The Politburo Diktat posted this gem on their site the other day:
To be completely honest, this scandal is interesting to me, less for reasons of presidential credibility, and more for reasons of Old Media credibility. Everyone around here (and by here I mean the blogging world) seems enthralled with the political implications of what this means, and truth be told, it has varied to mild political implications. I will not so much go into the political implications, but I will talk about what it means (or at least what it should mean) about media in general, and us in speficity.
According to a now defunct site called the spectator, an unnamed producer of a rival CBS show to 60 Minutes, there is growing concern inside the building on 57th Street that they may have been suckered by the KERRY campaign. “There is a school of thought here that the Kerry people dumped this in our laps, figuring we’d do the heavy lifting on the story. That maybe they had doubts about these documents but hoped we’d get more information,” says the producer. “If that’s the case, then we’re bigger fools than we already appear to be judging by all the chatter about how these documents could be forgeries.”
The liberal agenda of CBS has been their downfall. “This was too hot not to push. If there were doubts, those people didn’t show it,” according to that same producer.
This is the time for us as New Media Journalists to step up to the plate. If Indymedia wants a reputation other than a safe haven for Anarchists and Close-Minded Liberals, then they’ll turn their investigative eye on these memos, and do the work that they say they do — cover the stories that the Mainstream Media ignore.
I’m actually taking a very balanced and fair look at this, and I’ve got double the reason most of you do to be biased about this… I lean conservatively, and I would like nothing better than to take down a giant like CBS (and MSNBC by extension, for supporting their position).
But instead of just finding the facts I want to support my position, I’m actually performing serious investigative journalism.
My first call was to someone I’ve been a longtime fan of, Chank Diesel. Chank was one of the first people on the net (some time back in 1996) to sell fonts, and he’s been doing it independant of the ‘net much longer than that. He’s been profiled in The Wall Street Journal and he was featured in the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum as “a notable example of contemporary typography” in 1996.
You’ve probably noticed a lot of his fonts in some of my designs and artwork if you’ve followed my stuff at all for any length of time.
At any rate, I recieved an email back from Heidi Andermack, an associate of his at Team Chank saying that he was flattered that I’d ask him, but a fella by the name of Mark Simonson would very likely be able to help me more ably than Chank, as Mark “.. has a great wealth of knowledge about type history.”
My initial conversations with Mark led me to a number of very informative and fairly non-partisan discussion threads (if only our political debates were half as civil).
Amongst the links that I found most helpful were the following:
Many of my comments will be direct extrapolations from what I found there, but it’s very important to note that these are the internet centerpoints for the typography sub-culture, as it were. This is the strongpoint of the alleged “New Media” — that people of like mind (in this case, experts of typography) can congregate and wax geeky on the topics of their expertise. The bonus for us in the rest of the world is that what they say is a matter of public record, and that it’s fully interactive.
The Documents Themselves Somewhere during the midst of my conversations with Heidi and Mark, and just before my delve into chat boards, I found copies of the memos themselves. It’s important to familiarize yourself with them, so I urge you to download them here from this site before you go on.
It doesn’t take a whole lot of effort to find suspect information to nitpick in these documents. The first issue is the PO Box in the letterhead: 34567. To paraphrase Mel Brooks in Spaceballs: The Movie “(1,2)3,4,5,6,7…that’s the kind of number an idiot would use on his luggage.”
PO Box 34567 is, oddly enough, the right PO Box. Other documents provided by the Pentagon use the same PO Box, I am told (although I’ve yet to recieve my copy of Bush’s military record via FOIA request). I called the Post Office for Zip Code 77034 and inquired about their PO Box Numbers. It turns out that they really do have a Box 34567.
But what do the experts say? As I was taping my Friday show (“I’m Right”, from 6-8 EST on http://www.rantradio.com/), Mark Simonson tipped me off to a fellow named Thomas Phinney, a Seattle employee of Adobe (the PDF people). Thomas is inarguably an expert on typography, and a thorough researcher of this case (I hope to have him on the show Sunday). He was quoted in the Monday Washington Post article on the subject.
His immediate reaction was that the documents look like “blatant forgeries,” although he adds that “this has not yet been proven absolutely.”
He further summarises his analysis: “The incredibly bad reproduction of the memos makes it hard to state many things definitively.” This is something I heard again and again from a great many different experts. He continues: “The memos precisely match current digital versions of Times (and previous phototype and hot metal typesetting versions), but they do not match the IBM Composer fonts, or do they match any version of the IBM Executive.
He details his findings on each. Speaking to the Composer’s abilities, he says: “IBM Composer proportional fonts all had the same relative character widths, regardless of font design. Thus there is in essence only one “fingerprint” for the Composer fonts. Times matches the memo fingerprint, but not the Composer fingerprint. Contrariwise, I made a digital version of a Composer font (since I have the widths info). This allowed me to do “virtual Composer” simulations and prove in the reverse direction, that the relative line lengths set with the virtual Composer are quite different. (Note: My Composer simulation font was accurate to the nearest 1/1000 of the point size for each letter.)”
Likewise, his findings on the IBM Executive: “[it] did not offer switchable fonts, so you literally had to buy a different typewriter to get a different proportional font. None of them is particularly close to Times.”
It was good to see someone articulately describe the line length argument. Clearly, the letterforms themselves are destroyed, but transparent is the cumulative effect of the metrics. Even the slightest differences in character widths when multiplied by hundreds of characters will affect copy flow. I can personally attest to this. I used to like to use a font named Boston Bold back in my school days… my papers went from 5 to 11 pages –and for the most part, your teachers will still think any serif font is Times New Roman (along with most of the members of the press).
I was particularly glad to see that Thomas Phinney’s opinion supported another article’s conclusion that has grown to shape my opinion greatly during this great discourse. The place the media hasn’t paid much attention to for some reason, the place where I think the most interesting discourse and opinion is going on, and the place where I’m now going to include on my list of RSS feeds, Shape of Days, run by Jeff Harrell, self-proclaimed “Freelance Opinion Writer.”
Two Suspicious Elements There are a large number of suspicious elements that indicate that the document is fake. I’ve mentioned a couple, but technically speaking, there are two that stick out like none other. Jeff Harrell picked up on these elements immediately, and in working with Gerry Kaplan of the IBM Composer Pavillion, produced some very well researched conclusions. These two elements I speak of are a) the superscript issue on the “04 May 1972” memo, and b) the relative position of text on all the memos.
Gerry Kaplan is a software engineer specializing in IBM’s line of Web-based software technologies. He is a graduate of the Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida with a degree in Computer Science. He had his first experience with the IBM Composer in High School, when he had an opportunity to use one to type his Science Research projects. The complexity of the machine, as well as the beautiful copy it produced left an impression, and years later, he decided to save the IBM Composer from the junk yards and start a small IBM Composer online museum. In addition to the mint condition machines, his collection also includes virtually all English fonts produced for the Composer, as well as just about every document IBM published relating to it.
Let’s address the latter suspicious element first. Why is it important that the relative position of the text be addressed, and not the edge of the paper. Again, according to Thomas Phinney, “The incredibly bad reproduction of the memos makes it hard to state many things definitively. But one thing that is not degraded by the reproduction is the simple question of relative line lengths.” It’s pretty cut and dried.
As to the former issue, that of the superscript, that issue comes out in the wash of the article written by Jeff’s arcticle “The IBM Selectric Composer.” He asked Gerry Kaplan to type up some samples on his own personal IBM Selectric Composers.
(click to enlarge)
It is shown here as copied from his site. Gerry’s sample is in red, and the original is in black. As Jeff says, “pretty darned close to the original. But not close enough…Not surprising, since they’re both based on the original Times New Roman font commissioned by the Times of London in 1931. But as we’ve seen already, different versions of the same font always exhibit subtle differences, usually in letterspacing. This case is no different.”
That speaks both to the superscript and the spacing issues, but what is amazing is that the Selectric actually produced the superscript. Intrigued by this, Jeff asked Gerry how it was produced.
Gerry said: “To make the superscripted th, I first typed “111”, then switched the font to the 8pt font, switched the escapement lever to the smaller escapement (horizontal movement), reverse indexed the paper 1/2 line up, typed the “th”, indexed 1/2 line down, switched the escapement lever to the wider escapement, then changed the type ball back to the 11pt font. On other tries, I was able to produce the superscripted th much cleaner (where it looked proper), but on the one I sent you, the carrier slipped forward a little bit when I switched the escapement lever to and from the smaller spacing.”
This means that Gerry actually had to replace the ball on the typewriter (the ball being the object that actually imprints the type on the page).
At this point you may be asking yourself, why are we narrowed down to this one typewriter? Forensic typography expert Dr. Philip Brouffard has basically ruled out all typewriters that were available in 1972/73. The only reasonable piece of equipment on which the CBS memos could have been produced is the IBM Selectric Composer, a cold-type desktop typesetter which was available at that time.
Then there comes the issue of price of this fine machine. To talk about this, we must suppose that Gerry Kaplan’s experiments were somehow flawed, and can be thrown out. The IBM Selectric was the bargain system that could do this sort of thing.
It should be noted that the reference inflation calculator has 2003 as the most recent end year for calculating. You can’t really produce a 2004 calculation because the numbers for this year aren’t final yet. Based on Gerry’s suggested price for the unit, an an in-between price of $4000 and a purchase date of 1971 to give a reasonable period for a base clerk to master the beast is used to estimate the “today cost” of the machine.
Calculated out, this comes out to $18,112.09 in 2003 dollars. When compared to Compugraphic and Varitype systems this was a relative bargain but still a major investment.
All of this doesn’t even begin to address other problems in and about the documents: 1. The date format is wrong (e.g., 18 AUG 1973, not 18 August 1973). In this file, there is one date written out fully (January). 2. The subject is missing an SSCI code–Standard Subject Classification Indicator code 2. General Staudt resigned a full eighteen months before he is mentioned pressuring Hodges, according to the Dallas Morning News. 3. The copy lacks the line that should appear, as old government paper was 10.5″ wide. 4. There are absolutely no typos or correction smears on any of the documents. 5. Kerning–physically impossible on equipment of that era. 6. The fact that Lt. Colonel Killian was legally obgligated by military law to destroy any personal notes about a soldier once that soldier left his command… 7. Why was Bush being ordered to perform the physical two months before (in May) when he was supposed to (July)? 8. Where these documents came from. A CYA memo would go into Killian’s personal (not official) file, and not in any sort of official file–it was for Killian’s benefit, not the benefit of the ANG.
I think this has been quite an exercise in showing the obvious strengths of New Media, as they call us. I mentioned this to Thomas Phinney, to which he replied: “This is an interesting example of blogosphere puzzle solving. It reminds me a bit of the AI online game, where the creators rapidly found that what they thought would be a week or two worth of puzzles in each batch would be solved in a day or two, or even in a matter of hours as more minds joined the “collective detective.”
It couldn’t have been better stated.
Darrell and I are going to go over some of the real world reasons why these documents are fake this weekend on the Mark and Darrell show, and of course inject our good ol’ conspiracy theories into the mix. We also plan on having a great variety of guests, a lot of which have very unique perspectives on all of this. Please tune in from 8-Midnight this Sunday … you will not be dissappointed.
Music on the Turntables Currently: Rizzn Do’Urden – Riz Mix 4 – Tears in the Rain