« 9.11 | Main | Pajama Time »

Flame-Proof Pajamas -or- Why MemoGate Matters

[I posted this at Command Post today and figured, what the hell, I'll just go ahead and blog away here] As the "bloggers in pajamas" meme makes the rounds, I am reminded of a children's show my daughter used to watch, Bananas in Pajamas. It's just as ridiculous, no? Anyhow, I propose that we make the Banana to the left here our unofficial mascot. Theme song included. In the end, it will matter not if bloggers were actually wearing their pajamas when they began their education-by-fire of kerns and fonts and the ancient world of typewriters. The fact will remain that they beat some men and women wearing shirts and ties to the punch. No...they did more than beat them to the punch; the shirted reporters barely knew that the fight had begun. If Jonathan Klein truly believed his notion that "[b]loggers have no checks and balances . . . [it's] a guy sitting in his living room in his pajamas," when he made that statement, his belief system must be taking quite a hit at the moment. Besides the fact that not all bloggers are guys, I'd have to say that a major portion of us have real jobs that keep us from shuffling around our living room in our feetie jammies all day. As for checks and balances, we have each other. As Rev. Donald Sensing said: bq. Bloggers are fact checked incessantly by other bloggers and most blogs have a comment feature where a lot of fact checking goes on. And it's done in realtime, unlike any MSM. Reporters for MSM generally have one editor. I have, today alone, 17,000-plus, every one of which is empowered to tell me I screwed something up. In realtime. On my site. Try that with 60 Minutes. Touche, Mr. Klein. While the memos in question in this MemoGate(r) or RatherGate(r) or The Tale of the Tricky Typography (or whatever you would like to call it) have not yet been proven beyond doubt to be forged, the real story here is no longer about Bush's AWOL service or superscript lettering. It is about the integrity and the accountability of the media, in particular that of CBS and, to a lesser extent, The Boston Globe. It's no secret that Dan Rather has an agenda. The website Rather Biased has been chronicling, well, Rather's Bias, since 2000. The fact that Mr. Rather is seen by millions of people across this nation on a major broadcast network means that his agenda has a wide audience. Now take into account that most people in this country still are naive enough to trust mainstream media (MSM) to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth and you end up with one person wielding a lot of influence just two months before a presidential election. When word first started traveling that the memos Rather used on his 60 Minute piece on the Bush AWOL story might be forgeries, CBS should have immediately issued a statement addressing the topic, saying that while they stand by their sources they would also be looking into the matter in order to clear up any confusion about the documents. That way, they would let the public know that they were aware of the issue and they were taking this slight on their reputation seriously, while at the same time letting the same public know that they still believe their original source. But, no. CBS instead went into defense mode, with Rather spewing out bitter nonsense about the internet rumor mill and partisan hacks: bq. “Today on the Internet and elsewhere, some people, including many who are partisan political operatives, concentrated, not on the key questions of the overall story, but on the documents that were part of the support of the overall story.” As I said before: the problem is, the key questions of the overall story are moot if the evidence is false. Things shifted quickly after that. Bloggers dug deeper and some news outlets noticed. Others picked up on the story and, neglecting to mention how the key components of MemoGate began, did their own research and called their own specialists. The Boston Globe, in fact, called upon the same forensic document expert as Bill at INDC. And then they went on to misrepresent his words to the point that the expert, Dr. Bouffard, was livid. Not to mention the fact that the Globe, which continues to perpetuate false statements, got Dr. Bouffard's name wrong in their article. CBS then went on to use the Globe story - now known by many to be disingenuous - to prop up their belief that the memos are real. One hand washes the other, one presumes. It may seem odd that just 50 days before the election the media is honing in on arguments about typeface but, if you look under the surface, it's not really the kerning that is the greater issue. Perhaps the reason the LA Times and the New York Times, two papers that could be considered liberal, have printed articles or opinion pieces that seem to favor the blogger side of the story is because, if they don't take that stance, they run the risk of being lumped together with Rather and CBS, like the Boston Globe. At this moment in time, that's not a good place to be. In fact, CBS and Rather are not even going to talk about the memos anymore: bq. Dan Rather was quoted in the New Zealand Herald as saying that there was no use debating the authenticity of his documents which he claims are proof that George W. Bush committed any number of unethical acts while in the National Guard. "Until someone shows me definitive proof that they are not [authentic], I don't see any reason to carry on a conversation with the professional rumour mill." What CBS and Rather should have done in this instance was to face the charges head on, rather than trying deflect the issue. This is no longer about AWOL charges and they have to recognize that. This is not some "silly" issue as some professional pundits put it. Anyone connected with MSM who makes a statement like that is clearly in denial that the integrity of MSM as a whole is at stake here. Or, perhaps, they aren't in denial, but fully aware, and their only defense is to go on the offense. What's at stake here is not the election. I honestly don't think the election will be decided over Bush's National Guard discrepancies or Kerry's Holiday in Cambodia. The American people know there is too much at stake to base their vote on thirty year old matters. So why does a news outlet like CBS deem such an issue (in CBS's case, just the Bush issue) so important as to devote their time and effort to airing it, yet not devote the time and effort towards backing up their evidence? Is someone - or several someones - letting their agenda show? It's one thing for a news outlet to slant one way or the other in its daily reporting. It's another when they use their power and influence to sway a presidential race, which I believe Rather has been doing. He has abused the trust that so many Americans have for him. Regardless of whether the memos prove to be true or false, when all the smoke has been cleared, when all the typography experts and kerning specialists go back to their desks, when all the bloggers put on their pajamas and sit back with a beer in their living rooms, one glaring fact will remain: the media cannot be trusted. Specifically, Dan Rather cannot be trusted. How can you trust a media outlet that aired a negative piece like they did without presenting the other side of the story, which they clearly had? They interviewed people close to the situation who regarded the memos as fakes, yet they did not bother to include those interviews in the 60 Minute segment. Even when faced with more evidence that the authenticity of the memos should be doubted, CBS continued to give the cold shoulder to truth. Had Rather stood up and feigned shock that the memos might be false, and then hired another expert or at least addressed the possibility that he and CBS might have been duped, we would not be sitting here talking about typesetting. But Rather has been outed, so to speak, as a braying, defensive, partisan hack who has no more integrity than Jayson Blair. Perhaps he should be shaking his fist at his source - or himself - instead of bloggers.

TrackBack

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Flame-Proof Pajamas -or- Why MemoGate Matters:

» Dan Rather: Radical journalism fundamentalist? from Arguing with signposts...
Dan Rather has lost his mind. Check out this quote: "Until someone shows me definitive proof that they are not [authentic], I don't see any reason to carry on a conversation with the professional rumour mill." "Definitive Proof" as defined... [Read More]

» http://www.allahpundit.com/archives/000947.html from Allah Is In The House
There's a lot of Rathergate stuff to dispense with this morning -- so much, in fact, that I think it's best to just mention a few things now and then update this post as I sift through my e-mail. First... [Read More]

» Yeah....What She Said from Mad Mikey's Blog
Michelle at A Small Victory appears to have summerized all of this Killian memo crap:Had Rather stood up and feigned shock that the memos might be false, and then hired another expert or at least addressed the possibility that he... [Read More]

» Short Takes from Wizbang
Strengthen The Good has picked it's latest micro-charity - it is the Brent Woodall Foundation For Exceptional Children, which offers care and education to autistic children and their parents. The Foundation was created by Tracy Woodall, who lost her hu... [Read More]

» Been Sleeping from Mind of Mog
Seemed like the good thing to do. Nothing new here, Ivan is still a Category 5, heading to pass the western tip of Cuba and dump lots of wind and rain . 160mph with gusts up to 200mph or so. And MemoGate is going strong, an excellent wrapup here on wh... [Read More]

» Yawn from Redsugar Muse
(inspired by Michele, of course)... [Read More]

» 9-13-04 Link Dump from In Bill's World
There's too much happening for me to even think about excerpting everything good I've run across today, so I guess it's link dump time again: ... [Read More]

» Out of the woodwork from Physics Geek
I figured that Michele wouldn't be able to hold back during Dan Rather's continuing meltdown. Turns out that I was right. I guess that some things are just too good to ignore. Whether or not this is resumption of continued... [Read More]

» Sneak's Wide World of Blogging 2 from Sneakeasy's Joint
This series is dedicated to the proposition that not all Blogging is politics, and War, and not all Bloggers covers those subjects 24/7. So let's get to the good stuff! :-) 1. ALL HAIL BIGWIG!! It's his fault, you... [Read More]

» Sneak's Wide World of Blogging 2 from Sneakeasy's Joint
This series is dedicated to the proposition that not all Blogging is politics, and War, and not all Bloggers covers those subjects 24/7. So let's get to the good stuff! :-) 1. ALL HAIL BIGWIG!! It's his fault, you... [Read More]

Comments

Great item, Michele. I especially like pointing out to people that this does not change the whole argument that is whether Bush did or did not attend these meetings/training at the ANG - forget about that for a second. It's the fact that a major news outlet - probably, at one time, the top news outlet, may have been scammed in a major way - on air. That's a huge story and has the ability to change how people start looking at broadcast news as well as the Internet's strength. It might be the one way I can finally convince my mom that what she sees on the news is 1> old news already and 2> possibly containing some slant.

I fear a rash of bloggers auctioning their pajamas on EBay.

I consider pajamas to be tantamount to pants, and therefore refuse to wear them while blogging.

Great piece! Keep doing this. On ASV.

"It might be the one way I can finally convince my mom that what she sees on the news is 1> old news already and 2> possibly containing some slant."

By the way, this might be the way my mom (who's always been well aware of MSM biases) to start surfing the web and reading blogs. She's an avid follower of the news, but through paper and TV sources (including C-Span.)

And this story did reach her, BTW, even in its diluted-via-MSM form, which I found interesting and encouraging. When I talked with her yesterday, she knew the gist of the story, though not quite how conclusively the forgeries have been proven.

Great post! But could someone kindly say what MSM stands for?

MainStream Media, belomi.

Thanks. I was trying to make it stand for something considerably less complimentary.

Great piece. One very minor quibble: "MemoGate© or RatherGate©" should read "MemoGate® or RatherGate®. Names can't be copyrighted, though arguably, the forged memos themselves can be. It would be kinda neat if someone were to enforce his copyright, i.e., publicly admit to having forged the memos himself/herself/itself.

Great post, as most of yours are. I'll send you a trackback after I finish catching up on the rest of the days news.

I am strangely turned on thinking of Allah, the Commissar, Charles and Bill blogging in their jammies...

Winston Churchill frequently conducted the wartime leadership of Britain in his pajamas.

I don't see any way that Rather could have NOT known that these docs needed to be well vetted before acceptance. He's old enough to remember typewriters.

I think it was deliberate, and Rather can just go to and stay put.

I trapped Lucianne Goldberg into admitting that she wears Bullwinkle slippers when she writes for her site.

I'm waiting for the announcement that Rather is "retiring to spend more time with his family".

Corporatespeak for "given the boot".

"He's old enough to remember typewriters."

I suspect the problem is more that he's not "young" enough to really know computers (and he's apparently a well-known technophobe.)

Personally, I find the pure "how technology has changed" angle to be one of a fascinating little tangent in this controversy. The sets of "people who know typewriters really well" and "people who know modern word processing software well" don't seem to have a whole lot of overlap. Chances are few people much younger than me (35) have ever typed something on an IBM Selectric, and probably a large number of people older than me have never used computers much. I've done both, and remember both using a Selectric to type papers in high school, and using the first halfway-decent Atari 800 word processor (can't remember what it was called) too. And using the Selectric for college applications, which was a major pain the ass.

"In fact, CBS and Rather are not even going to talk about the memos anymore..."

Uh, so they're going to try the same trick Kerry tried with the SBVT? Yeah, and that strategy panned out sooooo well for him. Yes, I too am waiting for the "retired to spend more time with his family in Texas" announcement, or the leading story on ABC Nightly News that Dan Rather was found in his car with an apparently self inflicted wound from an assult rifle... by they way, CBS would ignore that story all together.

You can visit
http://www.rathergate.com/resign.php
and sign the petition to get Dan Blather outta there!

It's good to see you here again. Keep up the GREAT work.

Great writing. :-)

Saw it first on Command-Post today, and felt relieved after getting a 'fix' of your writing.

I'm even more pleased to see you cross-posted it here - and that you're back to occassionally posting here now too!

At the risk of 'Me Too'ing:

Keep up the GREAT work!

P.S. - Nice PJ's.... ;-)

I think it HAS been proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the documents are forged.

It is unreasonable to assume thatmachines capable of producing similar (and even then not identical) documents would have been used by that author in that time and place for that purpose.
There are multiple problems with the content.

But then, I though OJ was guilty, too.

Some seem to want "beyond a reasonable doubt and to a moral certainty." I'm not sure what they are waiting for, except a confession or someone's hard drive with various drafts.
Or why. Rather can't authenticate the documents,
he has exactly one expert who says ONE signature is a "genuine copy". Who has said ( and I agree with this) that photocopied signatures, barring other authenticating circumstances or document features, can not be assumed to be genuine.

Furthermore, They should be presumed to be forgeries until it is established where the originals came from, what happend to them, what is the chain of custody of the copies, etc.

I don't think you should use those PJs, because we're supposed to be 'digital brownshirts' So I turned the PJs into brown with a nice pinstripe:

http://home.kc.rr.com/mharder/brnpj.gif

This is a bit "fat" for a blogment© post...but for anyone out there that thinks this isn't typical of CBS...

- "60 Minutes" may have a sterling reputation (cough cough) in journalism, but it has been burned before by forged documents. In 1997 it broadcast a report alleging that U.S. Customs Service inspectors looked the other way as drugs crossed the Mexican border at San Diego. The story's prize exhibit was a memo from Rudy Comacho, head of the San Diego customs office, ordering that vehicles belonging to one trucking company should be given special leniency in crossing the border. The memo was given to "60 Minutes" by Mike Horner, a former customs inspector who had left the service five years earlier. When asked by CBS for additional proof, he sent another copy with an official stamp on it.
CBS did not interview Mr. Camacho for its story. "It was horrible for him," says Bill Anthony, at the time head of public affairs for the Customs Service. "For 18 months, internal affairs and the Secret Service had him under a cloud while they established that Horner had forged the document out of bitterness over how he'd been treated." In 2000, Mr. Horner admitted he forged the memo "for media exposure" and was sentenced to 10 months in federal prison. "Mr. Camacho's reputation was tarnished significantly," Judge Judith Keep noted.

Mr. Camacho sued CBS and eventually settled for an undisclosed sum. In 1999 Leslie Stahl read an apology on the air: "We have concluded we were deceived, and ultimately, so were you, the viewers."

Supprise Suuuupprise.....

BTW - O'Rielly appears to have decided to respond to the flood of Emails all the bloggers and bloggettes have unindated him with concerning Memogate... On air even as we blogviate©...

What the hell is a blogment?

David C., I'd bet the program you're trying to remember was Letter Perfect. AtariWriter was more popular but Letter Perfect was around almost two years earlier.

60 Minutes has a long history of ingoring pesky facts when trying to spice up a story. Remember how they almost destroyed Audi's US business?

http://www.manhattan-institute.org/html/cjm_18.htm

In the interests of the afore mentioned real time editing, in the passage:
"...and you end up with one person yielding a lot of influence just two months before a presidential election."
I have to assume the word you want is "wielding", not yielding.
Of course, if he was that willing to give up his influence, that wouldn't be such a bad thing :P

p.s. you have to assume the post is good if I'm bickering about something so minor as a letter, huh? :)

I am astonished at the level of arrogance that saturates CBS such that they put out these obviously forged memos without a care in the world.

Certainly the media is biased to the left, but the subtext to Memo-Gate is that the thinking public would accept such crude forgeries. They think everyone is an mind numbed robot.

It really smacks of liberal elitism.

They have offical documents from the same time period that Killian wrote and/or signed. And in that context, the memos make even less sense. It makes Killian out to be some kind of "Jekyll and Hyde" type character.

But I think Macswain is missing the point, possibly deliberately. The issue is not whether ABC or MSNBC got points wrong, or incomplete in their favorable Bush reporting. The issue is Dan Rather put obvious forgeries (within a 90% certainty, according to one expert) on his program and produced a lie. A lie designed to influence the election, and poorly designed at that. Trying to change the subject is an ineffective and counterproductive tactic.

Nobody cares about Vietnam. We have a real war we are fighting right now, today, that is unlike Vietnam, or even WW2. Nobody cares about what Bush did or did not do during that war, except for the folks who ain't going to vote for him anyway.

Besides, the same folks whining about Bush's lack of service in that war have been telling us for the last 30 years that Vietnam was immoral. There is an issue of consistency here that renders any credible complaint buy the Dems silly.

Bush is running on his record of the last 4 years, not what he did over 30 years ago. Bush also has a life story that admits to "youthful indiscretions" but has since cleaned up his life and become a better man. He's shown us that better man the last 4 years. So the entire issue of Bush's guard service is a non sequtuer to begin with.

So Dan Rather lied about something that nobody cares about, in an effort to change the election. Not only does this call his credibility into question, but his grasp of reality, and his perception of the world. The world he is supposed to report on.

The really scary thing is that if the forger had simply switched the font to "Courier New" (a fixed width font), then they probably would have gotten away with it.

You can bet the next forgers won't be so clumsy.

From now on we need to demand that news stories be based on verified original documents only! (which begs the question of who will do the verifying...)

We know now the dems will stoop this low. We have to be on alert for more skillfully executed scams in the future.

Amen to what Worried says about Courier New. Because the LLL and MSM are now just about totally blinded and single-minded in their rage and hate, it wouldn't surprise me at all if another memo or two appear, with all of the lessons of this misstep learned.

Mr. Newcomer and the others who broke down Times New Roman, etc. should get to work on Courier just in case. Also monitor IBM Selectric and Executive resales to DNC members.

Great line by Blankley (WashTimes): 'Who knew that there are experts who specialize just in the history of IBM selectric typing balls....'

Obviously, Dan Rather didn't....

wg

What's lost here in the hysteria over the allegedly forged documents is that Bush's lapse in service is proven without them. Michele would be correct that "key questions of the overall story are moot if the evidence is false"--if the overall story hinged on the memos in question. It doesn't.

If the memos themselves are false (though their content has been verified as reflecting Killian's beliefs), I'm disgusted by whatever shady, half-witted impulse produced them, because they were unnecessary. The consensus is that the latest investigations prove that Bush did not meet his obligations--a fact that he has continuously misprepresented throughout his political career.

That doesn't bother any of you? That President Bush has lied, in the present, about events from the admittedly distant past? A breach of faith by the President is less important than one by a journalist?

> Nobody cares about what Bush did or did not do during that war, except for the folks who ain't going to vote for him anyway.

That's an insulting view of the electorate, it seems to me. I imagine there are still some principled voters to whom it would make a difference. People who have taken President Bush at his word and are now learning that he was derelict 30 years ago and has been dishonest ever since.

Tell me, did the Vietnam war seem so far away to you when the Swift Boat Veterans were sailing across the airwaves, or did that seem entirely relevant to the 2004 campaign? And did the media's failure to verify the stories of SBV spokespersons bother you as much as CBS's failure to verify these secondary memos?

It doesn't matter, of course. The only reason for the SBV's existence is so people like Michele can mention "Bush's National Guard discrepancies" and "Kerry's Holiday in Cambodia" in the same sentence, as though they carry equal weight, even though the former is a matter of record and the latter is a discredited distortion. Mission, as the Bushes say, accomplished.

> ...the same folks whining about Bush's lack of service ... have been telling us for the last 30 years that Vietnam was immoral. There is an issue of consistency here that renders any credible complaint buy [sic] the Dems silly.

Wrong. I believe that the U.S. war in Vietnam was a mistake based on a misunderstanding of the history, people, and politics of that country. Apart from issues of immoral conduct, even a pragmatist would have to admit it was a total policy failure--of which both political parties owned an equal share.

Kerry served in Vietnam and came to understand the mistaken nature of our policy there. (And to those who believe his war conduct was focused solely on a future political career, I might point out that the positions he took upon returning were not guaranteed political winners. After all, Nixon was reelected in a landslide.)

The inconsistency is that Bush and Cheney hypocritically eluded service in that war, though they claim to have supported it. As some have noted, that failure of principle could be overridden by subsequent performance. After all, it was 30 years ago.

The problem is that they continue to demonstrate the same arrogance, the same lack of principle, and the same ignorance of history. Why does what happened 30 years ago matter? Because it shows that what is happening in Iraq is part of a long pattern of bad faith and incompetence.

This administration has forced its view of the world, its solution to a geopolitical problem, upon a country where it does not apply. Then, it was the Cold War and Vietnam. Today, it's terrorism and Iraq. Even if we grant that the Bush administration believed every reason they gave for invading Iraq--which I doubt--I don't see how anyone can deny that they have been inept, incorrect, or both nearly every step of the way, and are now in the midst of another policy disaster of historic proportions. Instead of worrying about Dan Rather, read today's news from the front.

The Iraq war is only connected to the terror war as a distraction and an exacerbation. If the "smoking gun" does indeed turn out to be a mushroom cloud, it will have been caused, not prevented, by Bush's war in Iraq.

The memos don't matter. Crocodile tears about Dan Rather don't matter. Bush's record is what matters: Thirty-five years of failure.

In 10 years, when Americans and Iraqis are still dealing with the fallout, I hope you'll remember Bush in his flight suit. If he'd worn a real uniform with honor, he would never have put on a make-believe one.

Apologies for running on so long.

Nice to see you haven't changed, Pk.

Bush's Guard duty or lack thereof doesn't really bother me. Quite frankly, the whole damned issue doesn't matter, except that KERRY KEEPS BRINING IT UP. Virtually his whole campaign has been about his four months in Vietnam, as opposed to his nineteen years in the Senate. Personally, I'd like a little more from a potential CiC.

Kerry doesn't run on his record because he knows he'd lose. He's got nothing else EXCEPT Vietnam (well, let's be fair, he's got "Vote for me, Bush sucks.")

This administration has forced its view of the world, its solution to a geopolitical problem, upon a country where it does not apply. Then, it was the Cold War and Vietnam. Today, it's terrorism and Iraq. Even if we grant that the Bush administration believed every reason they gave for invading Iraq--which I doubt--I don't see how anyone can deny that they have been inept, incorrect, or both nearly every step of the way, and are now in the midst of another policy disaster of historic proportions. Instead of worrying about Dan Rather, read today's news from the front.

I'm surprised you didn't call it a disaster of Biblical proportions. ("Dogs and cats, living together! Mass hysteria!")

Do me a favor. Read up on post WW2 Germany and then come back to me and tell me about disaster. I'd personally recommend Shirer's "End of a Berlin Diary" for a little perspective about how difficult it is to transform a society.

The Iraq war is only connected to the terror war as a distraction and an exacerbation. If the "smoking gun" does indeed turn out to be a mushroom cloud, it will have been caused, not prevented, by Bush's war in Iraq.

Didn't we argue about this a while ago on my blog? Nice to see everything I wrote pretty much bounced off.

Yeah, BB, we just aren't getting through to each other, are we? A shame.

I love it when you peer over your reading glasses and direct us to your library, but what exactly is your point vis-a-vis Germany 1945? That it's hard to transform a totalitarian society into a functioning democracy, even if it's relatively homogenous and grounded in Western traditions of governance?

That's my point, too. And one ought not try it unless one has no choice--especially if one has another war to fight.

But we really should be picketing the real enemy: Dan Rather.

Yea! Michelle's back! And I love Bananas in Pajamas.

Pk, the "lapse in service" argument has been shown to be faulty. Check out Juliette or Greyhawk or this story and this one from the "Decatur Daily" newspaper back in February.

I pulled out some of my old 1970 US Navy Reserve orders the other night to compare them to CBS's supposed authentic documents. Dates were all of the exact form "XD MMM YY", with no leading zeros on days, no hyphens, and no commas. Documents of this type were prepared according to rigid, service-wide formats. Variations were not permitted. Likewise, all names were of the form "LT COL J.J. SMITH", not "Lt. Col. Joe Smith", and signature boxes were always "Commanding Officer: ", not "Commander: ". The forged documents were obviously produced by someone unfamiliar with military forms circa 1970, on a computer using True Type fonts. Such fonts didn't exist until Apple introduced them in the 1990's.