Revisiting Rathergate…Posted: June 4, 2012
Diary of Daedalus Guest post by: Anonymous!
This author wishes to remain anonymous ~ and credits the Boiler Room Crew #’s 1-7…
(I wish to thank profusely the members of the Boiler Room Crew at Diary of Daedalus, whose assistance in providing links and information was invaluable.)
During Labor Day Weekend 2004, CBS hyped a story for its Wednesday edition of 60 Minutes, promising revealing truths about George Bush’s Vietnam-era service in the Texas Air National Guard (“TANG”). CBS’s underlying motivation was to contrast Bush, who never shipped overseas, with Democrat nominee John Kerry, who (lest anyone ever forget) “served in Vietnam.” Of course, we were endlessly reminded of Kerry’s winning of three Purple Hearts in rapid succession, while the media memory-holed his subsequent perjury before Congress on war crimes and his subsequent traitorous collaboration with the enemy in Paris. 1972’s Jane Fonda sycophant was now 2004’s war hero on a scale Audie Murphy would envy.
Of course, Kerry came under fire from others who had served with him, the “Swiftboat Veterans for Truth.” CBS, who gave no credence to the Swiftboat Veterans and certainly no forum, was on a mission to “lay bare” the “bogus” service of George Bush in TANG during this period – playing to the image of the spoiled, rich politically connected “dodger.” It would appear that they now had something that would “blow the roof off” the story and Dan Rather would be their messenger.
I didn’t set my DVR to record the 60 Minutes broadcast, believing I’d be home by the time it aired. However, my job involves lawyers and they are unbound by the constraints of the “working day.” It is also the nature of working for lawyers that any overtime is comprised of “hurry up and wait” – hence, you find yourself with lots of time to surf the web. Free Republic had earlier announced a live thread for the broadcast. That live thread can be viewed in its entirety here:
http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1210516/posts?page=107#107 – In all over 450 comments. But what grabbed my attention early was several posters who appeared to be questioning the documents, including one “TankerKC” at comment 107, at 8:19 p.m. EDT, who posts the following to “Howlin.”
WE NEED TO SEE THOSE MEMOS AGAIN!
They are not in the style that we used when I came in to the USAF. They looked like the style and format we started using about 12 years ago (1992). Our signature blocks were left justified, now they are right of center…like the ones they just showed.
Can we get a copy of those memos?
Members of Free Republic, “Freepers,” in later time zones were asked to record the show and pay attention to the memos, to attempt to get another look at them. Watching this story unfold in real time as it aired through the time zones, the skepticism continued. Fortunately for posterity and unfortunately for CBS, after the program aired on the West Coast, the network posted the memos to their website. That “good look” everyone wanted was now available.
A second thread relating to a New York Times companion article went up on Free Republic at 11:10. And that, as they say, is when the fecal material collided with the rotary cooling device.
Because at 11:59 p.m., EDT, an unassuming lawyer from Atlanta, Georgia, going by the handle Buckhead, fired what one pundit has accurately described as “The Shot Heard Round the Internet”:
Howlin, every single one of these memos to file is in a proportionally spaced font, probably Palatino or Times New Roman.
In 1972 people used typewriters for this sort of thing, and typewriters used monospaced fonts.
The use of proportionally spaced fonts did not come into common use for office memos until the introduction of laser printers, word processing software, and personal computers. They were not widespread until the mid to late 90’s. Before then, you needed typesetting equipment, and that wasn’t used for personal memos to file. Even the Wang systems that were dominant in the mid 80’s used monospaced fonts.
I am saying these documents are forgeries, run through a copier for 15 generations to make them look old.
This should be pursued aggressively. (Emphasis added.)
You can read the entire thread here:
The significance of Buckhead’s post is that he’s the first one to use the word everyone else seemed to be delicately dancing around – he states without equivocation that the documents are forgeries.
By the next morning, news of the suspected documents hummed along the wires – Powerline had the story; Fox News had the story; Drudge had the story – all crediting Free Republic, and most notably Buckhead, for blowing the lid off the Dan Rather’s “explosive expose.” There is chatter at Little Green Footballs (LGF) in various unrelated blogposts from about 6:15 a.m. onward, and Charles weighs in with a blogpost put up at 8:32::
Bush Guard Documents: Forged
Thu Sep 9, 2004 at 8:32 am PDT • Views: 2,070
Here’s today’s Boston Globe story on President Bush’s Air National Guard service, focusing on memos purportedly from the personal records of the late Lieutenant Colonel Jerry B. Killian: Bid cited to boost Bush in Guard.
I write “purportedly” because, as Power Line points out this morning, the documents (which can be found in PDF form at CBS News) are highly questionable.
Johnson then cites Buckhead’s post #47 verbatim – without any attribution whatsoever except to say it came from “Free Republic.” And while he provided a link, there is no valid reason not to credit Buckhead by name, as the rest of the right/conservative blogosphere was doing.
At 9:01:38, someone using the handle “CeeJ” posts for the first time at LGF, revealing the following:
At approximately 10:30, Charles Johnson posts what has come to be called the “Smoking Memo.” According to Johnson, by using the default settings in Microsoft Word, he typed one of the questionable TANG documents and superimposed that word document onto the pdf of the CBS document, and Voila! Johnson has offered definitive proof that the memos indeed probably were typed on a PC using modern-day word processing programming.
But, hold on a second. Let’s back up. Poster “CeeJ” has already done this an hour earlier, as indicated by the screenshot of his post, above. He doesn’t merely suggest that someone open the default settings and type up the memos. His post indicates that he’s already done that – and advises that the results are identical to the documents proffered by CBS.
Johnson will update his “Smoking Memo” thread a scant 30 minutes later to advise that another blogger, Jeremy Chrysler at “Pacetown,” has performed the same operation on a different memo, published on his blog at 11:31 a.m. Pacetown will later update that thread to thank the readers of LGF for stopping by, even going so far to point out that they caught some small errors in his overlay, which he apparently fixed.
But here’s the thing. Pacetown’s blog post was up at 11:31 CDT – his website was based in Kansas City, not California, as LGF, which as indicated above, uses the PDT timestamp. So Pacetown had already posted an overlay of the memos an hour before Johnson’s Eureka! thread. Even more intriguing is Johnson’s crediting of Chysler’s work later in his original post. Pacetown is an obscure blog – there’s no real reason why Johnson would even take note of it (indeed, the BRC at Diary of Daedalus needed to use the “wayback machine” to locate it as it appears to have been taken down). It is not outside the realm of possibility that someone contacted Johnson and advised him that he was not the first to create the “Exhibit A” to forgery; hence a quick update giving credit?
But looking at the archived Pacetown website, something even more interesting emerges later in the day. At approximately 9:32 p.m. that same night (September 9), Pacetown will have a thread featuring something that will soon become very, very familiar to those following the TANG Memo scandal. You can view it here:
That’s right folks. A .gif animation, a throbbing memo. In fact by all appearances the same throbbing memo seen countless times and what would solidify Johnson’s role in the Rathergate scandal. At this point I know what you’re thinking – you shrug your shoulders and say “so what – he probably got it from LGF.”
Except that although Johnson will reference and post an an animated .gif in a post on the evening of September 10, 2012, he will not publish the singular “throbbing memo” thread at LGF until Saturday, September 11, at 9:30 a.m. You can view that page here:
To be fair (a word that has over the last three years vanished completely from his lexicon), Johnson’s phrasing in both threads does not say categorically that he created the animated .gif – it most certainly implies it. In the post on September 10th, he writes “and compare that to my MS Word document overlaid on the CBS news ‘original,’ in an animated GIF alternating between the two.” He uses the words “here’a an animated GIF” in the blogpost on September 11th. Which is interesting in retrospect – because other threads dealing with Johnson’s manipulation of the memos contain enough usage of first-person pronouns to make an Obama State of the Union speech green with envy.
Let me state this without equivocation: I am not saying that Charles Johnson stole the animated .gif. I am not even stating that Charles Johnson even saw the animated .gif. I can prove neither. And the wizards at the BRC have compared the two. It is not the same document at both sites – there are variances in size and coding details that indicate they are unique – so it would appear that Johnson has duplicated the work of an individual credited at Pacetown as “Shaun.” Of course, Johnson can always claim that he came up with the idea on his own, but somehow that stretches the limits of credulity. He certainly knows of the Pacetown website – he’s linked to it – and he knows it is featuring an of the properties of the memo forgeries as well. It is not outside the realm of viable speculation that Johnson kept an eye on Pacetown, saw the “throbbing memo,” waited a day to see if it was picked up and when it went unremarked upon, decided to recreate it then threw it out there on LGF. I’m sure he’ll deny it. But the fact remains that Johnson publishes his “bombshell” antimated .gif a day after someone else. The difference was that LGF was a well-known website at that time; Pacetown wasn’t.
In any event – what is important to note is that Johnson was not the first one with a blog to either post a “typeover” of the memos in Word or to publish the famous “throbbing memo.” In both instances, Pacetown had it first..
All of this is significant when you consider that subsequent to the initial dissemination of the forgery speculation on the morning of September 9, 2004, Johnson would encourage the myth that he was one of the crucial individuals that “broke” the Rather story. He has inflated his role to that of Powerline and Fox – all of whom reported the story before he did. He has been known to say “I and others” in interviews about Rathergate and delighted in Rather’s downfall, sniped about Mapes’ book deal and snarked about the Rather lawsuit against CBS, right down to the day it was dismissed. His subsequent fame as the result of Memogate led to his participation in the founding of Pajamas Media. His blog, which had since 9/11 enjoyed a healthy following, morphed into an award-winning website, one of the most widely read every day and cited on right-wing talk radio, Fox, WND, CNS, et al., much the same way Newsbusters and Weasel Zippers are now.
That Johnson catapaulted himself into the role should have come as no surprise. All you need do is look back at the blogpost he put up the initial day of the scandal – September 9, at 9:10 p.m.:
The 12-Hour Scandal
According to Drudge, CBS News has launched an internal investigation into whether 60 Minutes aired forged documents relating to Bush’s National Guard service.
Our first post about this, shortly after Power Line’s post, was at 8:30 am Pacific. By 8:30 pm Pacific, an investigation is underway at CBS.
To Johnson’s mind, it was LGF and Powerline (apparently in that order) that not only broke the story, but became the driving force behind the CBS investigation. Odd, then, that Powerline, Fox and Drudge all gave credit to Free Republic. But not Johnson.
Afterward, Johnson would on occasion whine about those that didn’t acknowledge his crucial role in Rathergate. Witness the following:
DC PR Firm Claims Credit for Rathergate
Here’s a story at PRWeek claiming that a DC right-wing PR firm was instrumental in “driving” the CBS Killian memo story, and that they were “in touch with bloggers:” Two DC firms ramp up efforts over latest presidential controversies. (Hat tip: Mike.)
WASHINGTON: Two DC PR agencies eagerly fanned the flames of election-year scandal last week – one for the left and one for the right.
Creative Response Concepts (CRC), the VA-based agency promoting the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, used right-wing blogs and news sites to turn a CBS report casting doubt on President George W. Bush’s National Guard service into a potential black eye for both the network and the Democrats.
A CRC client, the Cybercast News Service (CNS), was among the first to voice suspicion that documents suggesting Bush had received preferential treatment in the Guard were forgeries.
“After the CBS story aired, [CNS] called typographical experts, got them on the record that these papers were fishy, and posted a story by 3pm Thursday,” said CRC SVP Keith Appell. “We were immediately in contact with [Matt] Drudge, who loved the story.”
CRC worked with CNS and the Media Research Center, another media watchdog client, to push the story into the mainstream press.
“We’ve been communicating with bloggers and news websites to make sure they know it isn’t just Rush Limbaugh and Matt Drudge who are raising questions,” added CRC president Greg Mueller.
Please note: no one from this public relations firm ever contacted me; I have never even read the Cybercast News Service article to which they refer. Spelling it out explicitly: LGF has never been in contact with Creative Response Concepts, in any way, at any time. I’m not very pleased that they would try to send such a message, while claiming credit for breaking the story.
Really? Maybe the bloggers they contacted were Powerline, Drudge and Free Republic. You know the ones that in fact broke the story and made it a national headline. You arrived at the party 12 hours after Buckhead left it, was back at work and having his late-morning Starbucks, pal. It is height of narcissism to discount a story simply because you were not one of the sources.
It would be a delicious case of karma almost 6 years later, when LGF minion Kilgore Trout would post a story about Reuters cropping photographs regarding the Israeli flotilla raid, which would be credited by Commentary and Weekly Standard, among others, to LGF. When AllahPundit at Hot Air linked the story instead to “Yid with Lid,” Johnson snotted about stealing credit, calling Allah a “dishonest dirtbag” for failure to properly credit the investigative skills of the LGF crew that found the story. Allah issued an apology and retraction.
Except for one thing. The website Elder of Ziyon had the story first.
How do we know? At The Blogmocracy, a post by Daedalus on June 7, 2010 at 6:42 p.m., traces the timeline of the flotilla story. Kilgore uploads the story at LGF at on June 6, 2010 at 7:05 a.m. PDT; Elder of Ziyon has the same photo posted by “Suzanne” at 3:37 a.m. that same day. Even if EOZ was in the same time zone as LGF, 3:37 is still earlier than 7:05. So where did Kilgore get the story?
Pesky little fact checkers, those time stamps, huh?
So again, another “coincidence” but here’s Johnson screaming for the credit. For the Cliff Notes version of the “Flotilla Affair,” you can read the royal smackdown by Ace of Spades here:
But there’s one comment in Ace’s blogpost, said in his irreverent best, that sums it all up perfectly:
“Buckhead” just emailed me about stealing credit. He says, “Lot of that goin’ ’round, Hoss.”
Update (ChenZhen): As a visual aid, here are the two “throbbing memos”:
First, the one posted by Jeremy Chrysler at Pacetown Thursday, September 09, 2004 at 9:32 PM:
Next, posted at LGF Sat Sep 11, 2004 at 9:30 am PDT:
Update (Briareus): It should also be noted that the two .gif “throbbing memos” are not the same. They vary in size, timing and hyperscript fonts. This suggests that Charles Johnson saw Jeremy Chrysler’s .gif and recreated it, coincidentally choosing the exact same text, and then promoting it as his own work.
Update (Briareus): Deleted primary blockquotes for legibility, replaced fuzzy .jpg file of CeeJ’s 9 September 2004 comment with a .png screencap from the WayBackMachine for clarity. Charles Johnson sent that comment down the memory hole long ago, so here’s the original, posted for honesty, and so you-know-who doesn’t get on us about rewriting and deleting HIS stuff. Like we care.
Related links – The Ruse and Fail of Little Green Fooballs
Part 1 – Overview
Part 2 – The Ascendance of Charles Johnson and LGF
Part 3 – The Bannings
Part 4 – The Flounces
Part 5 – The Turnaround
Part 6 – Current Events & The Future Of LGF