« Clincal Excellence | Main | Maybe I'm missing something »

There's None So Blind As Those Who Will Not See

Brian Leiter links to an analysis by the the New York Review of Books, which is one of those great holdouts in the "were the Dan Rather Memos faked" story. It just thrills my heart to see how some can keep to this lost cause. Leiter quotes the following:

CBS did rush to make inadequately verified allegations public and it was slow in responding to criticism. The report's conclusions on the other points are not, however, persuasive. Surprisingly, the panel was unable to conclude whether the documents are forgeries or not. If the documents are not forgeries, what is the reason for the report? The answer is: to criticize the newsgathering practices of CBS, whether the documents are authentic or not. As such, the report is less than fully credible.

Well, no disagreement there: the report was a whitewash. Nevertheless, the NYRB evaluation is an exercise in cherry-picking which experts to believe, and muddying otherwise clear waters. After all, both experts the NYRB counts upon commented on the signatures, which weren't really the interesting issue.

It's amusing to see a law professor quoting this favorably. Last I knew, if one puts forward a piece of evidence--either as a lawyer or a journalist--it's actually one's responsibility to authenticate it. If the opposition questions the typography in the document, it's not enough to say, "It fits with the rest of our case." You actually have to explain away the fact that the documents shouldn't be able to be created in 1973. The problem with the Rather memos is that they were such bad forgeries as to be immediately recognizable as such.

Now, Leiter's contention is that the blogosphere "missed the story." But what does that mean? Is the story that "Bush is liar," presumably because anything else is uninteresting. But for a law professor, this presents some interesting conundrums. After all, a prosecutor who--honestly believing the defendant to be guilty--recklessly submits forged documents into evidence isn't going to be able to use, "But he was guilty, your honor" in an eventual ethics hearing. Law professors themselves look unkindly on document forgery, at least where it involves their students. I'd suspect that a prosecutor submitting forged documents--even if it were in an open-and-shut case--would be a story. So is it only not a story if the "bigger picture" is that it hurts G. W. Bush?

To me, the story is: how did supposedly impartial news organization broadcast as genuine a set of documents that can't be reproduced by any machine actually available on the market at the time they were supposedly created? Why did they look to the naked eye to be the output of Microsoft Word? That's either recklessness or evidence of significant anacronism. Maybe Leiter thinks that a time-travelling PC isn't a big story. Me, I think it's worthy of a Nebula.

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://threeyearsofhell.com/cgi-bin/mt5_bis/mt-tb.cgi/1136

Post a comment

NOTICE TO SPAMMERS, COMMENT ROBOTS, TRACKBACK SPAMMERS AND OTHER NON-HUMAN VISITORS: No comment or trackback left via a robot is ever welcome at Three Years of Hell. Your interference imposes significant costs upon me and my legitimate users. The owner, user or affiliate who advertises using non-human visitors and leaves a comment or trackback on this site therefore agrees to the following: (a) they will pay fifty cents (US$0.50) to Anthony Rickey (hereinafter, the "Host") for every spam trackback or comment processed through any blogs hosted on threeyearsofhell.com, morgrave.com or housevirgo.com, irrespective of whether that comment or trackback is actually posted on the publicly-accessible site, such fees to cover Host's costs of hosting and bandwidth, time in tending to your comment or trackback and costs of enforcement; (b) if such comment or trackback is published on the publicly-accessible site, an additional fee of one dollar (US$1.00) per day per URL included in the comment or trackback for every day the comment or trackback remains publicly available, such fee to represent the value of publicity and search-engine placement advantages.

Giving The Devil His Due

And like that... he is gone (8)
Bateleur wrote: I tip my hat to you - not only for ... [more]

Law Firm Technology (5)
Len Cleavelin wrote: I find it extremely difficult to be... [more]

Post Exam Rant (9)
Tony the Pony wrote: Humbug. Allowing computers already... [more]

Symbols, Shame, and A Number of Reasons that Billy Idol is Wrong (11)
Adam wrote: Well, here's a spin on the theory o... [more]

I've Always Wanted to Say This: What Do You Want? (14)
gcr wrote: a nice cozy victorian in west phill... [more]

Choose Stylesheet

What I'm Reading

cover
D.C. Noir

My city. But darker.
cover
A Clockwork Orange

About time I read this...


Shopping

Projects I've Been Involved With

A Round-the-World Travel Blog: Devil May Care (A new round-the-world travel blog, co-written with my wife)
Parents for Inclusive Education (From my Clinic)

Syndicated from other sites

The Columbia Continuum
Other Blogs by CLS students