And yes I admit it. I wrote this post just to use that headline.
If anything has defined the demarcation of old media and new media it has been the recent smack down on supposed memorandums on Bush’s guard duty. I have been following the story closely via the much visited Power Line and the Hugh Hewitt show. The Belmont Club nails the analysis when they say:
The echoes of the big Internet bang which annihilated a 60 Minutes story in under 12 hours are still resounding. The key riffs apparently started at the FreeRepublic and Powerline and as Samizdata notes, the distributed intelligence of the Internet took over. Under the scrutiny of thousands of analysts, the CBS story began to melt down. The idea that the intellectual resources of a major news agency are always superior to the blogosphere is given by lie by citing these two separate lines of analysis which, though proceeding from different starting points, both led to the conclusion that the documents which Dan Rather relied on to question the Bush National Guard record were faked.
…Blogs, including this one, are often wrong. But there is no reason why bloggers should ipso facto be dismissed as amateur analysts when compared to the Mainstream Media (MSM). The traditional news model is collapsing. It suffers from two defects. The "news object" can no longer be given sealed attributes in newspaper backrooms. The days when the press was the news object foundry are dying. Second, the news industry is suffering from its lack of analytic cells, which are standard equipment in intelligence shops. Editors do some analysis but their focus is diluted by their attention to style and the craft of writing. The blogosphere and other actors, now connected over the Internet, are filling in for the missing analytic function. And although the news networks still generate, via their reporters, the bulk of primary news, they generate a pitiful amount of competent analysis. Put another way, the classic media outlet generates data and entertainment but they don’t generate much information. Because of this, the MSM will stumble into these pitfalls time and again. The Andrew Gilligan and Jayson Blair fiascos were indicators that something was really wrong, but no one was listening then. Maybe there is no point to listening now.
Ten years ago a story like this one would have only been taken up by conservative conspiracy theorists. No document would have been available for close scrutiny and while campaign dirty tricks might have been suspected there would have been little proof to back up the claims.
Besides all of the word processing inconsistencies that have been thoroughly gone though I though the analysis of military documents by Donald Sensing. My own experience with writing and reading military letters and memos back up his analysis, especially in how the ranks are abbreviated. All I can say is that the next time whoever did this want to forge a military memo that they should be familiar with military conventions and do it on a typewriter available for that time period. JustOneMinute covers Dan Rather’s weak attempts at justifying the authenticity of these documents. I guess Dan has volunteered to go down with the ship on this one. I think CBS has a major black eye over this whole debacle with both this story and their problematic reporting on Ben Barnes accusations.
You know they will not release the original document to outside specialists. I am sure they would find that the paper does not have the microscopic imprints of impacts from a typewriter and that the ink turns out to be copier ink after being run through multiple times to age the look of it. (Update: No surprise here, CBS says it does not have originals) This has been a banner week for old media with the AP’s false Boo reporting at a Bush rally to the free political advertisement otherwise known as 60 Minutes.
All this talk of memos reminds me of a Quality Assurance officer I worked under for about a year. This officer’s primary form of communication was via memos. In the office he worked in he sat back to back with the QA chief. He would not turn his chair around to speak to the chief but would issue him a memo instead. The voluminous memo’s invariably had a happy face drawn next to his signature. It was no surprise that we called him the "Memo Monster." When he was due to transfer, the officer’s held a roast for him. I ended up writing a rap song that was recorded with a sound track produced on my trusty Commodore 64. Myself and two others alternately sang the verses. The replacing QA officer later told me that the Memo Monster turned beet red when they played this song in the officer’s mess.
So obviously the jester in me is not a new development. Another of my favorite stories also involves this same officer while he was the Assistant Maintenance Officer. At sea we would run what were called Oscar drills during General Quarters. A corpsman would enter a compartment and toss in a dummy known as Oscar and then tell the crew in that compartment to perform a medical procedure on it – such as the infamous sucking chest wound. We got a heads up that our compartment was where this was to happen next. We locked our door and put a sign on it stating that all crew were at GQ stations. We heard someone trying to open our door, then knock and finally gave up. They tossed Oscar in the compartment next to us where, you guessed it, the Memo Monster was. The Maintenance Officer later regaled us with the story of how the Memo Monster failed miserably to properly bandage a sucking chest wound.
Sorry about referencing stories from my military career. You see I am planning on running as President in 2008 and I have nothing else to run on.
Update: This web site is offering at least $10,500 to anyone who can reasonably reproduce the CBS memo’s on equipment available in 1972. If someone can’t show that the National Guard had an in office printing press with a professional typesetter than this reward is something that will safely stay in the offerer’s pockets.
Now even if someone could come up with some high-end typewriter that might accomplish this feat they still know nothing about the National Guard or the Reserves in general. These organizations are famous for receiving hand-me-downs from active duty service. President Bush was not flying state-of-the-art aircrafts but the equivalent of a military hand-me-down. Funding for the Guard and Reserves always comes after active duty forces are funded. Even among the active duty military; deployed squadrons will receive operating funds while other squadrons might lose their operating funds. There is just no way that a requisition from the guard for a high-end typewriter, even for a Lieutenant Colonel, would be approved. This was also a year before Intel produced it’s first miniprocessor and years before Wang offered stand-alone word processors.