web counter Media Lies: Patterico misses a fisking

Friday, September 17, 2004

PLEASE NOTE: Media Lies has moved.
The new address is http://www.antimedia.us/.
Please adjust your bookmarks.

Patterico misses a fisking

Patterico wrote a brief comment about an LA Times story that reveals the identity of Buckhead, the freeper who "broke" the story of the forged documents that CBS used to defame Bush.

I think Patterico missed a golden opportunity for a fisking. Maybe he was tired. Maybe the Rather story has worn him out, but this article practically begs for a fisking. The trouble is, it will be really long, because there's a lot to fisk. Somebody has to do it, right? Might as well be me.

The Times is positively gleeful over the fact that they have identified Buckhead and he is a conservative who supports Bush. In the warped world of the old media, this is a clear sign of bias permitting them to ignore anything a person says - except if they're Democrats or liberals, who obviously aren't biased - they're rational.

The Times reports
The identity of "Buckhead," a blogger known previously only by his screen name on the site freerepublic.com and lifted to folk hero status in the conservative blogosphere since last week's posting, is likely to fuel speculation among Democrats that the efforts to discredit the CBS memos were engineered by Republicans eager to undermine reports that Bush received preferential treatment in the National Guard more than 30 years ago.
"Lifted to folk hero status". Folk heroes are mythical figures whose exploits aren't real. The reality of their stories is always much more mundane than the myth. IOW, the Times is implying that Buckhead didn't actually - "eureka!" - discover that the documents were forged - he probably knew it all along - get it?

The writer then confirms it by immediately inserting the meme of the story - ah hah! We knew it all along. This story was planted by those dirty Republicans. See it? They were "eager to undermine reports", which means they would be willing to do anything to discredit CBS - even plant forged documents! OK. This is beginning to make sense now. Let's read on.
Republican officials have denied any involvement among those debunking the CBS story.
Well of course they would! Plausible deniability and all that sort of thing. After all - these are the people who brought you Watergate!

On we press.
Reached by telephone today, MacDougald, 46, confirmed that he is Buckhead, but declined to answer questions about his political background or how he knew so much about the CBS documents so fast.
Just how did Buckhead figure this out? We'll get to that later, but first we have to thoroughly cover Mr. MacDonald's Republican connections, because it's important for the readers to understand the bias this man has so they can understand that he planted those documents or surely had something to do with it. After all - he's a frickin' freeper man - do you know who those people are? They're hard right man! Frickin' wingnuts, you know?! (Remind me to write a story about how insane and frothing-at-the-mouth-stupid those sly, cunning, devilish conservatives are.)

So the Times devotes several paragraphs to MacDonald's Republican bona fides to plant him firmly in the camp of the wingnuts. Having done that, we can return to the real story behind this nefarious Buckhead.
Last week, MacDougald once again plunged into a politically charged controversy -- but this time his participation was anonymous.
Ah hah! Now why would he "participate" anonymously? It must be the plausible deniability thing!
Operating as "Buckhead," which is also the name of an upscale Atlanta neighborhood, MacDougald wrote that the memos that CBS' "60 Minutes" presented on Sept. 8 as being written in the early 1970s by the late Lt. Col Jerry B. Killian were "in a proportionally spaced font, probably Palatino or Times New Roman."

"The use of proportionally spaced fonts did not come into common use for office memos until the introduction of laser printers, word processing software, and personal computers," MacDougald wrote on the freerepublic website. "They were not widespread until the mid to late 90's. Before then, you needed typesetting equipment, and that wasn't used for personal memos to file. Even the Wang systems that were dominant in the mid 80's used monospaced fonts.

"I am saying these documents are forgeries, run through a copier for 15 generations to make them look old. This should be pursued aggressively."
(The article began with this.)
It was the first public allegation that CBS News used forged memos in its report questioning President Bush's National Guard service -- a highly technical explanation posted within hours of airtime citing proportional spacing and font styles.

But it did not come from an expert in typography or typewriter history as some first thought. Instead, it was the work of Harry W. MacDougald, an Atlanta lawyer with strong ties to conservative Republican causes
Now how could the nefarious Mr. MacDougald possibly know all this stuff?

I suppose someone who has no idea what Ctrl-C does might find this "a highly technical explanation", but I suspect Gen-exers will yawn. Personally, I'm a geek, nerd or whatever other label you put on computer security professionals. I find this about as technical as Computing 101, but perhaps I'm not qualified to judge the unwashed.

Let's assume, for the moment, that Mr. MacDougald really didn't have a clue about all this technical mumbo jumbo. I'm willing to bet he's heard of Google. Armed with "hey, that looks like a computer generated document" and Google, Mr. MacDougald could have known within - oh say 10 minutes - all about proportional spacing and font styles.

If the Times had bothered to actually read the comments section of the posts that led to Mr. MacDougald's response (#47), they would have learned that, at post #11, the link to the CBS documents was posted by "Howlin", who wrote, "There are the documents; now you see if you think they say what the NYT says they say."

This began the research into the documents. It was posted at 8:17:50 PDT. At 8:21:29, just 10 minutes and 33 seconds after the NY Times article that started the whole thing was posted, "Rome2000" posted an indepth response addressing who Ben Barnes was. Note to old media. This is the power of the Internet in action. In 10 minutes, anything that's ever been printed about you can be posted on a forum where you will be discussed and dissected. Old media doesn't understand this, so they don't understand how CBS could begin to lose all its credibility in less than 24 hours. Hey, man, we've got Lexis-Nexis just like you, but Google rocks!

I digress. At 8:29:02 (post #27) Howlin got his first response, from "Texasforever", "Did you notice that NO ONE was CC'd on those memos?" By the time Buckhead posted (#47) at 8:59:43, a full 41 minutes and 53 seconds after Howlin posted the link, Buckhead had had plenty of time to research the memo, compare it other documents of the period (which are available on the web) and notice that it looked suspiciously like a computer-generated document. Note to old media - this is called research. New concept, I know, but you really ought to try it.

OK, now that we've identified the real malady of the old media, back to the article. The Times goes on to discuss CBS's defense of the memos in a surreal, alter-world discussion that ignores all the evidence of forgery. They even bring up Bill Glennon in defense of the documents. Note to Times - Google Bill Glennon. He's been thoroughly discredited. Note to self - stop putting yourself through the pain of reading old media.

Then there's this.
While bloggers and some conservative activists hailed Buckhead as a hero in their longtime efforts to paint the mainstream media as politically biased, some Democrats and even some conservative bloggers have marveled at Buckhead's detailed knowledge of the memos and wondered whether that suggested a White House conspiracy.
Heh, yeah, that's us bloggers all right. Toiling away, late at night, in our pajamas, searching for ways to "paint" the mainstream media as politically biased. It's not that they are, you see. It's just that we want you to think that they are.

After all, why in the world would you think the LA Times, which is still defending Rathergate even after big Dan himself has had to admit that maybe, just maybe, those documents weren't authentic (can't quite bring himself to say "forged", you know) was politically biased? Note to old media - you're way to easy to fisk. (Google fisk) We don't need to "paint" you as politically biased. All we have to do is fisk what you write - like this article, for instance.

Back to you, Patrick.