At this year’s TypeCon in San Francisco, Matthew Carter told me about a court case that he was involved in as an expert witness. I won’t give away the details for fear of upsetting the legal process, but let’s just say that his familiarity with type design (and particularly one of his own typefaces) and typesetting (and the machines used to do it) enabled him to easily prove or disprove the authenticity of some historical legal documents.
Cut to the discovery this week by CBS’ 60 Minutes of some very interesting documents that tell the story of George W. Bush’s National Guard service — or lack thereof. But the authenticity of the documents has been called into question due to certain typographic anachronisms. They’re set in what looks like Times, with proportional spacing. There are superscripts used in the text. And to my eye they exhibit the casual ugliness that comes from a very special source: Microsoft Word.
But don’t take my word for it. The Cyberspace News Service gathered opinions from a few typographic experts, including Allan Haley from AGFA Monotype (“It was highly out of the ordinary [in 1972] for an organization, even the Air Force, to have proportional-spaced fonts for someone to work with”) and John Collins of Bitstream (“[the superscript] would not be possible on a typewriter or even a word processor at that time”).
If these documents are fake, who faked them? One theory in our office is that the GOP did it to cast doubt on the Kerry campaign. As Richard Polt, a Xavier University philosophy professor and typewriter aficionado was quoted in the Weekly Standard, “I’m a Kerry supporter myself, but I won’t let that cloud my objective judgment: I’m 99% sure that these documents were not produced in the early 1970s.” He took the words right out of my mouth.