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September 13, 2004

Rathergate as a Litmus Test for Intellectual Honesty

Rathergate's oilslick has left Dan Rather and CBS black from head to toe (though if CBS fires Rather, it might uncover a white spot). The Democratic Party has revealed its tawdriness too. I can't say I'm unhappy. Dan Rather is a fine scalp for the blogosphere to take; CBS is better, and the Democratic Party too, but it doesn't look like it will stop there. One of the uses of this scandal will be to act as a litmus test for intellectual honesty for liberals. This would an update on the old "Alger Hiss was smeared by Republicans" test, which hasn't really been very useful since about 1960, since only those writing in the early 1950's were on record defending Hiss.

I hope somebody starts a list of when different liberal blogs and media outlets started admitting that the documents are forgeries....

... (It would, by the way, be useful to have a test for conservatives, too. Can anyone think of one? I don't mean something stupid like "Which conservatives have the intellectual honesty to admit that the dividend tax cut was a disaster?" We need something where a conservative is caught in provable wrongdoing, and some conservatives deny it. An old example might be the My Lai massacre-- I'm not up on it, but I recall that Lt. Calley had a lot of defenders. )

Here is a start, to show the style of the list I'd like to see. I've listed some recent entries by liberal bloggers to show their state of mind. Some of them still believe CBS. Atrios on September 13 says

Bill Glennon, a technology consultant in New York City who worked for IBM repairing typewriters from 1973 to 1985, says those experts "are full of crap. They just don't know." Glennon says there were IBM machines capable of producing the spacing, and a customized key -- the likes of which he says were not unusual -- could have created the superscript th.

Daily Kos on September 11 says, more weakly,

The main news outlets, including ABC World News (which I caught) are backing CBS. Thanks to our diarists for their hard work. But let's not get distracted by the trees and lose sight of the forest. Now it's time to ask the WH to answer the charges. This story is very much alive.

Update [2004-9-11 23:29:22 by DemFromCT]:

Lots of back and forth about the authenticity of the documents in the media, with CBS standing by its story. A reasonable summary (as of this writing) can be found here:

On the other hand, Kevin Drum on September 10 says

Bottom line: these memos might be 100% genuine. But there are lots of legitimate questions about their origin and authenticity, and at a minimum CBS ought to make its own copies available for inspection and also ought to disclose the names of the typographic experts it consulted. Better yet would be convincing their source to either go public, allow inspection of the original memos, or at least allow a more thorough discussion of exactly where the documents came from.

Until then, I'm afraid skepticism is warranted. I hope CBS hasn't gotten burned by crude forgeries, but like they say, hope is not a plan.

Josh Marshall on September 9 breaks with CBS, to his credit:

Over the last twenty-four hours I've received literally hundreds of emails that point out that each specific criticism, on its own terms, doesn't quite hold up. Thus, for instance, there definitely were proportional type machines widely available at the time. There were ones that did superscripts. There were ones with Times Roman font, or something very near to it.

But that only means that such a document could possibly have been produced at the time; not that it's likely. And taken all together, the criticisms raise big doubts in my mind about their authenticity. Adding even more doubt in my mind is that the author of this site was so easily able to use MS Word to produce a document that to my admittedly untrained eye looks identical to one of the memos in question. Identical.

A list like this would be a big help to liberals wondering which blogs to trust. And newspapers too. If the media follow standard form, the New York Times, the AP, and the Los Angeles Times will be with CBS, but the Washington Post will be against CBS, and all the TV networks and cable companies except Fox will be with CBS.

Update: This test, by the way, will also help test a hypothesis I have raised before: that the blogosphere is more honest, overall, than the old media, because there is more competition and a weblog is forced to address issues orl ose readers. An alternative hypothesis is that weblogs are usually libertarian or conservative, while the old media is liberal, and liberals are more dishonest. If we find that liberal weblogs do address issues (and it does seem that even Kos and Atrios at least mention Rathergate) and address them head-on (more dubious), at least more than the old media do, then we can reject the "dishonest liberals" hypothesis.

Posted by erasmuse at September 13, 2004 12:53 PM

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» What's the Conservative Equivalent of Rathergate? from Les Jones Blog
Eric Rasmusen looks at belief in the CBS documents are authentic or forged as a litmus test. Considering how easy it is to re-create them in Microsoft Word, it's hard to seriously argue that those documents are legit. I credited lefty bloggers Josh Mar... [Read More]

Tracked on September 13, 2004 04:28 PM

» What's the Conservative Equivalent of Rathergate? from Les Jones Blog
Eric Rasmusen looks at belief in the CBS documents are authentic or forged as a litmus test. Considering how easy it is to re-create them in Microsoft Word, it's hard to seriously argue that those documents are legit. I credited lefty bloggers Josh Mar... [Read More]

Tracked on September 13, 2004 06:18 PM

Comments

Let's put this issue to rest once and for all and let's stop speculating on comments by a friend of a friend of the typewriter repair man.

If a typewriter was capable of creating this memo, and was widely available, surely a 1971 state of the art IBM select/exec is still in existence today. Someone PLEASE, re-create the memo on a typewriter without errors with the following: Centered Headings, Sub-Script, Proportional Spacing, and let's not forget Times Roman 13 point font.

If anyone on the CBS staff can do this for us, and not just quote "experts", I will start to give credence to the documents.

By the way, if such a typewriter did exist, I find it hard to believe some backwater Texas Air Guard unit would have any state of the art office equipment.

Posted by: Steve Palla at September 14, 2004 01:29 AM

Re: Ancient Documents

Authentication: Fed. Rules of Evidence

1. Originals must be more than twenty years old,

2. and found in that spot where they would have naturally resided,

3. and must have resided in that place continually for the twenty year duration.

(I think the above has been called in the press
'provenance'.)

Because the original documents were never submitted there can be no authentication.

Of course the debate is about copies which have been conclusively shown not to have been copies of any document produced by typewriters of 1972-1973 vintage.

Posted by: Patrios at September 14, 2004 10:19 AM

P.S.

The burden of proof is on the person that seeks to
introduce the documents not on the person who seeks to contradict them. Thus Rather must submit or proffer his 'proof'. He has complete lack of authentication.

Posted by: Patrios at September 14, 2004 10:24 AM

P.S.

The burden of proof is on the person that seeks to
introduce the documents not on the person who seeks to contradict them. Thus Rather must submit or proffer his 'proof'. He has complete lack of authentication. If he cannot produce his sources, as the gov't may refuse to do in a trial, he loses as the gov't does. There is another presumption which is also reasonable: One who is in control of evidence and refuses to produce it may have that evidence construed to be against him. Therefore, by Rather refusing to release all his sources impliedly states that everything is bogus.

Posted by: Patrios at September 14, 2004 10:28 AM

P.S.

The burden of proof is on the person that seeks to introduce the documents not on the person who seeks to contradict them.

Thus Rather must submit or proffer his 'proof'. He has complete lack of authentication.

If he cannot produce his sources, as the gov't may refuse to do in a trial, he loses as the gov't does.

There is another presumption which is also reasonable: One who is in control of evidence and refuses to produce it may have that evidence construed to be against him. Therefore, Rather by refusing to release all his sources impliedly states that everything is bogus.

Posted by: Patrios at September 14, 2004 10:31 AM

Sorry for all the posting.

All this stuff of fonts simply indicates to me that the adolescents of the Clinton administration are at work here. And these adolescents are definitely not computer literate.

Any worldly-wise typist (one who had actually used a typewriter) who also knew how to change a Word font would have chosen Courier or New Courier which is a monospaced font that appears to be typewriten. One should use only left justification to leave a ragged right edge that was the sine qua non of a typewriter. 10 point for elite, and 12 point for pica.

Now those Kerry retards have all the info they need to do a reasonably respectable forgery of a 1972 typewriten document.

With all the money obatined from Soros, one would think that they would have a supply of old typewriters for this purpose so that they could actually offer an original.

Also (from reviews of "Hit Man", written by a housewife) one should also file the type so that the FBI could not identify the typewriter and use only one typewriter per job. And deep six the typewriter after use.

Posted by: Patrios at September 14, 2004 10:48 AM

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