by Virginia Postrel • Sep 9, 2004 at 3:44 pm
I'm not particularly interested in ancient history about Vietnam service or lack of same, but this CNS report (via Drudge) hits my one of my other buttons: how quickly we forget how much the everyday world has changed. The report alleges that CBS got snookered by fake documents supposedly from the "personal office file" of George Bush's now-deceased Air National Guard squadron commander. The evidence, which I find convincing, is that the documents, which supposedly date to 1972, don't look typed:
But the experts interviewed by CNSNews.com honed in on several aspects of a May 4, 1972, memo, which was part of the "60 Minutes" segment and was posted on the CBS News website Thursday.
"It was highly out of the ordinary for an organization, even the Air Force, to have proportional-spaced fonts for someone to work with," said Allan Haley, director of words and letters at Agfa Monotype in Wilmington, Mass. "I'm suspect in that I did work for the U.S. Army as late as the late 1980s and early 1990s and the Army was still using [fixed-pitch typeface] Courier."
The typography experts couldn't pinpoint the exact font used in the documents. They also couldn't definitively conclude that the documents were either forged using a current computer program or were the work of a high-end typewriter or word processor in the early 1970s.
But the use of the superscript "th" in one document - "111th F.I.S" - gave each expert pause. They said that is an automatic feature found in current versions of Microsoft Word, and it's not something that was even possible more than 30 years ago.
"That would not be possible on a typewriter or even a word processor at that time," said John Collins, vice president and chief technology officer at Bitstream Inc., the parent of MyFonts.com.
"It is a very surprising thing to see a letter with that date [May 4, 1972] on it," and featuring such typography, Collins added. "There's no question that that is surprising. Does that force you to conclude that it's a fake? No. But it certainly raises the eyebrows."
Which is more likely--that bleeding-edge technology was used to produce routine documents, or that someone who doesn't remember what documents looked like in 1972 hacked together a forgery? Download the memo from the CBS site and judge for yourself. It certainly looks like Microsoft Word to me. And do read the entire CNS piece, which rounds up some well-qualified typography experts to comment. (By way of background, here's today's NYT report on the "newfound documents.")