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September 11, 2004

Fontgate: Tom Smith Writes Well and Shape of Days Types Well

Tom Smith is actually as good a writer as Mark Steyn-- we are just deprived of his full talents by Smith's having a job as a tenured professor rather than being a freelance writer:...

...

Here's the NYT on fontgate or whatever we're going to call it. Now we know what the MSM damage control line is going to be: "Experts disagree! Oh darn! I guess we'll never know! What a shame!" Oddly, the experts who think the CBS docs are transparently crude forgeries have names, while the other experts are well, just experts. Now shut up.

...

Particularly disgusting on this has been CNN. I just watched Aaron Brown, or whatever his name is, you know, the nauseatingly sensitive anchor guy, ask follow up questions along the lines of "Now, without the original documents, is it really possible to know for sure who is right?" "Oh, no, Aaron, we'll never know . . ." When of course, the right question is, is there any reason to believe they are authentic? Do they appear to be genuine or not? On which side is the weight of the evidence? If some one tells you something is a moon rock and it looks like pool tile, you infer he's full of it, even if all you have to go on is the appearance of the thing. The standard is not, can we be absolutely certain they are forgeries.

AND there's this on Hugh Hewitt's site:

Hi Hugh,
I am a Professor of Computer Science at Rice University who has followed the evolution of word processing technology over the past 30 years. A cursory glance at the "Killian documents" shows that they are forgeries, the product of a modern word processing system. Even the most powerful word processing systems available in the early 70's were not designed to produce propotionally spaced documents.
. . .

"A cursory glance" is all that it takes. It goes on from there. And guess what? The professor is right, and the dunderheads at CBS are wrong.

September 10

Maybe this is one of those things you have to be in your forties or older to understand. Do people remember what a monumental pain in the butt it was to type papers in college? Erasing? White out? Fiddling around with the carriage to squeeze in letters or lines? Anyone who ever typed can tell by visual inspection that the documents in question are word processed. (I learned to type in high school in a class taught by the basketball coach; a guy so mean even the other coaches hated him. He finally left and all sighed in relief. Learned how to type, though.) Some old guy who didn't even type (his wife says he couldn't type) could not have produced such a clean looking document using a normal typewriter. As to the IBM selectric, come on. I was in college from 1975 to 1979, and nobody, even rich kids who would have had one, had a selectric. A grad student I knew got one in 1977 or so, but they were very rare. And they were no huge bargain to work with by today's standards. And the couldn't produce the proportionally spaced documents like those in question. Maybe there were some memory versions around, but the old army reservist was supposed to have one of these in his den in 1972. Doesn't anybody remember 1972? Hardly anybody had an electric typewriter back then for personal use.

All this makes this a weird story for me. I know enough about typing and such to know the documents are fake, I really don't have any doubt, but CBS apparently doesn't know that.

I also just read the Shape of Days definitive post on the question of whether an IBM could have written the memo. He contacted the world expert on this, and got very detailed responses. He shows various ways the $30,000 old IBM could have come close-- close, but no cigar. There are still definite differences, even if Colonel Killian had bought the fancy machine, despite his lack of typing skills, and had jiggled things all day to try get his superscripts looking pretty on this memo for his personal files.

Posted by erasmuse at September 11, 2004 06:04 PM

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