September 14, 2004

Closing the Gap Between the First World and the Third

Matthew Yglesias thinks the blogosphere is a little too quick to slap itself on the back for breaking Rathergate.

I'm not quite sure I grasp all the blogosphere triumphalism surrounding the Killian memos. After CBS ran the story, the conservative side of the 'sphere came up with dozens of purported debunkings of their authenticity, almost all of which turned out to be more purported than debunking. Then after a few days of back-and-forth, traditional reporters at The Washington Post came out with a more careful, more accurate, more actually-debunking story.
I havenít paid enough attention to this to know if Matthew is right or not. I've been impressed with some of the work on this I've seen in the blogosphere, even if some or even much of it is off-base. But letís say, for the sake of discussion, that Matt is mostly right.

Even so. The blogosphere still deserves credit.

Nelson Ascher writes for a Brazilian daily newspaper in Sao Paolo. And his Sao Paolo paper, which usually lags behind First World media, wrote about Rathergate one day before the Washington Post did. The reason?

If I was able to come out with the story in my paper one day before the WaPo, thatís not because Iím a big-shot investigative journalist and this hasnít been due to my personal merits or hard work either. It simply happened because Iím more attuned to the blogosphere than the average big media guy in the US or Europe. The merit obviously belongs to the blogosphere and, in this specific case, to the people of Powerline, LGF, to Instapundit, Roger Simon etc. But, thanks to them all, I have helped my paper publish the story one day before the WaPo. This, in the big mediaís pecking order, is no mean change. In the realm of news thereís no First and Third World anymore.
Cool.

And that's beside the fact that the Washington Post may never have taken a look at this if the blogosphere hadn't first hammered it.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at September 14, 2004 07:08 PM
Comments

"After CBS ran the story, the conservative side of the 'sphere came up with dozens of purported debunkings of their authenticity, almost all of which turned out to be more purported than debunking."

Well, I have been following the story and I dont know what he is talking about. From the start it appeared that most of the problems spotted with the memo's and noted by bloggers where techincal in nature; and all the ones I heard about have been bourne out as being true. Anybody know anything about any (let alone 'almost all') claims of proof about the memo's being fake that didnt bear out? Maybe it's just the blogs I read but i didnt see any that i can recall.

Posted by: semm at September 14, 2004 07:33 PM

ABC News' Brian Ross has an amazing follow up to this story:

Casting Further Doubt; Document Analysts: CBS News Ignored Concerns About Disputed Bush Military Records

Emily Will, a veteran document examiner from North Carolina, told ABC News she saw problems right away with the one document CBS hired her to check the weekend before the broadcast.

"I found five significant differences in the questioned handwriting, and I found problems with the printing itself as to whether it could have been produced by a typewriter," she said.

Will says she sent the CBS producer an e-mail message about her concerns and strongly urged the network the night before the broadcast not to use the documents.

"I told them that all the questions I was asking them on Tuesday night, they were going to be asked by hundreds of other document examiners on Thursday if they ran that story," Will said.

But the documents became a key part of the 60 Minutes II broadcast questioning President Bush's National Guard service in 1972. CBS made no mention that any expert disputed the authenticity.

"I did not feel that they wanted to investigate it very deeply," Will told ABC News.

Posted by: SoCalJustice at September 14, 2004 07:53 PM

The ABC story socaljustice linked to is astonishing.

MT, you have it right when you say And that's beside the fact that the Washington Post may never have taken a look at this if the blogosphere hadn't first hammered it.

Posted by: spc67 at September 14, 2004 07:57 PM

BTW, I should have given LGF the hat tip on the Ross story - Charles being the one-stop-shop on the RatherGate kerfuffle.

Posted by: SoCalJustice at September 14, 2004 07:57 PM

semm's experience is similar to my own.

Add to that around 20 years of exprience I personally have in every area relevant to the issues brought up by the bloggers... and not a point I saw raised was off base that wasn't doused quickly by other bloggers.

Far as I''m concerned, this is a case of the free market of ideas prevailing where it has not previously. As you point out; I cannot imagine any of tyhe news services, and particulalry the WaPo chasing the story without being pushed into it.

Yglesias, for his part seems downright nervous by my read... as well he might be. Yglesias apparently thinks that the possibility of the DNC and the MSM both getting spanked in the same election cycle, has just gone up by a factor of 10.

Posted by: Bithead at September 14, 2004 08:03 PM

Matt's way off and just letting his bitterness show. I've followed this story closely since it first broke and, while some avenues were brought up in the blogosphere that turned out to be blind alleys, others quickly pointed out why they were such (I went to a great deal of trouble to do so myself regarding the consecutive numbers of the PO Box which appeared, at first glance, rather suspicious but turned out to be pretty much legit).

The triumphalism is well-deserved, IOW. As a collective, we did what we've always promised to do: We 'act-checked their *sses' and, in so doing, we kept each other in line, too. Distributed intelligence, indeed. All WaPo did was give Matt a "respectable" source in which to read more or less the same arguments - one with the resources that we don't have (because we work full-time jobs doing other things, for instance) to go find the deeper, less obvious evidence (like the experts Rather ignored who told him before the broadcast the documents were faked). And one from which he didn't have to feel quite so bad about accepting the bitter pill. yeah, that's harsh, but so are his nasty - and totally uncalled-for remarks in the link above.

As was noted above, without the blogosphere, Wapo wouldn't have been on it so quickly, if at all. They were perfectly willing to run a story of their own based on Rather's report without checking it out themselves, after all. How long would it have taken to get the truth out had the MSM been left to its own devices - and how deeply would the "facts" in those fakes have penetrated the electorate - many of whom would never have learned they were falsified - before it did if not for all the noise from the 'sphere? "Weeks" and "pretty far", I'm guessing.

Posted by: Dodd at September 14, 2004 08:24 PM

I think credit is due to the blogosphere for pushing the thing along. But you still see the limitations of it as a medium - fragmented information, lack of quality control (as many false leads thrown up as true) and an inability to tie the threads together in a way that gets at the real story, which is where the documents came from and whether their substance is correct. Partly that's a limitation of resources, and partly it's a limitation of scope: virtually everyone in the blogosphere is so partisan that there is no-one who is interested in doing anything beyond getting to the point where they have something to shout back at the other side.

I'm betting that there's at least one more big twist to come in this one, that the mainstream press (or CBS itself) will break.

Why do I think that? Because the White House has not denied any aspect of the content of the memos. That suggests to me that they are close enough to the truth that the WH fears that either they are authentic or, more likely, based on some authentic documentation that may yet come to light.

And if that happens, and they've expressly denied it, then they would look very bad.

Posted by: Mork at September 14, 2004 08:35 PM

Without the blogosphere, the forgery issue would have been mentioned as a one-line reference to "disagreement among documentarians" buried in section 'b' of regional papers, if at all.

The fact that SixtyII had the Globe, Newsweek, and the Kerry media possee primed to go, and that none of them have defected yet, tells me all I need to know about what the plan was.

I agree with Bithead about the possible fallout from this cheap and tawdry ploy. They wanted a smoking gun and decided to make one up down in the conference room. There's a reason why we teach people that firearms are ALWAYS treated as if they were loaded. First time I've ever seen an entire network AND newspaper AND political party simultaneously shoot themselves in the ass, though, and that's a fact.

Posted by: TmjUtah at September 14, 2004 08:36 PM

Michael - I have to take an issue with Matthew's positioning on this story. Powerline did some stellar investigation early on Thursday - and a lot of what they posted was included in the Washington Post article. But, also on Thursday, when Charles Johnson at LGF so clearly, easily duplicated the memos using MS Word - it was game over very quickly despite the whinging about IBM's Composer system.

Matthew got caught on the wrong side and wouldn't let his logic overrule his ideology. That's why I don't read him often. You, on the other hand, are more pragmatic. I don't agree all the time with you, but your site is a daily read.

Posted by: Athos at September 14, 2004 08:41 PM

Mork -

"Because the White House has not denied any aspect of the content of the memos."

Look at that. READ it, Mork. Good God, if somebody presented your local TV station with a story about your wife-abusing episode on your 1975 cruise that was written in MS Word and signed by the ten-years past-deceased Argentine cabin steward who made your damned towel animals every night, would YOU comment on it?

Bush was in the ANG. His service time was computed by points accrued. The ANG (and the USAF for almost four months, as it turns out) seemed to think that Bush's service was sufficient and honorable - they gave him a document saying so. If Bush didn't see combat, he should also be remembered for not writing himself up for any decorations, either. Byron York has an excellent article over on NROonline on how the timeline works out.

I'm glad we live in different worlds; your's, frankly, horrifies me.

BTW, it's about 1863/1942ish over here right at the moment. Victory comes to those who stay in the fight, you know.

Posted by: TmjUtah at September 14, 2004 08:48 PM

Well, TmjUtah, let's just see how this pans out, shall we?

Posted by: Mork at September 14, 2004 08:54 PM

If Yglesias doesn't think the "blogosphere" is careful and accurate enough for him, then why the hell should I think he's careful enough for me? Has he forgotten that he's part of the blogosphere?

Posted by: David at September 14, 2004 08:59 PM

Yglesias is far, far off-base. Here's the concise history:

someone on Free Republic ("Buckhead") said that the memos didn't look right because they weren't monospaced

Powerline got interested and started looking at the memo. Most of what they threw out were questions: could typewriters do the superscript th, could typewriters do proportional fonts, etc. The Powerline guys said it looked suspicious, but they weren't definitive.

Little Green Footballs created a duplicate memo in MS Word (Windows) with default Word settings that was a virtually perfect copy of one of the memos.

INDC Journal got hold of a bona fide document analyst who pronounced the memos almost certainly fake.

The LGF and INDC posts came relatively close together, and here all Hell broke loose. There were three main tracks of inquiry going on: were the questions raised by Powerline, INDC and LGF disprovable; were there machines available at the time which could have produced the memos; were the memo contents consistent with what one would expect. (There were also some questions about the signatures, but those were definitely minor issues.) Well, I guess there was a fourth track, which was the denial and obfuscation by Kevin Drum and Markos Zuniga and the like, of which Matt's post is a much-watered-down example.

In any case, in these lines of inquiry, a lot of information came out. For example, the superscript th wasn't necessarily definitive, nor was the proportional typeface, because there were a few high-end typesetters which could have done those things. At the same time, additional information was being produced, including One Hand Clapping's analysis of the abbreviations, date formats and terminology which did not match military documents of the time, and several blogs which tracked down various people involved.

At this point, by the end of the weekend, the evidence was pretty convincing that the memos were forged, and it's only at this point that other mainstream media outlets began to track down sources and investigate on their own.

In other words, Matt's out to lunch, and is expressing sour grapes that the CBS story relied on forged evidence, followed by CBS flushing their credibility but not even admitting to the possibility of falsehood. OK, so he's bitter. Big deal. He's also wrong. Also, big deal. I'm far, far more interested in the source of the forgeries and how far CBS is willing to go to hide that source.

Posted by: Jeff Medcalf at September 14, 2004 09:13 PM

Oh, I forgot to mention, that despite a reward somewhere north of $17,000, no one has yet been able to produce a matching document on a selectric composer or any other available typesetting or typewriting equipment that existed in 1972/1973. On the other hand, the memos are trivial to reproduce in MS Word, with exact spacing, alignment, character overlaps (not available on any mechanical typesetters, except hot-lead machines with kerned character pairs available for combinations like fl) and tab stops.

Posted by: Jeff Medcalf at September 14, 2004 09:27 PM

Mork -

I agree.

Posted by: TmjUtah at September 14, 2004 09:30 PM

This is off topic, feel free to ignore it.

Today, I happened to read from Daniel Chapter 11, I recalled that it was about the King of The North, which I had always thought of as Babylon (being the major enemy North of Isreal).

Consider that Babylon lies in ruins within the country of Iraq.

That is very interesting to me.

Ratatosk, Squirrel of Discord
Chatterer of the Words of Eris
Muncher of the ChaoAcorn

POEE of the Great Googlie Mooglie Cabal

Posted by: Ratatosk at September 14, 2004 09:37 PM

Did any blogger fax a copy of LGF's MS Word version of the memo to CBS News, asking for an explanation? Not that I know of. Did any blogger call up the producer of the 60 Minutes segment, asking them to comment on the allegations made by INDC's expert? Not that I know of. Did any blogger camp outside the CBS building with a tape recorder, waiting for Dan Rather to get his response to both? Not that I know of. The mainstream media did all that, along with seeking out more experts, and tracking down CBS' original experts and witnesses, and interviewing them. They did all the legwork, they made all the effort that didn't involve being on a computer. The irony is, any of these bloggers could have done that, and owned the story-- but you know, that would have meant changing out of their pajamas. For as much credit bloggers get for pointing the media in the right direction, it's mainstream news organizations like ABC who did the heavy lifting, and deserve the credit for sealing the deal. You don't really "break" a story until you chase down leads and get feedback from both parties in an issue. (Even if that feedback's "No comment" or "Rather did not respond to several requests for a comment.") Without that, all you have are interesting allegations and speculations, and that's not news. And that's all the bloggers in this case seem to have put forth. (At least Drudge made the effort to get off his computer and find the old typist and speak to her by phone-- but he doesn't even call himself a blogger.)

Until bloggers make an active effort to adhere to the rules of responsible reporting that the mainstream media has been following for decades, they're only going to be an enthusiast commentators and a side supplement to the real deal.

Posted by: Wagner James Au at September 14, 2004 09:55 PM

James Pinkerton wrote in Newsday: "CBS never saw the blog-lash coming.

But if the bloggers have power, it’s because they form a robust intellectual marketplace, in which assertions must prove themselves before a jury of cyber-peers. In the words of James T. Smith, of critical-thinker.blogspot.com, “The blogosphere is the people.” To be sure, the marketplace can make mistakes, but on the whole, like democracy itself, the more folks participating, the better the functioning.

But this democratization of the media is bad news - for those who liked it the old way, the top-down way."

There are always nay-sayers, but I think this is a great boost (and challenge) for blogs. "A robust intellectual marketplace" ... indeed.

Posted by: Anne Lieberman at September 14, 2004 09:57 PM

Tosk,

actually the king of the North refers to Syria. The king of the south refers to Egypt. Many christians consider this chapter as more than just history, but actual prophecy, with each of the players serving at "types". I don't recall what each represents. But Antiochus Epiphanes defiles the Jewish temple, and is seen as a "type" of the Anti-Christ.

Posted by: David at September 14, 2004 10:13 PM

>>>"But this democratization of the media is bad news - for those who liked it the old way, the top-down way."

A lot of these journalists, especially at the big papers, went to the best schools and scratched their way to the top. Along come a bunch of hacks and put them out of business. It irks them.

Posted by: David at September 14, 2004 10:15 PM

Wagner James Au: Did any blogger camp outside the CBS building with a tape recorder, waiting for Dan Rather to get his response to both? Not that I know of. The mainstream media did all that, along with seeking out more experts, and tracking down CBS' original experts and witnesses, and interviewing them.

Good points, all. You're right that bloggers could more often do this sort of thing. I am located on the West Coast, way too far away to get Dan Rather on tape. I don't have a staff. But someone in New York could have tried it. Any of us could have made phone calls.

(Then again, I am not claiming credit for any of this. I'm just an observer of this story who has commented on it two times.)

Even so, bloggers clearly got this thing started and, more interestingly to me, got the story into the Sao Paolo daily before the Washington Post ran it.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 14, 2004 10:37 PM

Did any blogger fax a copy of LGF's MS Word version of the memo to CBS News, asking for an explanation? Not that I know of. Did any blogger call up the producer of the 60 Minutes segment, asking them to comment on the allegations made by INDC's expert? Not that I know of.
Posted by Wagner James Au
**************************************************
CBS is not able to use the internet? You know that might just be true. ;-)

Posted by: Dan Kauffman at September 14, 2004 11:01 PM

Wow, Michael, you can read Yglesias? I gave up on him last spring. It's looking like Harvard is yet another institution with an undeserved reputation.

P.S. He's full of it.

Posted by: chuck at September 14, 2004 11:47 PM

Well, TmjUtah, let's just see how this pans out, shall we?

I'll get you yet, little girl ... and your little dog too!

Sorry. That's just the first thing that popped in my mind when I read that. :D

Posted by: bkw at September 15, 2004 01:56 AM

In the realm of news there’s no First and Third World anymore.

Dream on!

The one thing Rathergate does show is how up its own arse the Blogosphere is. Rathergate no more than tittle tattle.

Posted by: Ben at September 15, 2004 02:09 AM

Take this nonsense from Roger Simon:

Watergate may have been outgated.

Er...no, I don't think so, and Roger Simon is no Woodward or Bernstein.

Its ridiculous that this tittle tattle about Bush's military service (or lack of) gets so much attention, considering the bigger real issues that could be discussed in this election. But, of course, are not.

More nonsense from Roger "Woodward" Simon:

"America loves apologies, after all. We are a forgiving people. But....we also ask questions. Trust, but verify."

Keep dreaming, buddy.

Posted by: Ben at September 15, 2004 02:25 AM

CBS is toast. ABC has now shown that CBS knew the documents were fakes. We know that CBS witheld ALL evidence that the documents were fakes, both in the original story and in their follow-ups.

The real question is who gave the documents to CBS. The DNC? The Kerry campaign? The tooth fairy? Can there be any reasonable doubt that the CBS story was a coordinated attack with the DNC/Kerry campaign to influence the outcome of the election? The Democrats never found a single shred of evidence for their anti-Bush smears, so they just fabricated some evidence and gave it to CBS safe in the knowledge that Rather would air anything that helps the Democrats and hurts Bush with a reckless disregard for the truth.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg, the first cockroach. CBS also aired the Clarke and Wilson stories, both of whom have been proven to be liars tied to the Kerry campaign. I bet CBS also knew before they aired the Clarke and Wilson stories. What other stories have the MSM and the Democrats lied to us about?

Can there be any doubt that the dominant, illiberal media will lie and withold information in order to support the Democrats? What about other issues have the media misled us about in this election - Iraq WMD's, Saddam's terror ties, Kerry's record, UN oil-for-food, France's policy goals?

The bottom line is that if the MSM gave us all the facts and told us the truth, this election wouldn't be close. It would be a Bush landslide by the greatest margin in history. Kerry only has a chance because the MSM is keeping American's ignorant of the truth. As Evan Thomas of Newsweek admitted, media support of Kerry gives him a 15 point head start in this election.

CBS is a disgrace. Dan Rather is a disgrace. The Democrts are a disgrace. They're all morally and intellectually corrupt.

Posted by: HA at September 15, 2004 03:12 AM

HA

LOL! It's okay, you can get down from your pulpit now. Now grab a coke and watch Fox News.

Posted by: Ben at September 15, 2004 03:37 AM

As further evidence of media corruption, take a look at this jaw-dropping LA Times editorial:

http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-ed-cbs15sep15,1,7747016.story?coll=la-home-headlines

Take a moment to ponder this quote:

Whatever the truth, CBS' real error was trying to prove a point that didn't need to be proved.

Here we have an EDITORIAL, not an oped, in a major metropolitan daily openly stating that charges against Bush don't need to be proved. This is stunning. The LA Times is openly stating that is acceptable for the media to engage in baseless smears.

The truth in this post-modern world is whatever the media and Demcoratic smear machine says it is. No evidence, no proof is needed. The Party is always right. Marx and Lenin would be proud.

We are heading down the Road to Serfdom unless the Democratic party reforms.

Posted by: HA at September 15, 2004 03:47 AM

HA

The LA Times is jaw dropping?

Does that mean you spend your life with your mouth open?

Posted by: Ben at September 15, 2004 03:55 AM

Ben,

You have nothing. Just like CBS.

CBS spent YEARS investigating the Bush Guard "story" and found no shred of evidence to support it. Did that stop them? Of course not. So they knowingly aired their story with forged docuements and an proven liar and prominent Kerry supporter like Ben Barnes.

Like I said, we are witnessing complete moral and intellectual corruption of the MSM and the Democratic party.

And you have nothing.

Posted by: HA at September 15, 2004 04:02 AM

HA

Cool. Thanks! :-)

I don't think you are "nothing", though, mate.

I think you are highly amusing.

Posted by: Ben at September 15, 2004 04:08 AM

Bob Schieffer of CBS has been selected as the moderater of the Oct 13 Presidential Debate:

http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/editors200409141633.asp

This cannot be allowed because of his association with CBS News and Dan Rather. Schieffer must be replaced by someone else. I suggest Jim Lehrer.

Posted by: HA at September 15, 2004 04:09 AM

Ben,

You're not even amusing.

Posted by: HA at September 15, 2004 04:11 AM

I think the National Review is taking the Presidential Debates way too seriously.

They are utterly predictable stilted affairs, and it scarcely matters who chairs them.

Posted by: Ben at September 15, 2004 04:17 AM

Ben,

You think you can laugh this off? Dream on:

http://beldar.blogs.com/beldarblog/2004/09/dan_rather_was_.html

This isn't going away. It is going to get much worse. I think this will surpass Watergate.

Posted by: HA at September 15, 2004 04:26 AM

I am struck by the peevish nature of the anti-Bush crowd on this......

This is clearly NOT about over-anxious journalists runnning with a story before adequately fact-checking it; it is a story of a powerful, partisan, agenda-driven and network being exposed for what it is.

Hey, power to the people and all that - did you guys forget?

Posted by: Priscilla at September 15, 2004 04:38 AM

HA

Yeah, right! :-)

Posted by: Ben at September 15, 2004 04:41 AM

Priscilla

Well, sack Rather then, for all I care.

I would gladly talk about something else rather than the war records of the two candidates and personality politics.

Then we can talk about other issues that have scarecely got a mention so far in the campaign - something to do with policies, perhaps.

But, of course, that's unlikely.

Look, I am not just blaming the Republicans for this - its both the Republicans and Democrats fault that all this crap is debated endlessly.

Posted by: Ben at September 15, 2004 04:48 AM

Priscilla

Ah yes, The People! Power to the People!

Of course The People are used by whichever side when its convenient to them.

Suddenly The People are important when it suits a particular argument. Then, when they are not useful anymore, the Great Unwashed are rapidly forgotten.

I am sure you agree.

Posted by: Ben at September 15, 2004 04:55 AM

Priscilla -

Peevish? If this is peevish, what was the crowd in front of Baron Frankenstein's castle? The one with the torches and pitchforks?

I think the Roger L. Simon is right, by the way.

Posted by: TmjUtah at September 15, 2004 05:08 AM

Haven't you guys learned to stop feeding the troll? (Yes, I'm talking about Ben.)

Posted by: Jeff Medcalf at September 15, 2004 05:14 AM

I don't see what so trollish about pointing out the obvious hyperbole that this affair is anything akin Watergate. That's just utter nonsense.

And clearly it would be wonderful if the campaign talked about how the candidates domestic policies will impact the American people. But I admit that's old fashioned stuff - such scrutiny belongs to a bygone age.

Looking further down Roger Simon's blog he has an amusingly gushing post about the Blogosphere and its impact on the world. He is certainly no realist, obviously!

At least Yglesias seems to have his feet on the ground about this issue.

Posted by: Ben at September 15, 2004 05:33 AM

Michael,

I keep thinking about the story of Feynman on the shuttle disaster committee. They were trying to do the usual committee type obfuscation of issues, blah blah blah, when Feynman dropped an o-ring into a glass of ice water and it cracked. So there, without needing a PhD in physics, every reporter in the room instantly understood why the shuttle exploded. Obfuscation was no longer possible.

In my opinion, Charles Johnson achieved a similar affect, with the MS Word overlay. That was the epiphany. Without that, a parade of experts could easily be brought forward for any point of view, and regular people would have to shrug it off thinking something like "typical BS, who knows what's really the truth." The overlay was something easily duplicated by anyone at home with a laser printer. Obfuscation was no longer possible by experts who valued their reputations.

Without the Internet and blogging community, Charles' voice might never have been heard.

Consider also some of the attacks against bloggers by people in the MSM such as Mr. Klein of CBS. Why would they bother if it were irrelevant or unimportant?

Posted by: Van Gale at September 15, 2004 06:06 AM

Ben,

You are right that that it would be nice if we were talking about something more substantiative in this election. I think nearly everyone agrees on that point. But if someone in the Kerry campaign or the DNC forged the documents -- and if CBS is trying to cover for them by refusing to acknowledge this -- then it is a scandal on a Watergate scale -- and even greater since it severlely damages the credibility of the MSM as well as the Democratic party. Those are still some big ifs, but Roger Simon is right that CBS's stonewalling makes one wonder.

Also, the Left's response to this scandal can be paraphrased as follows:

(1) They're not forgeries, so shut up you pusillanimous pajama-wearing pipsqeaks.

(2) So what if there is a very slim chance that they actually ARE forgeries? If so they are forgeries . . . er . . . in the service of the Truth! We can't let them distract us from the real issue -- namely, Bush's NG service thirty years ago!

(3) Okay, so they're forgeries. Can we just speculate that Karl Rove is behind them and drop the issue now? Why are we talking about trivia like kerning and (ahem) Bush's NG service thirty years ago? Nothing to see here, folks.

It's embarrassing. And I say that as a life-long Democrat and a Kerry supporter (though an extremely reluctant one).

Posted by: Browning at September 15, 2004 06:08 AM

The Washington Post came out with a more careful, more accurate, more actually-debunking story.
*******************************************
Which would NEVER have happened if the blogs had not been on the track and the US media was not being scooped by overseas media.

And THAT is what really has a burr up this guys rear.

"I'm not quite sure I grasp all the blogosphere triumphalism surrounding the Killian memos."

The truth is he resents having to "grasp" it, In an orderly correct world it would have been buried and forgotten.

I consider the blogs to be a 21st Century version of the Committees of Correspondence the Second American Revolution will be an Information one.

Death to the Gatekeepers! LOL

Posted by: Daniel Kauffman at September 15, 2004 06:21 AM

I like to think that the blogosphere made all the difference in the CBS story, but we'll never know.

However, my best guess is that blogosphere sped up the "outing" of the forgeries. Instant fact-check, rather than a few days or weeks.

Surely the RNC would have had a few experts check the documents.

And the other major networks and media sources would have looked into the memos and exposed them -- while right-wingers seem to think that the "media" is one giant liberal entity*, the media is highly competitive and there's nothing they love more than embarassing each other.

  • thanks to consolidation, it's about 3 giant entities)
Posted by: Oberon at September 15, 2004 06:53 AM

Ben is a troll. Is there a single post of his that doesn't drip sarcasm and smarminess? It's not enough for him to try to defend his post; his opening shot or parting salvo are sure insult his opponent. When you do that on a consistent basis, you're a troll.

Posted by: David at September 15, 2004 07:06 AM

Memos on Bush Are Fake but Accurate

from The Onion?

No, from the NYTimes:

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/09/15/politics/campaign/15guard.html

Posted by: David at September 15, 2004 07:26 AM

Ben is Matt Yglesias.
Compare respective thought processess.
Debunk if you dare.

And Michael, you keep referencing him. Why the unwarranted respect for Matty? It isn't like he's ever wandered off the reservation...

Posted by: DennisThePeasant at September 15, 2004 07:45 AM

"from The Onion?
No, from the NYTimes"

That should be "reported" by the NYT.

The actual assertion, strange as it may sound, is from Killian's secretary.

Truth can be an equal opportunity deflater.

Posted by: Tano at September 15, 2004 07:45 AM

That should be "processessessess".

Sorry.

Posted by: DennisThePeasant at September 15, 2004 07:46 AM

Tano,

the memos purported to show "influence peddling". Killian's secretary has no proof of that, so how exactly does she back the memo up?

Now it's no longer about influencing peddling; it's about whether Killian "had doubts" about Bush.

It's called a switch and bait. I guess you missed it.

Posted by: David at September 15, 2004 07:48 AM

Tano...

A poster who is an edition of 'The Onion', but believes he is an edition of 'The Times'.

Posted by: DennisThePeasant at September 15, 2004 07:51 AM

bait and switch

Posted by: David at September 15, 2004 08:06 AM

David,

Tosk,

actually the king of the North refers to Syria. The king of the south refers to Egypt. Many christians consider this chapter as more than just history, but actual prophecy, with each of the players serving at "types". I don't recall what each represents. But Antiochus Epiphanes defiles the Jewish temple, and is seen as a "type" of the Anti-Christ.

I am very familiar with that particular ininterpertation. However, I am always minded that no one ever seems to truly understand prophecy until it is fufilled.

My postulation that Babylon(Iraq) could be the King of the North, is based partly on Jeremiah (Ch 25) where it was prophecied "Therefore the LORD Almighty says this: "...Because you have not listened to my words, 9 I will summon all the peoples of the north and my servant Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon,".... This prophecy was concerning the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. Note that the Babylonians are called the People of the North....

Also, of interest Ezekiel(Ch. 26) prophecied against Tyre: " 7 "For this is what the Sovereign LORD says: From the north I am going to bring against Tyre Nebuchadnezzar [1] king of Babylon, king of kings, with horses and chariots, with horsemen and a great army."

Now of course, one may say that the King of the North (be it Babylon or Syria) might represent the type of people inhabiting those lands (or perhaps the ones waging war... Islamofacisim?)...

Consider:
"Then the king of the North will invade the realm of the king of the South but will retreat to his own country. 10 His sons will prepare for war and assemble a great army, which will sweep on like an irresistible flood and carry the battle as far as his fortress." Dan 11: 9,10

Was 9/11 the invasion into the realm of the King of the South? If so, then is verse 10 pointing to the situation now?

"Then the king of the South will march out in a rage and fight against the king of the North, who will raise a large army, but it will be defeated. 12 When the army is carried off, the king of the South will be filled with pride and will slaughter many thousands, yet he will not remain triumphant. 13 For the king of the North will muster another army, larger than the first; and after several years, he will advance with a huge army fully equipped." Daniel 11: 11-13

This sorta reminded me of the initial defeat of Iraq's millitary, and the 'new army' or rebels, insurgents and terrorists, we are now fighting (after proudly declaring the end of major combat??)....

"Then the king of the North will come and build up siege ramps and will capture a fortified city. The forces of the South will be powerless to resist; even their best troops will not have the strength to stand. "

Does this describe Fallujah? Najaf?

"... 44 But reports from the east and the north will alarm him [The King of The South], and he will set out in a great rage to destroy and annihilate many."

East and North? North Korea? Reports that would alarm?

I am not a Christian, I am not at all sure that I know anything about any of this. However, I find some (not all, just some) of the possible parallels to be truly interesting.

Could some ancient prophecy be comming true now?

Ratatosk, Squirrel of Discord

Posted by: Ratatosk at September 15, 2004 08:44 AM

Ben is a troll. Is there a single post of his that doesn't drip sarcasm and smarminess?

Ooo! ooo! Pot kettle black!!

Contrariness does not a troll make, guys. Put it back in the holster.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at September 15, 2004 08:53 AM

All prophecy is fraud.

Posted by: Eric Blair at September 15, 2004 08:54 AM

Eric,

Of course, you may be right... I just found it interesting. I thought perhaps some on here might too.

Posted by: Ratatosk at September 15, 2004 09:02 AM

"I think this will surpass Watergate."

Pulease. Knocking off "60 Minutes" is like sneezing at a rotten apple that was ready to drop off the tree. We are talking about a network "News Magazine", not the executive branch of the United States.

Certainly some high-fives were in order, and people will remember this as a time where there was payback from the pajama crowd, but I wish people would stop inflating their ego's and focus on more important stuff.

What a strange day, I'm almost agreeing with Ben.

Posted by: bob at September 15, 2004 09:19 AM

double,

show me sarcasm towards another poster in any of my posts.

Posted by: David at September 15, 2004 09:29 AM

david: double, show me sarcasm towards another poster in any of my posts.

Good lord, you mean that even you aren't bothering to read your posts?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at September 15, 2004 09:31 AM

double,

put up or shut up.

oh was that sarcasm?

Posted by: David at September 15, 2004 09:34 AM

I guess you really aren't aware of your tone.

I picked one discussion from Michael's archives at random. Read your comments here.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at September 15, 2004 09:37 AM

...and holy crap, there's a lot of spam in that thread.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at September 15, 2004 09:51 AM

double,

like I said, my "tone" isn't directed at posters.

Posted by: David at September 15, 2004 10:19 AM

Tosk,

it's not uncommon for people to BECOME christians because of the stuff you apparently have the eye for.

Posted by: David at September 15, 2004 10:20 AM

Went on Yglesias's site. Couldn't help noticing he graduated from college in 2003. That makes him 23!

I guess it's just the "crotchedy old man" in this 37-year-old that makes me say, "Holy Shiite, I can't believe this guy's got enough experience to be talking about much more than downloading music off the Web."

Nothing too personal, but an author I like once said he didn't have anything to write about before he was 30.

I followed the unfolding of Rathergate over the Web, and can vouch that the Washington Post mostly played catch-up to what some very smart bloggers had already pointed out days before.

Yglesias' defense of the establishment media and scorning of blog readers seems rather reactionary for someone so baby-faced.

Nice first name, however.

Posted by: Matt Ward at September 15, 2004 10:42 AM

like I said, my "tone" isn't directed at posters.

Uh-huh. Must be another david that I'm thinking of.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at September 15, 2004 10:45 AM

Yglesias' defense of the establishment media and scorning of blog readers seems rather reactionary for someone so baby-faced.

No, I think that Matthew, like many others, doesn't understand the technical issues involved, and so focussed on the more hysterical of the forgery claims, and so he doesn't give the bloggers much credit.

The day after the memos appeared, I was discussing them with a friend who has design and production experience. He was skeptical of the claim that they were forgeries, until I mentioned that if you typed the content into Word using the default settings, you got an exact match. He said "What, with Word's crappy kerning and everything? Oh well, that settles it, they're fakes." Most people who don't have print production experience get dizzy in conversations about kerning and proportional spacing, so I think that Matthew can be forgiven not understanding the implications of that discovery.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at September 15, 2004 10:52 AM

Matt Ward: I guess it's just the "crotchedy old man" in this 37-year-old that makes me say, "Holy Shiite, I can't believe this guy's got enough experience to be talking about much more than downloading music off the Web."

Argue with Matthew if you want (and I do sometimes, though I also sometimes agree with him) but he is a very smart guy. He's a columnist at The American Prospect. Not bad for a 23-year old. When I was 23 I was waiting tables.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 15, 2004 10:58 AM

Michael,

You're probably right about Yglesias. There are some people who are quite incisive thinkers at a young age.

Like I said, I'm crochety and quite proud of my transition in 15 years from someone with mostly vague ideas about how the world works to someone who sees more of a framework thanks to experience.

Posted by: Matt Ward at September 15, 2004 11:11 AM

>>>"Yglesias' defense of the establishment media and scorning of blog readers seems rather reactionary for someone so baby-faced."

It's amazing just how reactionary these Lefties can be when it suits them.

Posted by: David at September 15, 2004 11:12 AM

David,

'Become'? I've been there, done that and spent 25 years thinking that I had it right. I'm much happier saying I don't know. Who's to say that Jewish Prophets weren't inspired with the future of their homeland? I'm willing to accept that the Jewish deity had prophets to speak to his followers.

That however, has nothing to do with being a Christian.

Posted by: Ratatosk at September 15, 2004 11:14 AM

Age and intellect aren't the issues. Objectivity and independence are the issues. Being a clever shill at 23 doesn't mitigate against being a shill.

He's Josh Marshall Lite. If that's possible.

Posted by: DennisThePeasant at September 15, 2004 12:01 PM

Tosk,

it was merely a statement of fact. I'm quite sure many more people don't become christians from reading it.

Posted by: David at September 15, 2004 12:10 PM

Dennis: Being a clever shill at 23 doesn't mitigate against being a shill.

I read Matthew Yglesias in part because he is one of the more honest political writers around. He is far more willing to say "good point" or "you're right" to a political opponent than almost anyone else.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 15, 2004 12:11 PM

David,

Indeed, I'm sure you're correct. My parents converted to Christianity based on the 'prophecies' understood by the church. Of course, their 'understanding' of those prophicies changed once they weren['t fufilled ;-)

I wasn't trying to argue with you about the Christian comment... I'm just hoping that maybe someone would like to have a thoughtful discussion instead of the ranting thats going on (Oh and I'm squarely against CBS in ther current mess... I have yet to see any evidence of Kerry's involbvement, but CBS is definately culpable).

Am I really the only one who is intrigued by the possible comparisons?

Posted by: Ratatosk at September 15, 2004 12:26 PM

Tree-Rat:
I used to work for a very large chain bookstore. Among other duties, I was assigned to stock the 'religion' and 'new age' sections. (Punishment, I suspect). Anyway, realize that what you are reading is a translation of a translation of a translation. Sometimes more. You don't even know if what you are reading was the original sense of the work.

And once you see all the 'prophecy' books out there. (Did you know Gorbachev was the Anti-Christ? So was Ronald Reagan. As the song goes "One of them must be wrong")

Playing with that stuff is mental masturbation.

Posted by: Eric Blair at September 15, 2004 01:18 PM

Eric,

I have studied not only numerous versions of the Bible, but also a number of other religious works, critiques and commentaries on said religious books (including The Diegesis, which pretty nicely destroys the modern Christian Religion with hard facts).

There is no doubt in my mind that the translations we have are probably inaccurate in the extreme. However, as I pointed out before... the parallels were interesting.

I'm not intending to prove that the Bible is right or that this prophecy has anything to do with the situation... it was simply an interesting thing to stumble across and compare to current events.

I'll leave the fact that fire and brimstone are apparently raining down from the eye of Hurricane Irene and that the Mississippi just turned into blood, out of the equation for now. ;-P

Tosk (Though Tree Rat isn't bad either)

Posted by: Ratatosk at September 15, 2004 02:12 PM

Besides, mental masturbation is fun.

Posted by: Ratatosk at September 15, 2004 02:12 PM

"I haven’t paid enough attention to this to know if Matthew is right or not."

Surprisingly, I think he's got a point. The original rush was to point out the kerning and superscripts and all that. Which prompted rebuttals of, "Oh, but somebody COULD HAVE done all that stuff back in '72!" What they should have focused on from the start was how a Word doc lines up more precisely with a "30-year-old memo" than is possible on planet Earth. They missed the forest for the trees, which I think is the only reason all this is taking so long. (And that's taking into account that there's no way anybody could have predicted any of this one short week ago.)

Posted by: Jim Treacher at September 15, 2004 02:16 PM

I can't believe I got through my preceding point without linking to myself. Here's why Yggy has a point: The Crayola Gambit.

Posted by: Jim Treacher at September 15, 2004 02:29 PM

But Jim, the matching up of the Word document and the memos was done on day one by Charles Johnson of LGF (retch retch retch). That was the end right there, it's just that a lot of people went "So? That's what a word processor is supposed to do." Not having the technical expertise, they then went down other dead ends, like typeface instead of concentration of spacing.

And by the way, the kerning is why it's important that the Word version lines up with the memo. No typewriter or typset could have used TrueType kerning setting in the 70's.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at September 15, 2004 02:32 PM

MJT-

Another issue we part company on...

Posted by: DennisThePeasant at September 15, 2004 02:32 PM

He is far more willing to say "good point" or "you're right" to a political opponent than almost anyone else.

'Cept when he's crunching up his fists and saying F-U to Glenn Reynolds.

Posted by: Sortelli at September 15, 2004 02:36 PM

'Cept when he's crunching up his fists and saying F-U to Glenn Reynolds.

...who needs to be told that every day, so Matt is doing us a service.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at September 15, 2004 02:39 PM

"That was the end right there, it's just that a lot of people went 'So? That's what a word processor is supposed to do.' Not having the technical expertise, they then went down other dead ends, like typeface instead of concentration of spacing."

The people who don't know Microsoft Word didn't exist in '72 aren't really the ones I'm concerned with. People who knew better let themselves get sidetracked.

And I know it's driving people crazy that Charles Johnson could be right about something, but in this particular case it's undeniable.

"And by the way, the kerning is why it's important that the Word version lines up with the memo."

Really? I thought it was magic. The point isn't whether all that stuff is accurate. The point is whether it's a more persuasive arguement than just lining the docs up.

Posted by: Jim Treacher at September 15, 2004 02:45 PM

Really? I thought it was magic. The point isn't whether all that stuff is accurate. The point is whether it's a more persuasive arguement than just lining the docs up.

Apparently, it wasn't. It had to be explained again and again, and kerning was at the heart of the explaination.

And I know it's driving people crazy that Charles Johnson could be right about something, but in this particular case it's undeniable.

You got that right. But let's be honest about this, it's because he has the required experience and knowledge in the proper technical field to understand the issue. And everyone who had similar experience and knowledge agreed, regardless of their political affiliation.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at September 15, 2004 02:52 PM

"It had to be explained again and again, and kerning was at the heart of the explaination."

Right, because they didn't just show what they were talking about. You don't know have to know what kerning is to figure out that an authentic document of that time isn't going to look like that. A picture is worth a thousand blog posts.

"But let's be honest about this, it's because he has the required experience and knowledge in the proper technical field to understand the issue. And everyone who had similar experience and knowledge agreed, regardless of their political affiliation."

Which is exactly my point.

Posted by: Jim Treacher at September 15, 2004 02:58 PM

Since when did either Roger Simon or Glenn Reynolds become 'conservative' bloggers?

I fail to grasp Yglesias's blog 'labeling'. Is he trying to say that if one does not toe line of his belief then one is automatically on the other side?

I cannot consider Yglesias rational, if anything, he is disturbingly 'non-liberal'. One would think Yglesias would be the first in line to demand that Rather come forth instead of defending what is basically shoddy and deceptive journalism.

Posted by: syn at September 15, 2004 03:06 PM

Which is exactly my point.

Oh good, then we're in agreement.

You don't know have to know what kerning is to figure out that an authentic document of that time isn't going to look like that. A picture is worth a thousand blog posts.

..and the agreement didn't last long. Here are a couple of quotes about this from people who saw the picture:
There's been some interesting discussion by people with expert knowledge and some serious silliness by people who absolutely no clue whatsoever "Look, I created a document in MS Word and it looks almost the same. It's a fake!"
...and...
Since Microsoft Word was designed to include popular and very-long-used typefaces, it is hardly a surprise that those typefaces, in Microsoft Word, would look similar to, er, themselves, on a typewriter or other publishing device. That's the point of typefaces; to have a uniform look across all publishing devices. To look the same. You could use the same typeface in, for example, OpenOffice, and if it's the same font, surprise-surprise, it will look the same.
...and...
Now what exactly is the argument here? I think it’s of the following form.
  • If the memos were produced on Microsoft Word, they’d look exactly like this.
  • The memos look exactly like this.
  • So the memos were produced on Microsoft Word.
Nevermind that the first premise is probably false, because the distinction between exactly and virtually is pretty darn important here. The argument is the kind of howler that we fail freshman logic students for committing. It even has a fancy name: affirming the consequent.
These were not arguments from idiots. They just had a different understanding of how the technology worked. The reasons behind why they looked the same, and why that was a smoking gun was a very important one, and possibly one that CBS did not understand. Posted by: double-plus-ungood at September 15, 2004 03:17 PM

"These are not arguments from idiots."

Mm-hmm.

I really think a 5-second glance at the LGF animation is more instantly understandable and persuasive to most reasonable people than thousands and thousands of words of text, but I don't suppose it's really worth arguing about. This thing is unraveling at its own pace, which is already faster than anybody could have ever predicted.

Posted by: Jim Treacher at September 15, 2004 03:23 PM

I really think a 5-second glance at the LGF animation is more instantly understandable and persuasive to most reasonable people than thousands and thousands of words of text...

It comes down to explaining it to someone who says "So? I can replicate any document in Word. That's what it's designed to do."

But you're right, it's not worth discussing much at this point.

Now, back to Rather's news conference. Has it started yet?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at September 15, 2004 03:29 PM

I´m in Brazil and just wondering this: why no link to Ascher´s article in his post? Doesn´t he write for Folha de São Paulo which is one of Brazil´s major dailies? I did a search on their site and found nothing. A link certainly would have been helpful.

Indeed, the only thing I found regarding the Killian memos was a 6 day old Agence France Press article.

Just curious.

Posted by: Randy Paul at September 15, 2004 04:06 PM

One would think Yglesias would be the first in line to demand that Rather come forth instead of defending what is basically shoddy and deceptive journalism.

He would, if such shoddy and deceptive journalism was in the service of George W. Bush.

Matt's goal in life is to be Maureen Dowd when he grows up. It's within his reach.

Posted by: DennisThePeasant at September 15, 2004 06:13 PM

Denis le Paysan wrote:

Matt's goal in life is to be Maureen Dowd when he grows up. It's within his reach.

Ooooh. Harsh. But funny.

Posted by: Eric Blair at September 15, 2004 06:37 PM

Some things are true even if Charles Johnson says they are.

I could fill a book with all the examples like that of people reflexively dismissing something because of who said it. On Kos' or Drum's comments I saw someone peddling the same thing from Salon about Scaife organizations reporting on this issue. I guess it saves time for people don't want to be bothered thinking for themselves.

Posted by: YetAnotherRick at September 16, 2004 04:01 PM

Michael, a part of me hopes you remain on the left side of the aisle simply because the lefty bloggers like Matt, Kevin Drum, Atrios, Kos, et.al. are so thoroughly lame. None of them are honest about things that hurt the Democrats except grudgingly when they sense that dishonesty won't work.

And yes, you can remind me of this post the next time I snap at you for posting something too far to the left.

Posted by: Brainster at September 17, 2004 03:02 PM

Nelson Ascher writes for a Brazilian daily newspaper in Sao Paolo. And his Sao Paolo paper, which usually lags behind First World media, wrote about Rathergate one day before the Washington Post did

This is nonsense. Ascher's column supposedly ran on 13 Sep, but the Washington Post duly reported the forgery controversy on 10 September, as did other major newspapers.

Posted by: Chris Vosburg at September 24, 2004 07:17 AM
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