Blogs bust CBS


I'm enough of a contrarian to resist writing about something just because everyone else is. And I'm lazy enough and busy enough not to want to duplicate what others are handling in such a thorough fashion.

But I feel like I've been neglecting my responsibilities to you, dear reader, by not saying anything about this huge story that has been dominating the blogosphere since the middle of last week, and has now made the leap into print and broadcast media. At least a part of my readership comes straight to this site and perhaps never ventures beyond, despite the long blogroll on the right-hand side of the home page.

In a nutshell: CBS's "60 Minutes II" presented what it alleged were memos written in 1972 and 1973 by Lt. Col. Jerry Killian, George W. Bush's superior, in the Texas Air National Guard, suggesting that pressure was applied to give Bush a more favorable evaluation than he deserved.

Some noticed that the memos had some odd features for documents banged out on a typewriter over 30 years ago -- a proportional-spaced font, unusual in typewriters, was the first clue that something was amiss. Then someone noticed a superscript 'th' in an ordinal number and curly single quotes, instead of straight apostrophes -- the sort of thing that happens automatically when typing a document in newer versions of Microsoft Word. Closer examination revealed that the vertical pitch (distance between lines) matched the default in Microsoft Word, but couldn't be produced by a typewriter.

Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs went so far as to open up Microsoft Word, and without changing the margins, tabs, font, font size, or any other setting, he typed one of the memos and found that everything lined up perfectly with the document CBS claimed was an authentic typewritten 1973 memo.

There's a lot more to the story. Some defended authenticity of the memos by trying to come up with scenarios under which such a memo could have been produced in the early '70s. In response, people who worked with early printer and word processor technology, forensic document analysts, and other experts came forward to answer speculation with the reality of the technology of the time. Bloggers provided a focal point for relaying expert testimony. doing original research, and exposing contradictions.

I encourage you to dig into the details. Here are some places to start:

The New York Sun has a story on how this story developed and the role played by blogs.

Power Line has been all over the story from the beginning. And there's some great analysis as well, such as this item about the apparently new willingness of the mainstream media (MSM) to sacrifice its credibility for political ends:

So we have entered a new era. We now know that our richest and most powerful news organizations are willing to blow themselves up--to destroy their own credibility, once considered a news organization's most precious possession--to achieve a political goal. The landscape will never look quite the same again. Those of us who still value truth must look at the mainstream media in a new, more skeptical and critical way, taking nothing for granted. Because, like suicide bombers, the mainstream news organs will go farther to achieve their political goals than we ever imagined.

Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs has a summary of all of his entries on the memo scandal to that point, although he has since posted more.

Bill of INDC Journal sought out a forensic document examiner, Dr. Philip Bouffard, to render an opinion on the likelihood that the documents were authentic.

AllahPundit has a plethora of links, commentary, and detail.

Hugh Hewitt has been all over this. And John Fund summarizes the story in the Wall Street Journal.

Dr. Joseph M. Newcomer, an expert in electronic typesetting since its advent in the '70s, came forward with a detailed analysis of the memos, with everything you could want to know about fonts and spacing.

Old-media op-ed titan William Safire weighs in here (registration required).

On the lighter side, Scott Ott has uncovered a suspicious 1972 e-mail, and Frank J. thinks he's discovered another forgery.

And a friend sends along a link to a Shockwave animation that puts the whole thing in a nutshell.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on September 14, 2004 12:46 AM.

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