It’s a testament to the abject insanity of the fringes of the religious right that Joel Sion Gilbert received the welcome and praise and recognition he did in 2012. Gilbert is a documentary filmmaker and musician and the CEO of his own film production company, Highway 61 Entertainment. As a filmmaker, he is most famous – some might even say “legendary” – for his amateurish conspiracy hackjob “Dreams from My Real Father”, which peddled some, shall we say, unsubstantiated allegations toward President Obama’s birth and background. As Amanda Marcotte put it, the film “peddles a conspiracy theory so convoluted that more traditional birthers must be envious of its creativity”. In fact, the basic conspiracy theory is fairly familiar to anyone fascinated by the clown antics of Gilbert’s primary audiences, namely that Obama’s real father is Frank Marshall Davis, and that Obama therefore got communist genes. What Gilbert adds is primarily that Davis took bondage photos of Obama’s mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, which he sold to nudie magazines. These photos were accordingly prominently displayed in the documentary, and a short clip from the movie displaying the photos is available for embedding for any birther blogger who may be interested. Gilbert also claimed to have mailed out a million copies to voters in Ohio, though there is evidence that the campaign may have backfired a little. Of course, the photos in questions were not photos of Dunham. Gilbert claimed that the photos came from two years of research and that he identified Dunham in the naked photos by using her high school images, saying that “her teeth matched, her nose matched, everything matched” and that the correlation was “obvious.” It … isn’t, and there is presumably a reason why Gilbert avoided using any sort of expert help for making the comparisons.
The documentary was praised by certified lunatics like Bill Armistead (GOP chairman in Alabama, who judged the documentary to be factual apparently based on a documentary he saw; yeah, we know), Jack Cashill and Jerome Corsi, and as Michelle Goldberg pointed out “[w]hat matters here is not that a lone crank made a vulgar conspiracy video, one that outdoes even birther propaganda in its lunacy and bad taste. It’s that the video is finding an audience on the right.” Orly Taitz, on the other hand, didn’t like it, since the theory implies that Obama’s father was American and that Obama would therefore be eligible for being president. Gilbert, on his side, claimed that “... ‘birthers’ are barking up the wrong tree. It’s not a question of where Obama was born – but rather, one of paternity.” One wonders, if only occasionally, what the standards of reasonableness these people are assuming actually look like.
Gilbert’s previous foray into politics, “Atomic Jihad: Ahmadinejad’s Coming War For Islamic Revival And Obama’s Politics of Defeat” made less of a splash, but Jerome Corsi liked that one as well. “There is no place like Utopia” is his follow-up documentary, which portrays Obama as a “real life Wizard of Oz” bent on implementing communism. Then there is this.
After the Dreams documentary was released Gilbert and Corsi claimed to have found evidence that Obama had a nosejob (they compared old and new photos and based their findings on what they wanted to find) and concluded that this is evidence that Obama was “concerned he was looking too much like Frank Marshall Davis as he got older.” Said Gilbert: “If Obama was identified as Davis’ son, it would connect the Marxist dots of Obama’s entire life journey.” So, Obama “needed the Kenyan father fairy tale to misdirect the public away from the fact that he is a red diaper baby, the child of a Communist Party USA propagandist and Soviet agent.” And don’t forget that he’s a Muslim; according to Gilbert, Obama has a (secret) Muslim wedding ring inscribed (in Arabic) with “There is no god but Allah”. Presumably the ring comes with the magical power of enabling him to activate his communist genes.
Always willing to indulge his audiences, Gilbert has subscribed to a number of other conspiracy theories about Obama as well, for instance that the Aurora mass shooting could very well have been orchestrated by the Obama administration in an effort to promote gun control. The evidence consisted solely of the assertion that “you can’t put anything past them,” and the possible involvement in the shooting would presumably then be further evidence that you really cannot put anything past them. National healthcare is, according to Gilbert, simply a socialist tool to eliminate the middle and upper classes, and part of Obama’s plot to turn America into a bankrupt, socialist state. Remember those communist genes. Marijuana legalization is another liberal plot to hoodwink America into communism by gaining “total control” over a drugged population. And Michelle Obama is an “anti-American extremist”, and that just shows that Barack Obama is comfortable around anti-American extremists. How could such a character have won in 2012? By voter fraud, of course: according to Gilbert Obama stole the election with NSA data and by allowing disabled people to vote.
Gilbert has made contributions beyond politics as well. In 2010 he released the documentary “Paul McCartney Really Is Dead: The Last Testament of George Harrison” (oh, yes), the main idea of which was that after an argument with John Lennon, Paul McCartney died in a 1966 car crash, only to be replaced by MI5 with a lookalike contest winner in order to “stave off any mass suicides of young girls all over the world should they find out that Paul had died in a car crash.” For good measure, the movie also asserted that Lennon’s death was an assassination instigated by his desire to finally tell the truth about Paul’s demise (the motivation seems rather flimsy). Film Threat noted that an “audience’s ability to suspend practical thought and accept the most outlandish concepts imaginable” was “stretched far beyond the fraying point” by the film and its “insistence that George Harrison left behind audio recordings that confirmed the late 1960s urban legend of Paul McCartney’s automobile accident death and secret replacement by a ringer,” and that the documentary contained holes in logic and consistency large enough to be driven through by the Magical Mystery Tour bus.
Diagnosis: Zealous, paranoid and stupid. That, however, is apparently no barrier to making a career among certain groups of people but rather an asset.