RATHERGATE REVIEWED. There is a slight conceptual problem with Corey Pein's piece in the new Columbia Journalism Review, which is supposed to be a counterintuitive critique of the bloggers who helped to expose the CBS National Guard documents as frauds. The problem is pretty easy to define: the bloggers were right. The documents were frauds.
Now, look, I realize it wasn't quite that simple. Pein rightly exposes the pro-Bush agenda of many of those involved. And he observes that none of them could actually prove the principal contention: that documents CBS presented as being more than 30 years old had actually been produced on a modern computer using Microsoft Word's default settings. In fact, at the time that this story was unfolding, there were anti-Bush bloggers who presented dauntingly learned analyses showing that the documents could only have been produced by a 1970s-vintage electric typewriter.
Even so, the MS Word theory continues to be the most plausible explanation for how those documents came into being. And though Pein notes that some cable shows got carried away (we're supposed to be surprised about Sean Hannity and Joe Scarborough?), mainstream media outlets like the Washington Post and the Dallas Morning News used the bloggers' speculation exactly as they should have: to dig and get at the truth.
If the media failed, it was in letting CBS's lapses freak them out so that nobody wanted to do any more reporting on George W. Bush's iffy service in the National Guard. The Boston Globe, to name one news organization, had been reporting on Bush's missing months since 2000, and its work has never been questioned.
Instead of exposing Bush, Dan Rather and company wound up immunizing him.
SHAMELESS SELF-PROMOTION. Tim O'Shea interviews the proprietor of this blog for a website called PopThought.com. The subject: Little People, my book on the culture of dwarfism.