Monday, September 13 2004
RATHER AND THE COURT OF PUBLIC OPINION:

"Document analysis isn’t a pure science. It’s not fingerprints or DNA. It’s a very crude art. You have one expert testifying one thing and one another... Unless someone shows us definitive proof that the documents are not authentic, then we don’t see any reason to carry on a conversation with the professional rumor mill.” - Dan Rather, quoted by Broadcasting & Cable (9/12/04)

This is a remarkable statement - and not just for its breathtaking arrogance. Dan Rather introduced documents into the public domain and used "expert" analysis and the reputation of his news organization (as well as his own) to vouch for their authenticity. Now that the authenticity of those documents have been called into question, Rather is blatantly changing the standards of proof in an attempt to prevent critics from fully disproving the negative.

How can one provide "definitive proof" that the documents are not authentic when document analysis can be dismissed, using Rather's own words, as "a very crude art?" According to Dan, you can't.

Imagine for a moment this was a real courtroom, instead of the court of public opinion. Even if Rather thought the documents were genuine, how far would he get as a prosecutor serving up forgeries as key pieces of evidence in a high profile case? Not very far.

The testimony of Rather's "expert witness" would be shredded on cross examination. The credibility of his documents (and the rest of his case) would crumble under the sheer weight of the technical and forensic evidence generated against them.

Both of these things have happened, thanks in large part to the blogosphere. In a real court of law, Rather's evidence would have been quickly judged to be inadmissible and he would have been run out of the courtroom humiliated and embarrassed.

In the court of public opinion, however, the process takes a little longer. For the time being, Rather and CBS News can continue to stonewall by ridiculing their critics as people in "pajamas" and dismissing the mounting evidence that they were duped into using forgeries. It doesn't matter. On the charge of violating the public's trust and refusing to set the record straight, the verdict is already in for Rather and CBS News: guilty. - T. Bevan 7:30am Link | Email | Send to a Friend

 

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