Friday, September 10, 2004

Where the sun don't shine

A flash from Drudge this morning nearly caused me to do a spit take with my coffee, endangering my ergonomic keyboard yet again. I enjoy a good laugh once in a while, but this was almost too much to take.

The entire world-- except Dan Rather-- knows CBS News is a left-wing news dinosaur that gladly carries water for the Democrats. The story they did on 60 Minute's Wednesday show, in which they purported to reveal new, secret documents that would prove once and for all that Bush was AWOL, or whatever, was pretty obviously a revenge/hit piece on behalf of the Kerry campaign. Without revealing the source of the mysterious documents, CBS assured us they had their own experts determine the documents were genuine.


Within hours, the blogosphere busted them. Led by Powerline, many bloggers looked at the documents and became immediately suspicious. At a glance, anyone who ever typed a memo in the early seventies would realize the document looked too good. Too pretty. Not only proportionally spaced, but apparently typeset. Kerned-- in which letters are not just proportionally spaced horizontally, but are actually "tucked" into each others' white space where suitable. Kerned letters actually overlap horizontal space, slightly. Can't be done on any typewriter from the early seventies.

I say typeset, because modern word processors simply did not exist back then. Even the relatively advanced systems that began to appear a few years later were clumsy and crude by today's standards. To get this kind of quality, you had to use a typesetting system. Hardly likely in an Air Force office setting, where the mystery memo was presumed to have been created.

But a current version of Microsoft Word, and a laser or inkjet printer will produce a document with a quality rivaling the best typesetters of thirty years ago.

So I repeated the test performed by another blogger. I took a copy of the mysterious document, opened Microsoft Word with default settings, and typed the memo in as straight text. The sentences and words naturally wrapped and broke exactly as the memo. The letters from one line to the next were aligned horizontally in the same manner as the original. With no effort and using default settings, I reproduced the fake document perfectly.

Kids, we're not professionals here, do try this at home.

An obvious fake. Not even well done. A serious forgery attempt would at least have used a fixed-pitch font such as Courier. No matter, case dismissed.

Now CBS News is stunned. Dan Rather himself is reported to be "shell-shocked", and CBS has launched an internal investigation. Sort of a corporate self-colonoscopy. I wonder what they might find in there, tucked between flaps of fetid polyps? John Kerry's hero medals? Bill Clinton's memory? Hillary's law office billing documents?

Dan Rather's journalistic credentials, perhaps?


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