60 Minutes interviewed Bill Barnes, a retired
Texas politician, I paid only scant attention
to the memos Dan Rather said they had received
that showed that Putsch was a screw-up who received
preferential treatment and incurred the disdain
of his superiors and fellow pilots as a result.
It was, after all, no secret that he secured the
position despite finishing 24th out of 25 for
the one position open, and it was also no secret
that he refused to take a mandatory physical and
was dropped from flight status as a result, and
a few months later, he vanished altogether as
far as the Guard goes.
of this is supposition. It is all part of records
that Putsch himself has provided.
the memos only provided some confirmation for
what we all knew, and raised the question as to
why a guy who had cost Uncle Sam over a million
1972 dollars had decided to just refuse direct
orders to take a physical, and been taken off
that very expensive flight status, wasting a million
dollars and defying military authority, and then,
a year later and after going awol for at least
four months, getting an honorable discharge.
Minutes" didn't even provide definitive answers.
They just simply showed a couple of building blocks
in the story of a wastrel son who received preferential
treatment in order to avoid serving his country
while appearing to do exactly that, and who screwed
even that up (as he has everything else in his
life, including the Presidency). He got further
preferential treatment when, too stoned and drunk
to take the mandatory physical, he somehow didn't
end up in the stockade or on the ground in Vietnam,
but instead simply vanished, and eventually got
a rather whorish honorable discharge.
Barnes gave a damning interview. I knew the right
would be in a frenzy to distract, and when the
first rumbles about the memos showed up, I figured
that would be the distraction. It wasn't until
the next day that I saw PDFs of the documents
and realized that I was looking at a fourth-generation
Xerox of a word processed document. I said publically
that no 1972 typewriter could produce that, and
several people assured me that such typewriters
existed. "Fine," I said. "All you have to do is
tell us the make and model, and have someone recreate
the memos on one of those typewriters, and make
sure it's a system that could plausibly be in
a backwater national guard office."
course, in the nearly two weeks since, we've established
that the documents were forgeries, and Dan Rather
and CBS have admitted that they were had, and
apologized. Rather said, "[...]We made a mistake
in judgment, and for that I am sorry. It was an
error that was made, however, in good faith and
in the spirit of trying to carry on a CBS News
tradition of investigative reporting without fear
or favoritism. Please know that nothing is more
important to us than people's trust in our ability
and our commitment to report fairly and truthfully."
right wing howled its derision, branding Rather,
and CBS, liars, insisting (with no evidence at
all) that Rather knew the documents were forgeries
when he showed them, and touting the incident
as evidence of the Ślibrul media' being out to
was a hurricane of gleeful triumph and vitriol,
a howl of ersatz rage and genuine joy, one that
only the profoundly sanctimonious and dishonest
many questions remain. Who did the forging, and
such a clumsy forgery? There is a true type font
called "typewriter" that is a non-proportional
courier that has characters that ride off the
baseline, with broken ascenders and descenders,
even varying weight. It would take a microscope
to tell the difference between a document done
on a laser printer with this font, and one banged
out on a 1972 Smith-Corona typewriter. Two generations
of copies, and even a microscope wouldn't help.
I could have knocked out a copy in twenty minutes,
starting by downloading the font and finishing
up at the copy machine. Word Perfect could take
care of the superscript easily, and I could even
scan Killian's signature at high resolution (the
copier would obscure the microscopic pixellation),
give it a convincing warble in Ulead's Photo Impact,
and it would look like the signature, varying
only insignificantly from the original, but enough
to convince someone it wasn't just a copy.
you, this is using equipment standard on any 21st
century desktop, consumer-end software, and using
knowledge available to any second year student
at a secretarial school. A bright ten year old
with an interest in computers could do it.
at one point noted that they "simply stopped fact-checking"
the documents when the White House acknowledged
them and didn't question the content. A stupid
move on CBS's part, to be sure, and they will
pay a price for that sloppiness.
was nobody in the White House who could tell the
difference between Times New Roman and Courier?
Really? Where's Donna Moss when you need her?
hardly any surprise the White House didn't contest
the contents of the memo. After all, they only
supported what was already common knowledge; in
1972 Putsch was a worthless drunken slag, too
much of a fuckup to even handle a rich-boy's cush
position, and he needed daddy's help both to get
in, and to get out after he screwed it all up.
It's a pattern that, 32 years later, is unchanged.
the White House didn't question the provenance
of those memos at all. How odd.
CBS sandbagged, and was the White House complicit
in that piece of fraud?
didn't the WH say anything, when allowed the opportunity
to examine the documents and respond prior to
"60 Minutes" broadcasting them?
sanctimony of the rest of the media is galling.
CBS pulled a massive screwup. Having done so,
they've apologized, and vowed to do better. It
did damage to Dan Rather's already shaky reputation.
Greg Palast, one of the few real journalists left,
quoted Rather's craven statement, "George Bush
is the President. He makes the decisions. He wants
me to line up, just tell me where," uttered when
explaining that, in the wake of 9/11, newsmen
had an obligation to be Americans first and journalists
second, which meant that they would do a poor
job of being either. CBS's reputation was affected,
also like the rest of their once-proud news
department wasn't pretty terrible already.
fingers appeared from Faux, the only network in
American history to sue -- successfully -- for
the right to lie to the American people. CNN,
equally sanctimonious, was doing their usual job
of simplifying the news into right wing mush,
meals for morons. The day before Rather made his
apology, I happened to catch Headline news talking
about the Navy's decision to not re-investigate
whether Kerry got his medals properly or not.
Not only did they omit the Navy's reason for the
refusal -- that the investigation had already
been done and no reason for any further investigation
was needed, but they didn't name the "public interest
group" that the navy "refused." It might have
been embarrassing to mention that this group was
the notorious and rabid gadfly outfit, Judicial
O'Reilly has spewed a constant stream of lies,
about the memos and pretty much everything else.
Rush Limbaugh has lied his head off. So has Wolf
Blitzer. So have Joe Scarborough and Ann Coulter
and Matt Drudge and Tucker Carlson and all the
other scummy little propagandists who run around
pretending to be journalists.
excrement is what passes for "mainstream journalism"
in once-free America.
a disgrace. What a fucking disgrace.
years ago, when America had a free media not controlled
by fascist corporations, "60 Minutes" was considered
the very finest in broadcast journalism.
that's still true. It's just that they have to
reach a much lower standard to achieve that.
Posted: September 23, 2004