Friday, September 10, 2004

Truth? What truth?

What is wrong with these paragraphs?

Rather noted the critics' claim that typewriters in the Vietnam era could not produce a raised superscript, such as the letters "th," but maintained: "Some models did." As for contentions that the memos were written in a more modern font called Times New Roman, Rather said: "The company that distributes this typeface says it has been available since 1931."
Other experts have told The Washington Post that the spacing between letters is suspicious for documents of that era. But Rather cautioned that the memos become less clear as they are downloaded and photocopied by outsiders.

It's a fact that contemporary typewriters produced superscripts; Rather offered an example of such from unquestioned contemporary records. But does the Washington Post report this as fact? No. "Rather noted" this.

It's a fact that Times New Roman has been available since 1931. But does the Washington Report this as fact? No. "Rather said" this.

It's a fact that reducing the resolution of an image eliminates an enormous amount of information from the image. But does the Washington Post report this as fact? No. "Rather cautioned" this.

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. But everyone is not entitled to their own facts.

Fact is, earlier today, the news played fast and loose with the facts: they reported every "fact" that Rather refuted - persuasively - this evening. Now, rather than admit their error, they suggest that their error is merely a difference of opinion.

It's not. They're simply wrong.

From the Boston Globe:

Philip D. Bouffard, a forensic document examiner in Ohio who has analyzed typewritten samples for 30 years, had expressed suspicions about the documents in an interview with the New York Times published Thursday, one in a wave of similar media reports. But Bouffard told the Globe yesterday that after further study, he now believes the documents could have been prepared on an IBM Selectric Composer typewriter available at the time.
Analysts who have examined the documents focus on several facets of their typography, among them the use of a curved apostrophe, a raised, or superscript, ''th," and the proportional spacing between the characters -- spacing which varies with the width of the letters. In older typewriters, each letter was alloted the same space.
Those who doubt the documents say those typographical elements would not have been commonly available at the time of Bush's service. But such characters were common features on electric typewriters of that era, the Globe determined through interviews with specialists and examination of documents from the period. In fact, one such raised ''th," used to describe a Guard unit, the 187th, appears in a document in Bush's official record that the White House made public earlier this year. . . .
Bouffard, the Ohio document specialist, said that he had dismissed the Bush documents in an interview with The New York Times because the letters and formatting of the Bush memos did not match any of the 4,000 samples in his database. But Bouffard yesterday said that he had not considered one of the machines whose type is not logged in his database: the IBM Selectric Composer. Once he compared the Bush memos to Selectric Composer samples obtained from Interpol, the international police agency, Bouffard said his view shifted.
In the Times interview, Bouffard had also questioned whether the military would have used the Composer, a large machine. But Bouffard yesterday provided a document indicating that as early as April 1969 -- three years before the dates of the CBS memos -- the Air Force had completed service testing for the Composer, possibly in preparation for purchasing the typewriters.
As for the raised ''th" that appears in the Bush memos -- to refer, for example, to units such as the 111th Fighter Interceptor Squadron -- Bouffard said that custom characters on the Composer's metal typehead ball were available in the 1970s, and that the military could have ordered such custom balls from IBM.
''You can't just say that this is definitively the mark of a computer," Bouffard said.

Unless you're a righty - then, you can definitively say whatever you like.