New Guard Documents Forgeries

posted Sep 09, 2004

People are cautiously dancing around declaring the new Bush documents forgeries. I feel no such compulsion. This is absolute, positive proof. No question. It is utterly inconceivable that anything in 1973 would match the default Microsoft Word document of 2004, letter for letter, automatic superscript for automatic superscript, kern for kern (particularly impossible). The probabilities boggle the mind. The minor discrepencies are clearly artefacts of the aging process or deliberate smudging.

It's meaningless politically, of course; that there are people who hate Bush enough to consider any action to get him out of office legit is hardly news, and "the ends justify the means" is a direct consequence of post-modernism beloved by a particular portion of the left. It only reflects poorly on the morons in the press who didn't notice it was a Microsoft Word document on first glance. I say this because you would expect professional wordsmiths to notice such things. Don't these people pop open Word and start typing every once in a while?

I first just read about the issue, but as soon as I saw the documents all doubt left my mind. Incredible; clearly somebody was unskilled and unaware of their astonishing ignorance of typography history. Unaware of "proportional font", unaware of "kerning", unaware of "Times New Roman". I don't blame anyone for not knowing those things... unless you're trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the entire country.

Update: It has since come to my attention this was on Slashdot, which I didn't realize because I have (tried to) filter out the Political stories. (The checkboxes to filter them out so they don't appear at all aren't working but I've been using Ye Olde Eyeball Filter to great effect.)

It is amazing to me seeing these people going to bat to back up the credibility of the memos. So far, none of those people have impressed me with enough knowledge to overcome what I know about typesetting, which is apparently significantly above average. In particular, until someone addresses the kerning issue no amount of vague waving about ferociously expensive typewriters being used by some guy to type memos potentially existing in the 70s is going to impress me. Similar, maybe. Identical, right down to the choice of where to break the lines? Not a chance.

This brings up the issue of credibility and reputation. You can "wager" reputation to make a claim, for instance, defending these documents. If you are considered to be right later, you win it back plus some. If you are wrong, you lose it. (Unlike money, the amount you lose is not constrained by something concrete like a number of chips, it is in the eye of the beholder.) Many people fall into the trap of defending everything that they percieve to be on their side, even if it is wrong. You can see a lot of people doing that in the Slashdot story... but for what? If these are forgeries, it isn't that big a deal, unless you stick to them no matter what. It won't hurt Kerry (unless they are directly implicated somehow, which would deeply surprise me).

The problem with doing that, in the false idea that you are somehow doing good, is that you make it very easy for others to manipulate you into squandering your reputation by defending utterly undefendable falsehoods. Many have speculated this is a plant by the White House. That would surprise me (although not deeply, take that as you will); but the real story here is that you can theorize it is a plant, because it was 100% predictable that a certain group of people would defend it at all costs, even great costs. A better trap to cause somebody to fritter away credibility can hardly be imagined: Hand your enemy documents that say exactly what they want to hear, but make sure a thoughtful 18-year-old bored in a computer lab can prove they are forgeries. The costs of getting caught are too high to make this a good bet for the White House directly, but perhaps some other Republican leaning person of dubious ethics? Perhaps the meta-story about the unreliability of the press to detect such things really is the whole story?

Oh, if I had to bet, I'd guess some ham-handed Bush hater did it, but it sure would be scary genius if it did come from a Bush supporter...

I recently defined loonies in a Slashdot post as "people who consider a person or position 100% evil with no chance of facts changing their mind" (emp. original). (I probably ought to expand this into a full blog post.) If you can look at the evidence and you still have no question that the papers are real, because they say bad things about your enemy, then I think you are a loony. Until someone produces either the originals, or a period typewriter that the military used which with no particular effort can match the documents as well as or better than Word (and "better than" isn't hardly possible), which would constitute "a fact that has a chance of changing my mind", 100% certainty of validity is simply not justified.

Save your reputation for things that matter. Something almost nobody on either side has been doing lately. (I won't go so far as to say it that all this crap from 30 years ago totally doesn't matter. But does it matter this much?)

(See, now I've wagered a lot of credibility on these being forgeries, though I have left myself at least some of an out by saying I'll react to new facts if they emerge. But the coincidences even assuming a perfectly Word 2004-compliant typewriter in the 1970s are just too much to swallow, so I'm not expecting to lose here. Time will tell, eh?)

 

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