Sunday, September 19, 2004

Proof of nothing

I've noted what I think is an interesting aspect of Dan Rather's Last Stand this past 11 days, going through the blogs. There's a pretty wide variety of "crystallizing moments"; a particular angle of the forgeries that, once learned, clinched it for the blogger that the memos were as phony as a $200 bill.

Around the web: it was Staudt's retirement 18 months previous, or it was the curved apostrophes, or the ridiculously easy reproduction, or the optical (non-exact) centering, or the simply the look as a whole.

I keep coming back to a line in Evan Kirchoff's excellent piece: "...any claim of authenticity ought to grapple rather humbly with the large circumstantial problem of several hundred million personal computers capable of producing an equivalent document."

There's better single pieces of evidence proving that the memos are forged, but that is the single best reason explaining why CBS shouldn't have touched them with a 10-foot Andy Rooney eyebrow hair. And the kicker is, you don't need to see LGF's overlays to know it.

I am anxiously awaiting Scrappleface or The Onion to come out with a story: "CBS Uncovers Paper Proving Bush Paid Hooker in 1970", and show this picture:

The damning document Posted by Hello

CBS News has obtained this $100 bill from the personal file of a prostitute (now deceased) showing that she was paid money by George W. Bush in exchange for sexual favours. Republican operatives are disputing this, claiming Bush never carried anything bigger than twenties..

Obviously the changing appearance of currency over the years throws a monkeywrench into my analogy, but consider: even if you think the source of the C-Note is impeccable, your starting assumption on the "document" must be that it could have come from just about anywhere. Perhaps, if you were able to establish...

(A) Bush's fingerprints/DNA were on the bill
(B) The serial number on the bill came from a lot issued in Texas around the late '60s
(C) Bush liked to pay for things with large bills

..then and only then would you have a document that remotely and circumstantially supports the main story, that Bush paid a prostitute in 1970.

There is no defensible reason for CBS to have treated some 8.5x11" photocopies any differently. I see Kos and some others have nitpicked with LGF's re-creation, saying it's not quite as easy as Charles made it sound. They miss the larger point. The precise crudeness of the forgery is irrelevant; the problem is that, in 2004, you can do absolutely anything with a PC and a desktop publishing program. A letter-size photocopy whose provenance is at all questionable is absolutely useless as "proof" of anything.

The logical extension of this, and my point (I do have one), is this: for CBS to have done their job and stuffed the memos, they didn't have to know Thing One about 1972 typewriters; they only needed a passing familiarity with the capabilities of PCs in 2004.

(some links via Edmonton & Knoxville)


At 5:59 p.m., Blogger Greg said...

After all that...where was Mr. Bush during 1972 and 1973? If you know and can prove he was in the air national guard in Alabama, you can earn yourself $50,000 U.S. buckaroo's. That's cash on the barrel's head. Go here to find out more.


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