September 10, 2004

Forged memos humorous conspiracy theory

I've been following the 60 Minutes/ forged memos story, where purported memos about Bush's National Guard time seem to have been forged. Now, for all the upcoming babble about blog-power, the exposure is not anything which depends on an emergent open-origin smart-rabble social-underwear wikimob revolution. The first halfway-decent historical expert who looks at the documents (and it does depend on having access to the reproduced documents), will say "What in the world is a small-font superscript 'th' doing in a supposedly typewritten memo from 1973?". And indeed, how did such documents make their way to be a story? I couldn't help thinking ...

[Warning: humor humor humor, not completely serious, tongue-in-cheek]

It's very odd, in that it all seems to be a forged presentation of believed-true information. Now, let's assume that 60 Minutes is not full of complete and total idiots. They play in the big leagues. Yes, they slant things. But it's generally by journalistic "rules," which say you're allowed to lie through your teeth on the meaning, as long as you spell the names right. Assume they checked something. It looks like they (CBS) checked the information:

A senior CBS official, who asked not to be named because CBS managers did not want to go beyond their official statement, named one of the network's sources as retired Maj. Gen. Bobby Hodges, the immediate superior of the documents' alleged author, Lt. Col. Jerry Killian. He said that a CBS reporter read the documents to Hodges over the phone, and that Hodges replied that "these are the things that Killian had expressed to me at the time."

"These documents represent what Killian not only was putting in memoranda, but was telling other people," the CBS News official said.

The official said the network regarded Hodges' comments as "the trump card" on the question of authenticity, as he is a Republican who acknowledged not wanting to hurt Bush.

Thus CBS has a Major General who will back them. They ask him if the information is true, he confirms. Thus, in their mind, they've got it nailed. They wouldn't then send him the specific documents to read, he's a busy man. Then CBS doesn't go get a historical expert, since again in their mind, they have validation.

[Update: This aspect might get analysis at Jay Rosen's Pressthink]

They run the story. The White House has to have examined the documents immediately (this is 60 Minutes!). They then know the documents are forged. Were the information false, they'd scream. But since the information is true, they say nothing, and let the reaction develop. The discrediting of the documents discredits the true information.

So ... so ... so ... Who benefits?

The Bush campaign. Enormously. Tremendously


60 Minutes/CBS News/Dan Rather ... etc. gets a huge black eye.

The true information will then be forever tainted by the forged documents.

The Kerry campaign will get slammed by the backlash.

All future revelations about Bush's guard service will be tainted in the public's mind.

Conclusion: Karl Rove (the Bush Campaign) is one Machiavellian man. They planted the forged documents themselves.

[Reminder: humor, not completely serious, tongue-in-cheek ... I think]

[Update: See more serious thoughts of mine at the post CBS (60 Minutes) Forged Memos Comparison Evidence]

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in politics | on September 10, 2004 09:27 AM (Infothought permalink) | Followups
Seth Finkelstein's Infothought blog (Wikipedia, Google, censorware, and an inside view of net-politics) - Syndicate site (subscribe, RSS)

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I've tried to stay away from this nonsense (mebbe because I used a proportional typewriter in the 1970s...), but I finally looked at the PDF you link to.

Man, if this is a forgery, someone went to an awful lot of trouble--I mean, getting the baseline of the words as irregular as on a typewriter, getting the bowls of most "e"s to fill in the way they do with typewriters, getting the feathering on some letters the way they did with older typewriters and fabric ribbons...
None of which you can do with word processing and a contemporary inkjet or laser printer, without spending a lot of time in Photoshop.

It would have been cheaper and faster for a forger to go buy a $99 Brother electric typewriter and just type the *#& thing.

And, of course, if someone from CBS actually had an original document in hand, it would take two seconds to determine whether it was typewritten: Just feel the back of the paper. So, all in all, this seems pretty odd.

Unless, of course, someone was roveing around in a way to plant suspicions of a dread Demo forgery conspiracy...nah, who would do that?

Posted by: Walt Crawford at September 10, 2004 05:37 PM

"None of which you can do with word processing and a contemporary inkjet or laser printer"

I wonder if multiple generations through a copier would do the same? The only thing that could be a problem is "getting the baseline of the words as irregular as on a typewriter"

Seth, I think you hit the nail on the head. This will put a stop to all of that "AWOL Bush" talk, even if it is true.


Posted by: Fred at September 10, 2004 08:41 PM

It's not just the superscripted "th", it's also the proportional font. It's easy to see that the "i"'s use less space than the other characters. CBS is know using the fact that it has been copied multiple times as a defense. However, it's still quite clear that the document uses a proportional font.

Posted by: randy fred at September 11, 2004 02:15 AM