We’re getting a lot of reader response to Cathy Seipp’s Does Dan Rather Type? on the IWF home page. As Cathy points out, one big reason why Dan Rather might not have recognized what nearly anyone else could spot at first glance–that those supposedly typewritten Air National Guard memos from the early 1970s actually emerged from a Microsoft Word program of the early 2000s–was that Dear Old Dan (and we do mean old) belongs to the generation of men with elite jobs who never learned how to type because they had secretaries to do it for them.
Yes, back before personal computers, no man with a white-collar position would be caught dead with a typewriter on his desk. Typing: that was for the girls, those little secretaries who took your dictation and bustled into your office with a steaming-hot cup of coffee whenever you snapped your fingers. Cathy’s mother–and my mother too, a former secretary herself–forced us to take typing classes when we were teenagers, because even though we were on the college track in high school, You Never Knew. (And sure enough, I supported myself during some lean young-adult months when no one was buying my fancy college degree by hitting the Selectric and the Xerox machine in offices.)
And I can personally report that this mentality–only secretaries type–is still alive and well today among some men of the over-50 set. Only a couple of years ago, I edited a magazine for a secretary-surrounded hotshot who purported to be the editor-in-chief but who couldn’t work the word-processing program on his own computer. And Cathy reports that an otherwise sophisticated journalist-friend recently e-mailed her the urban legend that G.W. Bush plans to reinstitute the military draft–because the friend seemed unaware that you can check out the veracity of such matters in minutes on the Internet.
As Cathy writes:
“[M]y speed-demon touch-typing skills have had their advantages, among them the ability to notice that another funny thing about those supposedly typewritten National Guard documents is that they contain neither hyphenated word-breaks at the ends of lines nor irregular right margins.
“Typewriters would make a ding sound a few characters before the end of a line, at which point you had to either hyphenate a long word or press margin release to continue past and finish. (But then the right margin could look a little messy.) That ding, and the cheery sound of a manual typewriter’s return bar, are now as forgotten as what the ring on a non-electronic phone sounded like.”
Yes Dan, those secretaries at CBS used to hyphenate. Dontcha wish, Mr. Big Liberal, that you had paid a little attention to what they were doing just before you summoned them to fetch the java? As Cathy notes:
“The elitism of big media has many dangers, not least of which is that when it hovers so far above the lives of most Americans, the ordinary artifacts of the unglamorous workplace become hopelessly exotic. Too bad for CBS that everyone there is apparently so lofty they not only can’t admit error, but can’t recognize what something from the typing pool looked like.”
In a similar vein with respect to the draft rumor, Inky reader S.K. e-mails:
“I think it’s important to note that not only are the two draft-related bills stagnant, but they were introduced by Democrats, and not the Big Bad Republicans (H.R.163 being sponsored by wacky Rep. Rangel, D-NY, and S.89 being sponsored by Sen. Hollings, D-SC). This pajama-wearer investigated the bills last week (only having been aware of the Charles Rangel-sponsored one) after becoming suspicious of some Kerry-Edwards scaremongering, which is even sadder and more dangerous than an email forward.
And reader “Hal” writes:
“I enjoyed reading ‘A Typist’s Tale’; however, everyone seems to have missed the most important mistake on the forged memos concerning President Bush. All Air Force writing at that time was ‘left-justified.’ The forged memos were not left-justified. The Air Force realized that most typists were male and not good at making letters look good. They realized our limitations and made everything left-justified.”
Well done, veteran typists! And thanks, Mom, for making me sign up for that class.
Reader S.T. comments on The Other Charlotte’s acidulous commentary on Naomi “Earth Tones” Wolf’s latest article in New York magazine blaming a conspiracy of devious white Republican males for the fact that First Lady Laura Bush has wide appeal to women voters (see Naomi Wolf on Female Problems, Sept. 23). S. T. writes:
“The Naomi Wolf article used the term ‘white men’ almost as an expletive. This must surely resonate with most middle-class women. Does Ms. Wolf think white men have a right to be involved in the political process?”
In a Mailbag of Sept. 21, one of our readers called our attention to a recent article in the online magazine Salon (caution: you have to subscribe to Salon Premium or wade through ads to read it in full) about the “I Had an Abortion” T-shirt marketed by ’80s rad-fems Amy Richards and Jennifer Baumgardner. We at the IWF have no official position on abortion, but we sure know bad taste when we see it. Our reader opined that the article would inspire many letters to Salon, so I, knowing Salon’s ultra-liberal reputation, wisecracked: “Yes, and if I know Salon readers, they’ll all be on the side of Richards and Baumgardner.”
Now, reader M.D. scolds me for that cheap shot and informs me that my prediction was dead-wrong:
“All but one of the letters condemned the T-shirt, and nearly all condemned the article. Even the one supportive letter did not express support for Richards and Baumgardner, just pointed out that the T-shirt and publicity had been done by other people than them, and earlier…
“I am a Salon (Premium) reader and I am not ‘all on the side of Richards and Baumgardner.’ But it’s humility, frankly, that makes me see their point to a degree. I’m not a person of elevated moral sensibilities. The main reason I am supportive of gay people and women who have had abortions is that I have known lots of them, and I know from my own personal experience that they aren’t evil or destructive to society….Knowing how many women they know personally who have had abortions would reduce people’s support for criminalizing abortion. Nonetheless, at this point in time, I believe the Salon letter writers are right.”
I stand humbly corrected on my misprediction, M.D. Clearly you and many other Salon readers are saner than I think. I must disabuse you, however, on one issue: Most people know at least one woman who has had an abortion (I sure do), and we don’t think those women should be regarded as social pariahs. But shoving your abortion in other people’s faces–and sending them the message via a silly T-shirt that you regarded the experience as trivial–is hardly a way to persuade people to modify their views on abortion laws. Quite the contrary.