Friday, September 10, 2004


Innumerate Fool

"I am not a crook."'

MAINSTREAM MEDIA. I'll begin by professing my awe and admiration for the "happening" (that's how us sixties children used to refer to sponaneously meaningful events) which occurred at Little Green Footballs yesterday. It was a demonstration of the near-infinite power of the internet to swarm a topic and accomplish meticulous research while maintaining an air of humor, self-consciousness, and purpose. The mainstream media will never recover from this. In the space of a few hours, more intelligence and research capability than the arrogant mass media have ever been capable of was applied to a subject on which the blogosphere possesses more expertise than an army of Ivy league journalists could ever lay claim to. In real time, LGF attracted expertise in the areas of office systems history, military conventions and usages, and computer software, hardware, and output devices. The combined effort resulted in a humiliation of the mainstream media that forced CBS to put its ass way out on the line, which it did -- very ill-adviisedly.

Now, InstaPunk wishes to make its own contribution. This is in the area of statistical probability. I'll preface my argument by noting that we are standing at the precipice of a glaring generational divide. Even the MSM conservatives who wish to take credit for the miraculous mass research effort of LGF are incapable of doing so, regardless of their intellectual credentials. They simply don't understand modern technology well enough to be sure of the implications that have been handed to them on a silver platter. Stephen Hayes, Fred Barnes, Sean Hannity, and Brit Hume may be approximately certain that a definite rat has been pinned in the spotlight, but they cannot know. They remain tentative and provocative rather than contemptuous. No matter how overwhelming the evidence piled up by the blogosphere, they continue to think in terms of odds and probabilites rather than fact. Why? Because they don't fully understand the technology issues which convert suspicion to prima facie proof. It's the same ignorance which led CBS into the hubris of convenient and foolish self delusion.

The memos CBS advanced as the work of Jerry Killian are forgeries. This is fact, not theory. The only argumentation missing from LGF is statistics, i.e., the mathematics of probability theory. The bloggers intuitively understand that half a dozen technical issues are each sufficient to prove that the CBS memos are forgeries. They are no doubt chafing at the mainstream media approach of singling out one or two or three of these issues and proposing (or disputing) that a technology existed in 1972 to refute the truth that is self evident to bloggers. But there is a way to end the appearance of controversy.

The fact is that the onus is on CBS News to demonstrate that in 1972 any single typewriter existed which could:

1. Produce a superscript "th"


2. Proportionally space letters


3. Employ 'smart' single quotes


4. Print in the Times New Roman font


5. Achieve mathematically precise centering


6. Space lines exactly 13 points apart


7. Duplicate the production of all the above variables using the default settings of Word 2003 without any change in word wrap. line length, and document mirroring (i.e. the happenstance that text typed in default Word mode would precisely duplicate the supposedly typewritten memos forwarded by CBS News as 1972 indictments of George W. Bush) .

In short, fellow bloggers, you have identified what probability theory calls a dependent series. The remoteness of the odds that the first of the enumerated items could be achieved by a 1972 typewriter must be multiplied by the remoteness of the odds that items 2, 3, 4, 5, AND 6 could also be achieved. This adds up pretty quickly. If there is (extremely charitably) a 10 percent chance that each of the requirements listed above could be achieved by the 1972 (or older) typewriter in Lt Col Killian's office, the odds that his typewriter produced all these outcomes can be computed as: .10 x .10 x .10 x.10 x.10 x.10 = 000001. In reality the odds are considerably less than that. Only the IBM Executive typewriter was capable of proportional spacing. No typewriter of the time could produce the Times New Roman font. No typewriter of the time was capable of exact centering. No typewriter of the time used a 13 point space between lines. Most importantly, because of the dependent series circumstance, any requirement corresponding to zero odds eliminates the possibility that the documents are authentic.

In short, it is a mathematical certainty that the documents in question are forgeries. All that is missing from the discussion is the technical competence of the pundits. When they speak of "maybes" and "what ifs," they are wrong. Since they cannot understand the technical issues, and never will, what bloggers have to do is make the statistical argument: Zero odds on any requirement is absolute proof that the documents are forgeries. Get the mathematicians to agree, and then CBS, Dan Rather, and (probably ) John Kerry are toast.

Just to explain the headline: innumeracy is the counterpart of illiteracy. Lefties almost always suffer from innumeracy, which they excuse in themselves by accusing everyone else of illiteracy. What's a Zerone, Dan?

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