September 09, 2004

Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy

No, really, I'm not kidding. It's a vast left-wing conspiracy:

60 minutes ran a story last night about Bush's national guard service. New documents have been uncovered which indicate what may have happened for several months in 1972. However, there is speculation on the internet (I know I know) that these documents were forged...that they look like they came out of a word processor rather than a typewriter from 1972. I scoffed at first, but then thought I would compare one of documents from then with the same document typed up in MS Word, just 5 minutes ago.

They are for all intents and purposes identical.

See also Charles Johnson's experiment along these lines--and Bill from In DC Journal emerged from hibernation long enough to consult a document forensics expert. The expert's verdict? He's at least 90% sure that the document was forged. Among many reasons given, this one stood out to me:

Regarding the small "th" after the date, Dr. Bouffard told me that it was possible to order specialty keys that would duplicate the automatic miniaturization completed by word processors after a numerical date, but it was certainly not standard, and wouldn't make a lot of sense in a military setting. "That by itself, while suspicious, is not impossible, but in conjunction with the (font irregularity of the) number four, it is really significant," he said.
My mother went back to work as a legal secretary when I was six years old, in 1975, three years after this document was allegedly typed. She worked in fairly plush law offices, with, presumably, nicer and newer typewriters than would have been available to the military. (My own limited experience in government clerical work--three months in a summer temp position at an office of the FmHA, three years with the county government in Phoenix, Arizona--did not leave me with the impression that government offices devote much of their budgets to office equipment upgrades, and I'm sure any number of military bloggers out there could confirm it's no different in the military.) Anyway, I'd love to ask her if she ever used a typewriter with a proportional font back in those days. I'm betting even the nicest offices didn't have a cute little "th" key.

For my own part, I began my clerical, ah, "career" on the IBM Selectric. The type ball on most machines I used came with the Courier font, though I do recall one machine that used a sans serif font, which appeared similar to Lucida Console. But every machine I used produced monospaced type, not proportional.

Former secretaries who remember WordPerfect 5.1 may recall that its default font was Courier also. Monospaced fonts were compatible with the old dot-matrix printers, for one; for another, it eased the porting of previously-typewritten forms to word processor. With Courier, you had an easier time making sure all the blanks and checkmark spaces lined up.

Hey, Andrea Harris collects old typewriters. Is she on this? Give us your expert opinion, Andrea.

That all this should occur just as some guy at the Miami Herald is whining that right-wing "zealots" are making things difficult, so difficult, for his stalwart comrades in the press is just . . . rich. It's the icing on the memory-hole cake.

UPDATE: Neglected to mention that I found all this via Tim Blair. You can find an early draft of the Bush-is-AWOL memo linked, incidentally, in the comments.

WHAT THE HELL, ONE MORE UPDATE: I knew we'd hear from a servicemember with typing experience from that period eventually:

I had neglected even to look at the August 18, 1973 memo to file. This forger was a fool. This fake document actually does have the tiny "th" in "187th" and there is simply no way this could have occurred in 1973. There are no keys on any typewriter in common use in 1973 which could produce a tiny "th." The forger got careless after creating the August 1, 1972 document and slipped up big-time.
More, lots more, at Powerline.

NEVER MIND THE FONTS, HERE'S GARY KILLIAN UPDATE: "It just wouldn't happen," says the son of the author of the memos:

"The only thing that can happen when you keep secret files like that are bad things. ... No officer in his right mind would write a memo like that."
Via Drudge.

I can't be the only one who's disturbed by all this. Like it or not, more people watch 60 Minutes than read Drudge Report. This likely-false story is out to those people now; unless 60 Minutes runs one hell of a correction, there's no reason for me to believe I won't be having arguments about this story with lefty friends and family for months to come. With all due respect to the fine bloggers out there, there's only so much they can do to derail a bogus story . . . but then, I'm sure that sad acknowledgement was foremost in the mind of whoever created the forgeries.

ILYKA, QUIT BEING SUCH A PESSIMIST UPDATE: Had a fellow in the comments note that Drudge reaches more people daily than 60 Minutes, which only makes sense now I think about it. Only problem is, there remain so many people whose approach to these matters is, essentially, "It must be true. I saw it on TV." I don't know what you do about them.

I'm supposed to be working right now, but let me pack in a few other links real quick: He's crossed out that part of the post, but I still think Goldstein's Photoshop experiment is worth viewing, if only as an example of how easy it is to mock up a document these days; also via Protein Wisdom, The Shape of Days asks, "Now what?" I guess taking Dan Rather behind the woodshed for an unholy beating is out? I know, I know, there's no evidence Dan had anything to do with this--I've just always wanted to whale on him.

Meanwhile, Jeff Jarvis bleats for everyone to stop the mudslinging, I guess so we can all focus on what's really important, like getting his elderly ass some free health care and fawning over all the Vanity Fair writers he's encouraged to start blogging--badly. Whatever. Listen, you people don't still read and link Buzz Machine, do you? Please don't do that. I would be very disappointed in all of you if you did that. As far as I'm concerned, Andrea Harris reads him so that no one else has to.

SHOCKED, SHOCKED UPDATE: Dan Rather is reportedly "shell-shocked" by the implications and CBS will perform an internal investigation, according to Drudge Report. I'd be more excited about this if I didn't remember a certain recount conducted by our beloved independent news organizations, the results of which absolutely no one remembers. Better than Dan possibly having to correct himself on air--not that I won't enjoy seeing it--would have been for the folks at CBS to have asked the questions asked by suspicious bloggers before the 60 Minutes segment aired. Still, it's a start.

BUT WE CALLED PEOPLE UPDATE: It just gets more and more unbelievable:

A senior CBS official, who asked not to be named because CBS managers did not want to go beyond their official statement, named one of the network's sources as retired Maj. Gen. Bobby W. Hodges, the immediate superior of the documents' alleged author, Lt. Col. Jerry B. Killian. He said a CBS reporter read the documents to Hodges over the phone and Hodges replied that "these are the things that Killian had expressed to me at the time."
Again, via Tim Blair. To the statement by a CBS official that "journalistically, we've gone several extra miles," Blair adds, "You sure have. Straight down." But you know who did go "several extra miles?" Bill of In DC Journal, the man who consulted a forensics expert. That's going extra miles. Reporting what you're told over the phone?--That's just . . . just . . . why, that's my job. And it pays $0.075 per line. Sorry, CBS; no medals for you. Posted by Ilyka at September 9, 2004 11:25 PM in news

I think Drudge beats 60m , here's a quick look at the numbers.

#16 60 MINUTES 4,800,000 viewers when aired

Drudge 4,135/1000000
4.1% of 106,029,638 about 4,350,000 viewers daily

Alexa:Reach per million users:
Avg. 3 mos. :4,135
Active Digital Media Universe 106,029,638

Posted by: Ripper at September 10, 2004 12:59 AM

This is truly mind-boggling. Somebody wants Bush to lose so badly that they type up a half-assed forgery, which CBS apparently buys wholesale (I can just see Dan Rather wetting himself with excitement), and now they're reluctant to admit that they've been had -- assuming that they were had, and didn't just broadcast this cynically knowing it wasn't true.

Good news: this got shot down so fast and so definitively that it can't hurt Bush that much. And there's always the hope that Old Media will learn from this experience.

Nah, who am I kidding...

Posted by: Dr. Alice at September 10, 2004 01:56 AM

There is a fine line between "blogger triumphalism" and simply noting that the fact-checking power of hundreds or thousands of voluntary individuals, all peer-reviewing each other, is a very powerful thing.

Here we have the proof. The blogosphere (yes, stupid word but it's here to stay) IS the fact-checker for the media that we've needed for generations.

And it's a wakeup call for journalism schools everywhere.

Quite honestly, Bill should get the first Pulitzer Prize for Internet Journalism. He really should.

Posted by: Dean Esmay at September 10, 2004 07:42 AM

Ah, remember the good old daisywheel printers?

If only they still used those, nobody would have noticed! Except all the other errors, that is.

Posted by: Sigivald at September 10, 2004 11:18 PM

i come from best search engine

Posted by: search engine at August 18, 2005 10:41 AM

i really liked your comments here. i hope you're going to update your site soon. coin world magazine: , 1 small clove garlic

Posted by: ian carpenter at October 2, 2005 02:28 AM