The Future Is Now

On Wednesday, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, shared a video showing CNN’s Jim Acosta struggling with a White House intern to hold onto a microphone during a contentious exchange with Donald Trump. The video appears to have been doctored to make Acosta look more aggressive than he was during the exchange

Fact-checkers and other experts say the video, which was first shared by Paul Joseph Watson, a conspiracy theorist associated with the far-right website InfoWars, was deliberately sped up to make it look like Acosta chopped the woman’s arm with his hand. Authentic versions of the video that weren’t manipulated showed him slowly raising his hand, appearing to gesture to the president. The White House pulled Acosta’s press pass Wednesday, with Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweeting that the White House will “not tolerate the inappropriate behavior clearly documented in this video.”

In July I wrote a post about something called deepfakes. Deepfakes are videos that use a sophisticated type of software that makes it possible to superimpose one person’s face onto another’s body and manipulate voice recordings, creating fake videos that look and sound real.

“When you see video, you still think that you are peering into reality,” David Ryan Polgar, a tech ethicist, said. “The struggle now is that we are blurring the lines between reality and fiction. That’s extremely dangerous for our notions of truth, what happened, and what didn’t.”

It’s very telling that the American government is now disseminating doctored videos to spread its propaganda and to justify the president’s lies and abhorrent behavior. Authoritarian governments have a history of manipulating images and releasing propaganda films. But now it appears that our very own government, in the age of Trump, continues to deliberately create and promote false realities.