This week docweasel takes a shot at the popular passtime of political blogging. Hell, everyone else with a domain or access to blognet is doing it and doc has more opinions than any of them. Next up: Dan Rather, dead in the water.
It is supremely ironic that one of the main players in the genre of "gotcha" or ambush journalism would be done in by his own excesses, excesses that mirror those of the many many victims of 60 Minutes crew ambushes over the years: establishment figures and big corporate honchos first set up as villians in the expository opening, then interviewed by Wallace and Rather to give them rope to hang themselves, then the big gotcha where they knocked them down. Especially satisfying was the epilogue segment, where Wallace or Rather would report how law enforcement were now investigating and the miscreants were looking at jail time.
Well now CBS and Rather are the big corporate honchos and they are the media establishment, and the there is a new gun-slinging sheriff in town and he's knocking on Rather's door. Wouldn't this entire fiasco make a great segment on the 60 Minutes of the '70's?
DAN RATHER: Well we have Richard Katz, a software designer found other indications in the documents. He noticed the lower case "L" is used in documents instead of the actual numeral one. That would be difficult to reproduce on the computer today.
RICHARD KATZ (Software Designer): If you were doing this a week ago or a month ago on a normal laser jet printer, it wouldn't work. The font wouldn't be available to you.
Cut to Wallace in the studio in full "tut-tut gotcha mode"
MIKE WALLACE: But our expert, Joseph Newcomer, who has written about Microsoft Windows font technology and taught courses in it and is qualified expert in computer typography had this to say.
JOSEPH NEWCOMER: There has been a lot of activity on the Internet recently concerning the forged CBS documents. I do not even dignify this statement with the traditional weasel-word ďallegedĒ, because it takes approximately 30 seconds for anyone who is knowledgeable in the history of electronic document production to recognize this whole collection is certainly a forgery, and approximately five minutes to prove to anyone technically competent that the documents are a forgery. I was able to replicate two of the documents within a few minutes. At time I a writing this, CBS is stonewalling. They were hoaxed, pure and simple. CBS failed to exercise anything even approximately like due diligence. I am not sure what sort of "expert" they called in to authenticate the document, but anything I say about his qualifications to judge digital typography is likely to be considered libelous (no matter how true they are) and I would not say them in print in a public forum.
Then the camera crew could chase Rather down the street from his limo to his office trying to get a statement while he held his briefcase over his face.
It used to be that if 60 Minutes got you, you stayed got. They put the hit on hundreds of individuals and corporations. Rarely were they rebutted, and to this day who knows now many innocent people's reps and lives were destroyed by this particularly insidious type of journalism. It was episodic. The structure reminds me of an action movie where they show the bad guy kicking a dog or hitting a woman or killing innocent people so we get this message "this guy is bad and deserves what happens to him" so that later, in the denouement we would cheer when he fell onto rotating helicopter blades after a high speed chase culminating in a fist fight with the hero at the top of a high-rise building. 60 Minutes would set up the victim, then interview them to get incriminating and contradictory statements they could later knock down, which they would then do, very smugly and with no rebuttal or defense from the victim.
One victim who didn't take this treatment lying down was the Pest Control Industry. My father was president of the pest control operator's association in Florida in the mid-80's and I remember well the uproar. There was no internet to trumpet their victory, but they played it up in their own industry magazines. 60 Minutes pulled their typical ploy: ambush interview, selectively edited then totally debunked by their own cherry-picked experts and facts. Well the PCO insisted they be allowed their own video crew to tape the interview at the same time as 60 Minutes. The industry is also not without experts and advocates. They completely tore apart 60 Minutes piece on the industry and made them look like fools. Of course, outside the industry noone saw this. The MSM of the day certainly didn't cover it. The only reason I knew is because my Dad was involved in the industry and insiders were rightfully outraged by 60 Minutes and their producers' unethical editing and fact-picking in the interest of pushing the story-line they wanted to push.
Which brings us to RatherGate. I sure would like to get Rather in front of his own camera's of the hard-hitting attack squad Don Hewitt put together in the '70's. Watch him squirm as expert after expert destroyed the credibility of the memos. Bring on the widow and son of the purported writer, James Killian. Bring on the Commanding officer, Hodges, who supposedly vouched for the memos a he denies ever seeing them and now that he has he thinks they are forgeries. Bring on interviews with all the guys who worked with Killian and complete disavow the memos as being totally unlike Killian's style of state of mind.
If only there were legal ramifications in Rather's malfeasance, so he could get the penalty he deserves for trying to defame a sitting president with false documents.
I am not one of those who bemoans the fact Rather is a professional newman who is brought down in disgrace to this latter-day partisan send up. I think he's always been sloppy and partisan, he just never had to face any checks and balances. He will go down as the first, but not the last, big media figure to be destroyed by viewers who are in revolt and finally have the weapons to fight back: a megaphone bigger than network broadcasts, and they can respond faster and in much more detail than Rather could ever hope to, even if he had a 12 hour newscast every day. They have access to a bigger pool of experts and lawyers and experienced critics in every field of expertise than CBS could ever hope to put together: the entire world.
Vive la revolucion. The Bloggalypse is upon us.