Jonathan Alter embarrasses himself with his pathetic review of Mary Mapes’s book on Rathergate in tomorrow’s Times Book Review: “Network error.” Here’s one key paragraph:
The most illuminating parts of the book are those in which Mapes strikes back at the cyber-lynch mob. Her description of a right-wing veteran of the Paula Jones case, masquerading as an expert on the technology of 1970’s typewriters, should help dispel the myth that this case was a triumph for the fact-checking prowess of the blogosphere. (The blogger’s anonymous assertion, within hours of the broadcast, that the proportional spacing and type font of the Killian memos did not exist in those days was only one of many falsehoods spread by political hit men.) Seeing how documents change shape and appearance after faxing and e-mailing should give pause to even the most ideologically ardent of amateur document analysts.
In fact, Buckhead’s observation that the documents were produced with proportional spacing was one of many keys to unravelling the documents’ fraudulence, even if such proportional spacing was available on some high-end IBM equipment that wasn’t available to Col. Killian. And the fact that the documents were exposed as fraudulent within hours of the CBS broadcast should give pause to even the most ideologically ardent of professional MSM hacks. Like most commentators of his ilk, Alter simply omits any reference to the Thornburgh Report findings that show the documents to be frauds.
Alter inadvertently puts one in mind of his employer’s hyping of the fake Hitler diaries in 1983: “Genuine or not, it almost doesn’t matter in the end.” Alter writes of Mapes: “[H]er labored argument that in retrospect the documents aren’t fakes is almost beside the point.” If the documents are, as indeed they are, utter frauds, how can her defense of their authenticity be “almost beside the point”? It can’t, any more than the inauthenticity of the Hitler diaries “almost doesn’t matter in the end.”