Tag: Dan Rather

Memogate Resurfaces

A little over a year ago, I wrote about a movie being made about Memogate, based on Mary Mapes’ book. Just to refresh your memory, Memogate was when CBS ran a story of supposed documents proving that George W. Bush skipped out on his Air National Guard Service. It became quickly obvious that the memos were forgeries.

The documents were such obvious forgeries that some of the liberal bloggers were the first to proclaim them as such. They were very evidently written on Microsoft office and printed on a laser printer. You can read Megan McArdle who goes point-by-point through CBS’s story and Mapes’ subsequent book pointing out that it was obviously a bad a story and any journalist who wasn’t sick the day they taught journalism in journalism school would have seen it.

When it came to the movie itself, I said this:

The thing is, I can confidently predict two things about this movie: it will be praised by the media and it will flop. This happens all the time with these liberal “issue” movies.

This movie will flop. It will make about a hundredth of what that shitty Shade of Grey movie is going to make. Because no one wants to see a movie about how poor poor Dan Rather and poor Mary Mapes were really the good guys when they put obviously forged documents on the air to try to influence an election. No one wants to hear their excuse-making about vast right wing conspiracies.

Still … it’s a good illustration of how the Left, including the Hollywood Left, are still suffering from Bush Derangement Syndrome.

It’s a year later and they’re still suffering from it, having been stimulated into a relapse by the Presidential campaign of Jeb Bush. Last night, Rather appeared on Maddow’s show. After a 20-minute segment in which she said the issue of whether the documents were real or not was “never really resolved” and that nobody was ever able to really say whether they were fake, she had Rather out to say that the story was true and the documents have never been proven to be forgeries.

This is bullshit. McArdle again:

The defenses mounted by Mapes and others amounted to saying, “Well, there were machines that did proportional fonts, and you could order a ball with a ‘th’ key or solder one on, and maybe the kerning is an artifact of the faxing of the documents.” All of this is true, but … at some point, as a journalist and presumably as a movie producer, you start having to ask yourself: What’s the likely story? That a Texas Air National Guard commander who couldn’t type found a typist who had ordered a custom machine that just happened to match the defaults in Microsoft Word? Or that the document was typed in Microsoft Word? The best journalistic bet is the easy, likely thing, not the ultra-long-shot coincidence.

Exactly. As I noted above, liberal bloggers were among the first to recognize that the documents were obvious forgeries, ham-fisted forgeries. CBS’s own experts recognized that they weren’t real. The forgery was so obvious that I know liberals, to this day, who think that the Killian documents were faked by the Bush campaign to discredit the stories about his Air National Guard service.

Now I will grant Rather and Maddow that there no notarized photographs of Bill Burkett actually forging the documents. But the burden of proof was on CBS. And they failed spectacularly.

Now, I expect this from Maddow. She claims she isn’t a Democrat but she is an openly anti-Republican hack with an openly anti-Republican show who nurses old grudges against conservatives and Republicans. Fine. But Rather was … or at least claimed to be … a journalist. For him to still be backing this story proves that CBS was absolutely right to fire his narcissistic ass. Hell, they should fire him a second time just to the point clear.

(As for the movie, it just had a limited opening to good-but-not-great reviews (65% on Rotten Tomatoes) with some Oscar buzz for the leads. It will go wider soon. I expect it to flop. You can read McArdle’s follow-up review here.)

The Pravda

Speaking of the decline of entertainment:

Robert Redford has signed on to play Dan Rather in Truth, a film based on the 2005 memoir Truth and Duty: The Press, the President, and the Privilege of Power.

The book, written by Rather’s producer Mary Mapes, centers on the firestorm that erupted in September of 2004 after Rather reported that George W. Bush had received special treatment while serving in the Air National Guard during the Vietnam War, a report that was based on some documents that were suspected to be forgeries.

Suspected? The documents were such obvious forgeries that some of the liberal bloggers were the first to proclaim them as such. They were very evidently written on Microsoft office and printed on a laser printer. You can read Megan McArdle who goes point-by-point through CBS’s story and Mapes’ subsequent book pointing out that it was obviously a bad a story and any journalist who wasn’t sick the day they taught journalism in journalism school would have seen it. And any journalists who didn’t have her head three feet up her own ass would have realized her horrible mistake quickly:

You can argue that Mapes was missing key pieces of information. Only after the documents aired, for instance, did Killian’s secretary and others point out problems with the jargon used in the documents. With the time pressure she was under, it’s possible to argue — as I have — that Mapes made a forgivable mistake.

What happened next, however, was not forgivable. Even after all the problems were pointed out; even after Bill Burkett changed his story to say that he got his documents from the mysterious “Lucy Ramirez”; even after the typewriter expert Mapes had been unable to contact analyzed the documents and offered his opinion that they were very unlikely to have been written on the typewriters available at the time … even after all this, Mapes insisted that she was right about the documents, and everyone else was either the enabler or the victim of a vast right-wing conspiracy. Of course, refusing to accept that you’ve made an enormous mistake is natural behavior. But at some point, you have to be able to see the obvious.

Other people could, which is why CBS retracted the story, why Mapes and Rather were pushed out, and why the consensus among journalists — from conservative magazines to Mother Jones — is that the documents were faked and Mapes was had.

Like Megan, I don’t think that Rather and Mapes were being evil, at least at first. I think it illustrates a subtle point about the liberal bias in the media: they don’t apply the skepticism to claims about conservatives that they apply to, say, claims that Bill Clinton raped someone. Rather and Mapes wanted to believe their story was true because they didn’t like Bush and we were in a close election.

Everyone has cognitive biases, which is why I sometimes wish the press would give up their pretense of objectivity. But once it became obvious the story was bogus, they crossed the line from gullibility to mendacity. And now Hollywood is going to make a movie glamorizing them starring one of the leads from All the President’s Men, a movie about a genuine journalistic investigation.

The thing is, I can confidently predict two things about this movie: it will be praised by the media and it will flop. This happens all the time with these liberal “issue” movies. There was The Contender, a movie so obviously about the Clinton scandals that Roger Ebert, in a five star review, decided the villain in the piece was Ken Starr. It was praised by critics and nominated for two awards. And it made $22 million because the public didn’t give a shit how “awful” Republican investigations of Clinton were.

Then, in the 2000’s, we had numerous films about the Iraq War: Redacted, In the Valley of Elah, Stop-Loss, etc. Each was praised and each flopped because the public didn’t want to watch them. The only movie that had even moderate success — The Hurt Locker — did so because it was apolitical (although I’m of the opinion that the Academy tapped it for Best Picture under the mistaken belief that it was an anti-war film).

There has been some success of political films in the documentary arena. But Fahrenheit 9/11 was the only one that made serious box office scratch and that almost entirely because it cashed in at precisely the right moment for anti-Bush bullshit.

This movie will flop. It will make about a hundredth of what that shitty Shade of Grey movie is going to make. Because no one wants to see a movie about how poor poor Dan Rather and poor Mary Mapes were really the good guys when they put obviously forged documents on the air to try to influence an election. No one wants to hear their excuse-making about vast right wing conspiracies.

Still … it’s a good illustration of how the Left, including the Hollywood Left, are still suffering from Bush Derangement Syndrome.