web counter Media Lies: What a Pein!

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

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What a Pein!

The story of Corey Pein's article on Rathergate, published in the Columbia Journalism Review, has been fisked all over the blogosphere. Even though my blog is about media bias, I wasn't going to bother with it, because it has been extensively dealt with and because, in my view, it was such a puerile article it didn't even warrant a fisking.

For an excellent review of the flaws in Pein's "reasoning", you can't get much better than Hindrocket's post at Powerline. However, there's one point that seems to have been missed, so naturally I feel compelled to highlight it.

The most oft-repeated argument by the coterie of Rather supporters has been the "fake but accurate" meme - an insult to anyone with an IQ over 30. That argument is based solely on a statement made by Marian Knox, the former secretary of the man who supposedly authored the memos, Lt. Col. Killian.

Ms. Knox famously opined, "I did not type those, no, but the information in them is correct". Setting aside the fact that Marjorie Connell, Lt. Col. Killian's widow, has disputed the content of the memos claiming, "The wording in these documents is very suspect to me. ... I just can't believe these are his words.", Connell has also stated that "he did not type". Since Killian did not type, Knox would have had to have been the one who typed the memos, if they were genuine.

However, Knox has specifically labeled the documents forgeries.
"These are not real," she told The Dallas Morning News after examining copies of the disputed memos for the first time. "They're not what I typed, and I would have typed them for him.".....

.....But, she said, telltale signs of forgery abounded in the four memos, which contained the supposed writings of her ex-boss, Lt. Col. Jerry Killian, who died in 1984.

She said the typeface on the documents did not match either of the two typewriters that she used during her time at the Guard. She identified those machines as a mechanical Olympia, which was replaced by an IBM Selectric in the early 1970s.

She spoke fondly of the Olympia machine, which she said had a key with the "th" superscript character that was the focus of much debate in the CBS memos. Experts have said that the Selectric, and mechanical typewriters such as the Olympia, could not produce proportional spacing, found in the disputed documents.
If you support Knox's view that the documents are fake but accurate, then you don't get to selectively throw out her expert testimony that the documents are forgeries. This is known as Argument by Selective Observation (or "cherry picking" for you Columbia journalism grads.)

If Mr. Pein had any integrity at all, he would simply admit he's wrong. Apparently his pride won't allow him to concede the obvious.