Sunday, November 13, 2005

The Real Truth About Memogate

The CBS "Memogate" controversy about Bush's National Guard service has been reopened with the publication of the Mary Mapes book Truth and Duty, excerpted in Vanity Fair. In her book, Mapes makes the case that the documents CBS News put forward as authentic may indeed BE authentic; that the case against them hasn't been proved. Were right-wing bloggers wrong? Where lies the truth?

No one has consulted the ultimate authority on proportionally-spaced typewriters, small-press publisher Fred Woodworth, to receive the definitive answer.

That answer is given by Fred on pages 32 through 36 of his Mystery & Adventure Series Review, issue #38. Fred is, in his own words, "the one person anywhere who still operates all of these devices every day"-- referring to Selectric Composers, IBM Executive Typewriters, Varitypers, Justowriters, and similar machines which "could have produced proportionally-spaced typing in a style like that of the documents. . . ."

Like Mary Mapes, Fred shreds many of the arguments of the bloggers and their experts.

One can't know by the appearance of the characters if the documents were faked. Repeated photocopying "altered the letter shapes enough to cast doubt even on what formal name might be assigned to the typeface."

"Nor is the 'th' in one of the lines a sure indicator of computer production," Woodworth continues. He explains how a small lifted "th" could've been produced on a period machine.

Fred mocks those "experts" who claimed absurdities such as that the documents were fake because Times New Roman typeface was invented for computer systems ("it looks much more like Garamond to me," Fred says). Times New Roman made its public debut in 1932!

"In the case of the disputed documents, only mathematics could prove the point one way or the other."

Woodworth explains the numbers, or values, for each character on the keyboards of the various proportionally-spacing machines which could potentially have typed the questionable memos. (With standard typewriters, the spacing is a single unit per character. Not so with these devices.) By adding up the "unit or increment values of all the characters in the memos he or she can easily determine their legitimacy. If unit values in a system don't result in characters staying in the same relationship to each other as in the memo shown, then that particular system can be excluded."

Woodworth has typed out, for our perusal, on various machines, lines from the previously shown memo. "Note how in each example, differing systems of character units result in differing relative line lengths-- and all are different from the CBS one."

The question WASN'T, as many bloggers thought, whether the documents could have been faked or reproduced by computer. It was whether they were created in 1972. The answer is an unqualified unequivocal NO, as Woodworth shows.

Think about this for a minute. At great expense, St. Martin's Press has just issued a book, Vanity Fair has excerpted it, the key argument at the heart of which is WRONG. Flatly wrong. Definitively wrong, as Woodworth easily demonstrates in his short but expert essay on the subject. If ever Mary Mapes, St. Martin's Press, and Vanity Fair should have gotten a story right, THIS WAS THAT MOMENT. Instead, they blew it.

Fred Woodworth's conclusion:
"The recent Bush-memo scandal convinces me that the apparatus for conveying truth to a wide public is broken if it ever worked at all. People get up and say whatever serves their agenda whether they actually know anything about their topic or are just making it up on the spot. Persons with no axe to grind and with real expert knowledge to impart are contemptuously ignored. . . ."

For #38 of the M & A Series Review send five dollars cash or stamps to Fred Woodworth, PO Box 3012, Tucson AZ 85702. The article inside is a must-read for anyone interested in the Memogate story.

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