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From the September 27, 2004 issue: Adventures in "Fake But Accurate" reporting.

Sep 27, 2004, Vol. 10, No. 03 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
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The "Fake But Accurate" Media

We can't say when the obituaries of the CBS news division will finally be written, but we now know what it will say on the tombstone: "Fake But Accurate!"

The phrase first appeared in a September 15, 2004, New York Times article about CBS's "exclusive": Texas National Guard memos attesting to dereliction of duty by George W. Bush, memos supposedly typed in 1972 and 1973 but actually produced on a personal computer. All credit to the Times headline writer, but he was only crystallizing CBS's corrupt defense of its bogus story. Dan Rather admitted he'd been chasing the story for five years--proof that there was something in George W. Bush's National Guard record that would convince people not to vote for him. And he wasn't about to let a faked document or two get in the way. As he said when the memos were first questioned, "I know that this story is true."

We don't know, but we suspect, that when Rather wasn't pursuing his Great White Whale of a story, he was watching way too much Celebrity Poker. Because when Rather's memos got laughed out of court by millions of Internet-empowered fact-checkers, he didn't fold. Instead, he grabbed CBS's entire pile of chips and bluffed: "All in."

Bloggers have owned the CBS story from the start, so we'll give the last word here to our favorite, James Lileks: "The whole 'fake but accurate' line shows how tone-deaf these people are; it's like saying a body in a pine box is 'dead but lifelike.' It boggles, it really does: the story is true, the evidence is faked, but the evidence reflects the evidence we have not yet presented that proves our conclusion--ergo, we're telling the truth. . . . Look. They're fake. CBS . . . pursued the story for years, and in the end they lost perspective, just as lousy pilots become disoriented in bad weather and think they're flying level when they're actually heading down at a 45 degree angle. . . . The fruit of the poisoned tree, baked in a nice pie, smashed in the face of the accuser."

Baerly Believable

Writing in the September 27 issue of the Nation, bestselling author and former CIA operative Robert Baer wants us to know that David Ray Griffin--author of The New Pearl Harbor: Disturbing Questions About the Bush Administration and 9/11 and a professor at the Claremont School of Theology--is "a thoughtful, well-informed theologian" who "feels he has no choice" when it comes to spreading the crackpot anti-Bush conspiracy theories in his book. However, "the catastrophic failures" of that "awful day" are "so implausible and the lies about Iraq so blatant" that Griffin just had to write The New Pearl Harbor (you know, like the one FDR let happen).

Baer himself hasn't quite ended up out where the buses don't run. His unique contribution to literary apologetics is to blame Bush for Griffin's book--"What's different about this conspiracy theory," Baer writes, "is the degree to which it has been helped along by its main suspect: the Administration of George W. Bush." You see, "By consciously misleading Americans about Saddam Hussein's role in September 11 to justify an invasion, Bush answered the question every good conspiracy theory turns on: Who benefits?"

And so it goes, for 1,400 words, as Baer (we hope) stifles a snort or two at Griffin's claims: that an American missile, not American Airlines Flight 77, hit the Pentagon on 9/11; that the Bush administration knew the attacks were coming but did nothing to stop them; and that it was "impossible" for the Twin Towers to collapse from the plane attacks alone, so they "had to have been brought down by internal explosives."

Still, Baer thinks, Griffin's book is "important," because "someone, after all, should be asking in print why our foreign policy seems to have fallen into the hands of some malevolent band of Marx Brothers." Unfortunately, because he is an "outsider," Griffin "falls back" on "wacky theories."

The Nation's review of The New Pearl Harbor ends on a wistful note. Griffin's theories "will never be put to rest" as long as Bush "refuses to explain why" he "dragged this country into the most senseless war in its history." And, since that's unlikely to happen, "otherwise reasonable" people will continue to think "the Bush administration benefited from 9/11," and "there will always be a question about what really happened on that day."

Next week in the Nation: Alexander Cockburn reviews the "important" new work Protocols of the Elders of Zion: Fake But Accurate!

John Kerry, Racebaiter

John Kerry has revived his most shameless and dishonest talking point: that Republicans disenfranchised black voters in Florida in the 2000 election and are planning to do so again. He made this argument to the NAACP in July. Addressing the National Baptist Convention on September 9, Kerry did it again.