The Jan. 31 edition of Glenn Beck's show on Fox News featured Beck ranting about how he wanted to kick California out of the union because of, among other things, "eco-warriors running the state and ruining it" and "Hollywood projecting their family values and politics on the U.S." Beck's guest for the segment was Jack Cashill, whose California-bashing book was a rejoinder to Thomas Frank's "What's the Matter With Kansas?"
In the segment, Cashill says: "[W]ackiness has consequences. ... [A]fter a while, when wackos reach critical mass, they pull the whole thing down." Cashill was ostensibly talking about California, but he might as well have been talking about himself.
In addition to penning conservative-friendly books, Cashill also promulgates conservative-friendly conspiracies. A columnist at right-wing "news" website WorldNetDaily, Cashill got his start, as many right-wingers did, with obsessing over the Clintons. He has promoted a grand unification Clinton conspiracy theory of sorts (summarized in a DVD he made called Mega Fix), in which he postulates that "the Clintons and their operatives -- Richard Clarke, Sandy Berger, Jamie Gorelick among others -- finessed or fixed all terrorist investigations to enhance Clinton's reelection" in 1996, "turned [Clinton Commerce secretary] Ron Brown into Martin Luther King while suppressing the investigation into his death" and "transformed the shoot-down of TWA Flight 800 into a mechanical failure" -- which, in turn, somehow directly led to 9/11. (Cashill has also written conspiracy books about both Brown and Flight 800.)
In 2002, Cashill wrote a seven-part series for WorldNetDaily in which he asserts that anti-abortion activist James Kopp was being framed for the 1998 death of New York abortion doctor Barnett Slepian. Cashill painted Kopp as having "an almost Gandhian devotion to non-violence and passive resistance," accused officials of singling out Kopp as part of "a fishing expedition" complete with planted evidence, smeared Slepian as a "mediocre student" who "fit the classic stereotype of the abortion doctor," and (of course) implicated the Clinton administration. Cashill's little theory was blown out of the water six months after his series appeared, when Kopp confessed to killing Slepian.
Cashill's latest obsession is Barack Obama, and does he have a doozy of a conspiracy theory: Obama's first book, Dreams From My Father, was ghost-written by William Ayers.
He has no actual evidence to back this up, of course -- just a claim to have "developed an eye for literary humbug." Cashill claims a purported similarity between Dreams and Ayers' 2001 memoir, Fugitive Days. Cashill also asserts the two have a similar background: "Ayers and Obama both grew up in comfortable white households and have struggled to find an identity as righteous black men ever since." Cashill later claimed that "both [Ayers] and Obama are obsessed with memory and its instability" and both have used "nautical language," noting that Ayers once worked as a merchant seaman. Cashill concluded: "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," suggesting without evidence that Obama would not have used it on his own, as if he had never seen ships while growing up in Indonesia and Hawaii.
Just before the November 2008 election, Cashill was blaring that "Barack Obama is an impostor, the Milli Vanilli of politics, a man who has been lip-synching for the last 13 years to lyrics pre-recorded by, among others, Bill Ayers." Citing the alleged work of "five different sets of researchers," including "a British scholar of international repute." Cashill asserted: "Now, the science is coming in, from a variety of sources, and it confirms a hypothesis that is evident to anyone who cares to look: Obama had substantial help from Ayers." Cashill didn't actually name any of these supposedly prestigious "researchers," making it impossible to verify their work; he provides only an analysis made by a commercial software program called FictionFixer, which is not a scientific analysis but rather, according to its makers, primarily a fiction plotting tool.
That "British scholar of international repute" -- Peter Millican, a philosophy don at Oxford who was offered $10,000 by right-wingers to prove Cashill's little conspiracy theory -- did eventually weigh in:
Millican took a preliminary look and found the charges "very implausible". A deal was agreed for more detailed research but when Millican said the results had to be made public, even if no link to Ayers was proved, interest waned.
Millican said: "I thought it was extremely unlikely that we would get a positive result. It is the sort of thing where people make claims after seeing a few crude similarities and go overboard on them."
Millican went on to state:
The trouble with these sorts of claims is that they are far too easy to make: take any two substantial memoirs from the same era and you are likely to be able to pick out a fair number of passages that have some similarities. Unless the similarities are really close (and they weren't), just listing them makes no case at all, even if it might be enough to persuade some readers.
Unsurprisingly, Cashill didn't take this well, asserting that Millican's analysis was "so shabby and slapdash that it had me checking Britain's famous libel laws before I was halfway through."
Undaunted, Cashill clung to his conspiracy theory -- last month, he trumpeted that an article that Obama purportedly wrote in 1983 containing grammatical errors "should put an end to the charade that Barack Obama wrote his 1995 memoir 'Dreams From My Father' unaided," adding that "Ayers had the means, the motive and the ability to jump start Obama's literary career, and Obama needed all the help he could get." Missing, again, is any actual evidence that isn't speculative or circumstantial.
Cashill really is, to use his own words, a wacko who has reached critical mass. If only Glenn Beck had remembered to tell his viewers that.