Friday, September 10, 2004
  Who was the forger?

In an exchange I had with Jeff Harrell of the excellent Shape of Days blog, we discussed how anyone could have ever thought that these memos were genuine. Anyone who, like Jeff and me, has had experience of the development of desktop publishing and word processing can spot them as fake a mile off. The thing that initially perplexed me was that the forgery was just such an amateurish job. This in turn, led me to speculate that if the forger was intending to help the Kerry campaign, then he was a clueless old media type, but if this was a sting operation on behalf of Bush then the perpetrator would have to be a tech-savvy person. If this was the case, then an intriguing possibility arose: that CBS was not the intended recipient of the faked memos, but merely the delivery conduit. Under this scenario, the intended recipient was the blogosphere.

I freely admit I'm probably over-analysing this. For tech-geeks like me, it's easy to take for granted the sort of deep knowledge we have, a knowledge born from years or decades of use and experimentation. This is nothing new, of course: anyone who has seen a journalist write in a field of which the reader has deep expertise and the journalist none will find it a painful experience. So the Occam's Razor explanation leads us to believe that to a layman, the forgery is not obvious. Essentially everyone in a white-collar job, and a large number of those in other lines of work, is a computer user. But comparatively few work in areas where really profound or detailed knowledge of information technology is required. I'm one of that few, so is Jeff Harrell, so is Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs, whose side by side comparison of the purported memo and the MS Word equivalent is so illustrative. Jeff said that his roommate, a doctor of otolaryngology, didn't see what all the fuss was about until he fired up MS Word and started typing. In other words, the degree of cluelessness exhibited by the crudeness of the forgeries is perhaps not so remarkable after all.


I said this wouldn't be the Internet election. I was wrong.

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