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September 9, 2004 — 8 PM

Typographically Yours

Apparently typography is no longer just for font sluts and printer weenies. The Internet is abuzz today over some questionable documents shown on 60 Minutes last night which indicate that U.S. President George W. Bush may have received special treatment to avoid service in Vietnam.

The documents (one, two, three and four) appear to be have been written in 1972 and 1973 by Bush’s squadron commander, Col. Jerry Killian, and suggest that Killian received interference from above to allow Bush to escape duty.

The controversy is over the typographical characteristics of the documents. Though faded, they appear to have been composed with a proportional font (in which each letter is a different width), something that very few typewriters in the early 1970s were capable of doing. In fact, they look suspiciously like Times New Roman, and include certain features — superscript letters in ‘187th’, proper curly apostrophes, and centre-aligned text — which are awfully easy to do in Microsoft Word, but either impossible or ridiculously arduous on a typewriter.

Given that the documents in question are supposed to be memos, and are not even official military documents, it seems pretty peculiar that they would have been created on a machine sophisticated enough to add these typographic details.

Consult one or another of pro-Bush blogs that are talking about this, and you’ll come away an official skeptic, no matter what your political bent.

It’s a little surprising, but not really shocking, that 60 Minutes and CBS News might have fallen for a forgery of this nature, although they are claiming — for now — that independent experts verified the documents.

So now the conspiracy theories begin: was it a Kerry supporter not smart enough to find a typewriter? Was it a Bush supporter trying to make the Kerry supporters look stupid and rally support for the president?

Or maybe, just maybe, the real conspirator was a sneaky Canadian blogger trying to get Americans to realize that they’ve forgotten that elections are about the future, not about events that happened thirty years ago.

I’m all for exposing weak and misleading journalism as much as the next communication studies graduate, but what the U.S. public needs is a story about what Bush and Kerry are been up to now. It’s practically a cliché to ask this, but could the American press possibly be any more obsessed with spin and image and any less cognizant of bona-fide political issues?

By extension, does anyone seriously doubt that the historical decline in voter turnout in North America is related to this fact?

Remember Iraq? Afghanistan? The state of the American economy? Out-sourcing? Hello? Anyone?


There is some more discussion on the topic here .

Patrick | Sep. 9, 2004 — 8 PM

Yet more smoke and mirrors.

Rocketdog | Sep. 13, 2004 — 9 AM

I’ve ordered my absentee ballot, and the thing that will decide my vote is what each candidate was wearing in his high school graduation photo. How could I vote for a man in loafers, for example? Or with a center-part?

If we don’t have a man well dressed in the ’60s, the terrorists have already won!

Ian D. | Sep. 27, 2004 — 12 AM

Previously: Bank Account to Brain, Do You Copy? Come In, Brain

Subsequently: Equal Night

September 2004
the Archives