Palin because she enlisted the help of a professional writer). Christopher Anderson’s book claims that Bill Ayers was the ghostwriter of Dreams, a theory that Dr. Jack Cashill came up with based upon literary evidence and circumstantial evidence. Now two corroborate one another to make a particularly strong case. Obama should come out and admit that he did not write Dreams without help, if that is the case, otherwise, the charge of misrepresentation of his abilities, which is what plagiarism also is, stands. My personal opinion is that Obama isn’t nearly as smart as what other people say he is. Get him alone without the teleprompter, and he stumbles for words. He is obviously not very smart when it comes to economics, investments, and arithmetic. If he has been a straight A student, then he would have no problem releasing his university transcripts. But we have no access to this information; I had to provide my transcripts when applying for a small college position in the Georgia, but apparently when applying for the job of POTUS, transcripts are irrelevant.
Liberals always claim that they are smarter than conservatives. Take Al Gore or John Kerry. They were touted as much smarter than W. But their grades weren’t any better than his. Al Gore failed both seminary and law school, but he was sooooo smart compared to Bush who successfully completed a Harvard MBA.
Plagiarism is a crime that a person commits in academic setting to get a degree. Having someone ghostwrite a book is not distinguishable from plagiarism, if it is used as a springboard to a political career. Liberals need to own up to the fact that they’ve made a disastrous mistake of promoting an untested and unvetted candidate to the POTUS. I think it will set back their causes for at least a decade.
Thinking about it further, I would probably be disappointed if I found out (conclusively—there are so many conspiracy theories about Obama that it’s hard to trust anything anyone says) that he used a ghostwriter.
It would be the same kind of disappointment I felt about Tiger Woods, however. I was disappointed in he misrepresented himself but in the end, Tiger is still the best golfer out there and his misrepresentation is not indicative of an inability to play golf. (As a side note, I suppose I object more to your use of the word ‘fraud’ as this is a loaded term—in particular, it’s loaded with legal connotation. And, I still believe that the use of a ghostwriter is far from analogous to plagiarism but I see what you mean about misrepresentation).
Similarly, I don’t think the use of a ghostwriter (I’m not convinced that Obama did use one, but if he did…) does not mean that Obama is not intelligent or capable as a president. There are many intelligent people, even some who are excellent public speakers, who are absolutely terrible writers. Sticking to the facts (those things about Obama which I know and are not mere speculation or guesswork based on a lack of information, such as concerns Obama’s university transcripts), I can make an informed judgment that he is an intelligent man. He went to Harvard Law, he was president of the law review and a professor.
Now, do those things necessarily mean he is a good president? No. Does the possibility that he used a ghostwriter make him unintelligent or a bad president? No. There are many thing one can complain about when it comes to the Obama administration; however, red herrings about Obama’s intelligence does nothing to make comment about Obama’s abilities as a president.
Thanks again for your reply. I strongly agree with writers like Neill Postman who affirm that intelligence should be measured by the smart things that a person does. We can say that Obama ran an intelligent campaign for president. That may demonstrate only showmanship and ability to deceive; that his campaign was clearly a deception can be demonstrated, since he promised undefined change and hope, which he as a mere mortal cannot provide. The result of his presidency is that the change has been for the worse, much worse (an effective unemployment rate of about 20%), and that many people in the US have lost hope that they will ever find a job or that economic conditions will get better. We know that he himself said that he was unqualified for the office of POTUS; and yet he managed to deceive a small majority of voters that he could do a better job than McCain. However, we still have no serious evidence that he actually can do anything besides campaign, which he continues to do in office while providing little effective leadership, either on the domestic or foreign agenda. He is clearly clueless about how to get us out of this economic malaise, which would require some acumen and experience in business, which neither he nor anyone in his administration has; the first thing that business people will tell you is that government is not the solution (i.e., “stimulus”) but the problem–government needs to get out of the way of small businesses not help them. Promising to raise tax on “rich” people is a sure way of making sure that the problem of unemployment will not ameliorate; because the rich are the small business people who provide jobs. Fortunately, Obama has not provided effective leadership in implementing his domestic agenda regarding health care and environment; so even that front he is clearly an ineffective leader who was not able to persuade a super-majority government in his direction. He criticized Bush for his deficit spending (which he voted for as senator) and now has trebled that deficit and seriously jeopardized the future value of the US dollar. He presented a budget deficit of 1.4 trillion, and then couple days later said in all seriousness that he was going to try to reduce the deficit by 100 million. This shows that he doesn’t understand numbers, or that he thinks that he could deceive the majority of the people into thinking that 100 million was a significant number next to 1.4 trillion.
His foreign policy is riddled with examples of gaffes and slights to foreign leaders (such as returning the bust of Winston Churchill to the British embassy and bowing to the King of Saudi Arabia), and large areas of abdication in policy (Iran; Libya). His view of improving America’s image was to go and apologize to the world.
Obama’s leadership has been so disastrous for his own party that many Democrats in Congress, both senators and representatives, have announced that they will not be running for re-election in 2010. They see the writing on the wall, and they figure it is better to save their money. I’ve followed American politics since Nixon, and I’ve never seen this bad a president before, and I remember Jimmy Carter, who lost to Reagan but nevertheless the democrats maintained control of Congress. Now it looks like they are going to have serious problems in 2010.
I disagree with you that fraud is primarily a term loaded with a legal connotation. It is rather a term that refers first and foremost to trickery and deception. Of that Obama is a master, as Webster’s define a fraud as: “a person who is not what he or she pretends to be”.