September 14, 2004

Monty Python Takes On Dan Rather

Praline: Hello, I wish to register a complaint . . . Hello? Miss?

Dan Rather: What do you mean, miss?

Praline: Oh, I'm sorry, I have a cold. I wish to make a complaint.

Dan Rather: Sorry, we're closing for lunch.

Praline: Never mind that old man, I wish to complain about this news piece you aired about five days ago on this very station.

Dan Rather: Oh yes, the Bush AWOL expose. What's wrong with it?

Praline: I'll tell you what's wrong with it. Those memos you used were forged, that's what's wrong with it.

Dan Rather: No, no that's just an Internet rumor, look!

Praline: Look old man, I know forged documents when I see them and I'm looking at some right now.

Dan Rather: No, no sir, they're not forged. They're genuine.

Praline: Genuine?

Dan Rather: Yeah, remarkable memos, aren't they? They're about 30 years old but they look just like they were written using a modern word processor. amazing memos, really. Damning content, innit?

Praline: The content doesn't enter into it -- they're obviously forged.

Dan Rather: No, no -- that's just a nasty Internet rumor.

Praline: All right then, if it's just a rumor, how come you can't verify the authenticity of the memos? How come the preponderance of evidence points to the memos being extremely bad forgeries?

Dan Rather: (holding up a memo) See? It's signed.

Praline: It's a xeroxed copy! The signature doesn't mean anything on a xeroxed copy! Forging signatures on modern word processors is ridiculously easy! If these are genuine documents, where are the originals?

Dan Rather: Oh. . . they're around.

Praline: No, they're not. (takes memo out of Rather's hand) Hello memo, MEMO (holds memo up to the light) Genuine memo, where are you? Memo. (throws it in the air and lets it float to the floor) Now that's what I call a forged memo.

Dan Rather: No, no it's just difficult to verify.

Praline: Look old man, I've had just about enough of this. Those memos are definitely forged. And when I watched your news broadcase just five days ago, you assured me that the documents were genuine and that you had verified them through rigorous journalistic scrutiny. Yet now, with more and more evidence piling up that they're fake, your news organization is telling me that the memos can't be "conclusively" proven to be fake.

Dan Rather: Well, they can't be. At least not yet.

Praline: "At least not yet," what kind of talk is that? Look, why did the authenticity of the memos come under question within hours of the broadcast?

Dan Rather: That's just that danged Internet and all those reckless blogs spreading misinformation and rumor.

Praline: Look, I took the liberty of examining those memos, and I discovered that the only reason they don't totally match up with each other is because the memos had been xeroxed so repeatedly, the text had just degraded.

Dan Rather: Well of course the text was degraded. Those documents are over 30 years old.

Praline: Look matey (picks up memo) this memo is supposed to be a personal document written by Lieutenant Colonel Jerry B. Killian, who then supposedly saved the document. Why, then, is this memo a COPY of a personal document that you can't come up with the original of? It's bleeding forged.

Dan Rather: It's not, that's just a rumor.

Praline: It's not a rumor, it's a forged document. These memos are not real. They are fake as hell. They're not even good fakes. They're amateurish attempts at forgery that should never have been hoisted up as genuine. A fifth grader could have produced these memos. A half-blind grandmother could tell that the memos are fake.

Dan Rather: Well, I'd better issue a retraction and an apology, then.

Praline: (to camera) If you want to get anything done in this country you've got to complain till you're blue in the mouth.

Dan Rather: Sorry guv, I'm too proud and stubborn to issue a retraction and an apology.

Praline: I see. I see. I get the picture.

Dan Rather: I could do a broadcast segment devoted to underage obesity.

Praline: Would it mention all the forged documents you used that went a long way towards misinforming your viewership?

Dan Rather: Not really, no.

Praline: Well, it's scarcely a consololation then is it?



One last time.

Even answering the all the questions such as:

Were proportional spacing typewriters available? Yes.

Could you have a typewriter key with a superscript for ordinal dates? Yes.

Could a typewriter have Times New Roman? Yes.

This does not leave us in a situation where one can write "NOTHING HAS BEEN PROVEN ONE WAY OR THE OTHER". There has been no evidence presented of a typewriter that reproduces these documents (even after 6 days!). The overlays of the PDFs and MS Word copies created in default mode are too exact in spacing, centering, and tabbing to be the product of a random chance that isn't of a prohibitive nature. I agree that many were far too hasty in writing things like "superscripts weren't possible in 1972". However, to believe the case for authenticity, one must believe that these documents, and these documents alone, conform, entirely by random chance, to the default settings of the most prevalent modern word processing software on the planet. If you wish to continue to believe this, then do so, however, I feel no remorse in labeling you a moron.

Posted by: Yancey Ward on September 15, 2004 at 12:05 PM | PERMALINK

Posted by Ryan at September 14, 2004 10:15 AM

Dan Rather: I could do a broadcast segment devoted to underage obesity.

I thought that was a nice touch. :)

Posted by: Pixy Misa at September 14, 2004 09:02 PM

Focusing on the memos is not allowing you to see the larger picture that Bush really didn't complete his service. I haven't examined the memos, don't need to since I wouldn't be able to tell one way or the other.

But I have been reading alot and I read this today, Why Bush Left Texas and it pretty well damns Bush for his shifting stories, the holes in his record and more facts. Now, I can't even pretend to have a full handle on the entire situation but trying to obfuscate the issue by focusing on the memos is kind of weak. Real or not, the facts are leaning very, very heavily towards Bush not completing his duty.

Posted by: Johnny Huh? at September 15, 2004 12:23 PM

So, let me get this straight: the memos may be fake, but the point they make is probably true?

Great. Wonderful. Terrific precedent being set for the mainstream media. So long as something is largely understood to be true, it's okay to run with stories that are backed up by fake documents. Jeebus fuck.

Posted by: Ryan at September 15, 2004 12:38 PM

Ryan, at the risk of sounding like Joshua, don't be a dick. You know that's not what I meant. Forget all about the memos, they don't exist (and yes, they may have never existed) and you're still left with the pretty irrefutable evidence that Bush didn't complete his service. Combine that with the GOP positioning Bush as a war president and that Kerry, who did serve, as a limp wristed pansy who would use spitballs to defend the nation.

I don't know why CBS ran the stories but they're smart enough to know that fakes would be caught and they'd get smacked around very, very hard for it. They're not stupid (well, pursuit of ratings at the expense of objectivism and all that aside).

I didn't need the memos to figure out that Bush didn't complete his duty. I didn't need the memos to know that Bush had strings pulled to get him the National Guard gig. I didn't need the memos to know alot about the character of the man who's president now. The memos certainly wouldn't have helped him but the fact or misfact of their truth is more or less irrelevant in the larger picture given the evidence of Bush's failure to complete his service.

But the real issue to me isn't about Bush going AWOL or whatever. Its that the media won't let this bullshit go. No one gives a damn anymore. Let's get up to speed and put each candidate's current platform under scrutiny instead of living in the past.

Posted by: Johnny Huh? at September 15, 2004 01:50 PM

Sorry, Johnny. I guess I'm not viewing this the same way you are. I'm looking at this from a journalism point of view, and how egregious this error really is. This is no minor league media screw up. Forget Bush and Kerry on this. Just as a matter of journalistic credibility, this stinks to high-freakin' heaven. They weren't just fake documents. . . they were so incredibly fake as to be laughable, and yet CBS ran with them. From a journalism stance, this is just astounding. If extremely obvious fake documents can be held up as proof, imagine what a little time and effort could produce. What documents can be trusted in the future? Any? This is some troubling shit, even without the politics.

Posted by: Ryan at September 15, 2004 02:00 PM

Oh no, I understand and agree with you in principle. Rushing to press with false evidence is a serious transgression and CBS and Dan Rather need to be held accountable for it if its shown that they willfully aired false information.

The thing is, you're damning the memos without ever having seen them in person. You admit that its possible that they could be real but then deny that its conceivable.

I'm looking at it from the other end. What could CBS have hoped to gain by forging documents showing that Bush shirked his duty? Where did the docs come from? Did whoever gave them to CBS do so in the full knowledge that they were fakes and wanted to get them caught and looking like fools? I've thougth about the possibility that its a GOP tactic to further shadow reality. It may not be, we may never know.

But the reality is that Bush slipped through his service, at best. At worst, he's AWOL and deserves to be treated like a deserter (and during wartime aren't deserters shot? oh wait, Vietnam was a police action, never a war, lucky bastard!).

I do get your point and it bothers me that CBS would not complete their investigation into the legitimacy of the docs before airing them. They look like fools but really, when was the last time you watched CBS News and learned something new? I don't get my news from any of those news outlets anymore, why would I, its all skewed and biased and useless.

Anything I need to know about is talked about on The Daily Show. And yes, I'm just kidding.

Posted by: Johnny Huh? at September 15, 2004 02:44 PM

I love the Daily Show, but do you get the feeling they're becoming more partisan? What made them stand out before was that they could poke fun at both sides mercilessly, but I'm not seeing that as much now.

Posted by: Ryan at September 15, 2004 02:58 PM

As for the CBS thing, they were supposed to issue a statement at noon today, but nothing came about. I wonder what's going on over there? This may be bigger than just a case of using forged documents. Maybe we'll find out who passed them on to CBS? Stay tuned, I guess. But, just like the whole Plain Layne thing, I'll bet we'll be disappointed by the finale.

Posted by: Ryan at September 15, 2004 03:10 PM

The who finale? Who is this Layne person you speak of? It vaguely rings a bell but I'm drawing a blank beyond that.

And you are right, this may be more about internal issues at CBS than forged memos.

Posted by: Johnny Huh? at September 15, 2004 04:17 PM

By the way, came across Daily KOS: I'm an Expert., and I Say They're Not Forged.

Thought you might like some counterpoint. He also makes some pretty good arguments for the validity of the memos.

Posted by: Johnny Huh? at September 15, 2004 05:43 PM

Yeah, I've seen his stuff, as well as surfing all sorts of other sites trying to validate them, and they all basically say the same thing, relying on an outlandish set of possible scenarios. Even Killian's secretary, an 86 year old woman who hates Bush, says that she didn't write them, that they're probably fake, and that Killian's office at the time didn't have the very specific typewriting hardware on site that could produce the documents.

Gah, and now CBS is saying that the documents are "accurate." Not real or genuine, but fucking "accurate." This shit is just fucking pissing me off.

Posted by: Ryan at September 15, 2004 06:34 PM
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