Story location:

September 11, 2004

Weekend Notes With "Forgery" Swirling in the Air

By Monday morning, we should know a great deal more about whether CBS News peddled forged documents as the real thing in its recent investigation of President Bush's National Guard Service. Here are some quick thoughts-- not about the charges, which seem serious to me, but about the general atmosphere and what's at stake if this turns into a political scandal.

Four things to stick in the front of your mind:

Other voices:

John Podhoretz of the New York Post sees a “populist revolution against the so- called mainstream media” in the events of the last few days. “Yesterday, the citizen journalists who produce blogs on the Internet and their engaged readers engaged in the wholesale exposure of what appears to be a presidential-year dirty trick against George W. Bush.” Or against CBS.

Roger L. Simon apparently feels that Rather (or someone working for him) almost got away with the equivalent of electoral fraud. But the bloggers stopped it. Thus: “when you think of what Rather could have done, uncriticized by bloggers (working, unlike him, virtually for nothing), it’s blood curdling.” His view includes this prediction: “…if Rather and his colleagues don’t apologize fully and soon, I imagine a mass movement to boycott CBS News (not their sponsors - it’s not their fault) for promulgating forgeries during a presidential campaign would be forthcoming.”

I found it interesting that Stirling Newberry of BOP News, who identifies Left, is not only convinced there’s a credibility crisis for CBS (“the simple truth is that the equipment that existed in 1972 would not have produced this output…”) but also for the “left blogsphere,” which “should be ashamed of itself for backing off of demanding what we will need to demand the next time Bush pulls a secret plan to save social security out of his nether regions.”

Newberry’s point is: a principled Left would not leap to defend Dan Rather and CBS because it likes the consequences of their reporting on Bush’s National Guard years. Instead, demand what we need to see before the public can again have confidence in the report Rather aired Wednesday night.

For those in the Big Picture market, the smartest thing I have seen written so far on the events in question is again by Belmont Club:

The traditional news model is collapsing. It suffers from two defects. The “news object” can no longer be given sealed attributes in newspaper backrooms. The days when the press was the news object foundry are dying. Second, the news industry is suffering from its lack of analytic cells, which are standard equipment in intellgence shops. Editors do some analysis but their focus is diluted by their attention to style and the craft of writing. The blogosphere and other actors, now connected over the Internet, are filling in for the missing analytic function. And although the news networks still generate, via their reporters, the bulk of primary news, they generate a pitiful amount of competent analysis.

Overheard in the comments here (Lee Kane): “Trouble is Bouffard is now on the blogs saying that the Globe mischaracterized his comments and that he is more suspicious of the documents than ever: but no mass media outlet is of course picking that up.”

In other words, in mass media land, the scandal is over and the forgery suspicions put to rest. I don’t think bloggers alone can put enough pressure on CBS to release their originals or reveal their provenance. The scandal may well remain in blog land and, in the mists of time and fog of war, ultimately end up as an “urban legend” and anyone who believes it will be thought a right-wing crackpot.

I don’t buy that, myself.

Posted by Jay Rosen at September 11, 2004 2:17 AM