January 31, 2019

As if there weren’t enough misplaced “OUTRAGE!” on the Internet over misleading photos and deceptively-edited videos, prepare for it to get even worse. 

This week, an astonishing example went viral of the latest online threat to the truth: “deepfake” videos.  Computer graphic technology has progressed to the point that anyone with some computer skills and a top quality home PC can create CGI effects as good as anything in a Hollywood movie.  That includes being able to transpose anyone’s face onto someone else’s body and create a fake video that makes it look as if they committed a crime, made a porn movie or some other footage that can ruin someone’s life and reputation.

The extent of the progress in home video effects was made shockingly clear with this video by an anonymous Reddit poster dubbed “VillainGuy” who used a free software program to combine a clip of an interview with Jennifer Lawrence and the face of actor Steve Buscemi, creating a completely realistic digital hybrid of the two dubbed "Jennifer Buscemi."

So what will this new technology mean for the future?  Will it lead to a tsunami of fake videos, with millions of people creating them to slander their political opponents, ex-spouses and others they hold grudges against?  Or will the public quickly learn that they can no longer believe anything they see, so that video evidence loses its power to convince anyone? 

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I might make the argument that it doesn’t matter one way or the other because many people already assess the reliability of video evidence entirely subjectively, based on whatever they want to be true.

For instance, just last week, we saw thousands of people on the Internet, some of them media professionals, calling for violence against some Catholic schoolboys based on a deceptively edited video.  But even after the full video and more facts about the participants emerged, completely disproving the original narrative, many clung to their first response, searching for ways to justify it.  Some even claimed that the boy at the center of it deserved to be punched in the face just because his smile (or “smirk”) represented the face of smug, racist, white supremacy.  Actually, it was just the uncomfortable smile of a kid being put on the spot in public and trying to be nice while not knowing how to react or what was happening.  But he was guilty because his face in a photo rubbed them the wrong way. 

If you can look at a smiling teenage boy and think you’re staring into the hateful face of pure evil, then the very concept of “photographic evidence” is already useless for you. 

Likewise, some people already refuse to believe real, verifiable video evidence if it conflicts with their preconceived notions.  And if those people have political power and the media on their side, their denial of reality can be spread, enforced and reinforced. 

James O’Keefe’s Project Veritas has released a number of undercover videos exposing the hypocrisy, dishonesty and even outright criminality of various figures on the left, only to see his critics dismiss them as “misleadingly edited” (even if there are no edits), and the media take that claim at face value and ignore the videos.  This also happened when the pro-life group, the Center for Medical Progress, released undercover videos allegedly showing Planned Parenthood employees willfully violating federal and state medical and ethical standards, including selling baby parts to research labs. 

The response from Planned Parenthood and its defenders (aside from trying to jail the reporters for doing their job) was to claim that the videos were “deceptively edited,” even though the CMP released the full, unedited versions that did not alter the narrative. 

Now, that lie has been officially debunked by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.  Last week, that court lifted an injunction on Texas stripping Planned Parenthood of Medicaid funds in a decision that slammed PP on a number of issues, including its claim that the video evidence was “deceptively edited.”

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The judges wrote, “The record reflects that (the Texas Office of Inspector General) had submitted a report from a forensic firm concluding that the video was authentic and not deceptively edited. And (Planned Parenthood) did not identify any particular omission or addition in the video footage.”

There it is: experts examined it and declared it real.  A federal appeals court gave Planned Parenthood ample opportunity to offer evidence to the contrary, and they did not or could not.  And yet, I bet if you went onto the Internet a year from now, you would find countless people on social media, and even in the professional press, still referring to those videos as "debunked," “phony” or “deceptively edited.” 

So I have to wonder: what difference does it make how easy it becomes to create realistic-looking fake videos if people are willing to believe videos they know are fake or disbelieve videos they know are real, as long as it confirms what they want to believe?

I don’t know what the solution to this scary disregard for critical thinking might be, but I am thinking of launching a new online business.  I plan to sell genuine autographed photos of Jennifer Buscemi for only $100 each. 


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Comments 1-5 of 5

  • Teddy Woodward

    02/01/2019 10:43 AM

    First things first: GOD BLESS YOU MIKE and SARAH for the HONEST TO GOD GOODNESS that the two of you are bringing to our BEDEVILED country. I get more REAL news and GREAT OPINION pieces from your newsletter and the commenters in ONE DAY than I've gotten from our LUCICERIAN television stations in MY LIFETIME. I'm SUPER HAPPY to see you talk about James O'Keefe with RESPECT, instead of the sneering, cuss word treatment his name usually gets at the hands of our "handlers". I like you better EVERY DAY! You also have the COURAGE to print the letters that TELL THE TRUTH about the Clinton's, etc. I don't feel so ALONE anymore! We ALL need to start getting to know each other, and SHOWING UP at our government buildings ( WE PAID FOR THEM) and letting the LYING, CHEATING, GODLESS politicians know, IN NO UNCERTAIN TERMS that WE'VE HAD ENOUGH. We aren't RADICAL. THEY ARE, and it is LONG PAST TIME for COMMON SENSE and DECENCY to take their RIGHTFUL PLACE in OUR WORLD! ONWARD CHRISTIAN SOLDIERS! Things will only GET WORSE if we don't start making our voices heard LOUD and CLEAR. You're the captain of the team, Mike. Tell us where you NEED US, and I BET LOTS OF US will SHOW UP and BE HEARD! I'll even bring my guitar, and you should, too! Great music COMES FROM GOD! Looking forward to meeting ALL OF YOU GREAT PEOPLE who write in AND THINK!!! TW

  • Jerry lessel

    01/31/2019 08:32 PM

    We’re getting closer to 1984.

  • Maria Ferran

    01/31/2019 04:20 PM

    It seems liberals are becoming more desperate to not only create fake news but to prevent free speech for conservatives such as shadow banning and time outs on Facebook and Twitter. Now, another degenerate attempt to prevent conservatives from accessing their favorite websites is to send a pop up saying that they have been banned from that website. It happened to me on my phone and to others on their phones and computers. When a society loses their moral compass all that's left is a people without a conscience or a soul.

  • Joanne Sgrignoli

    01/31/2019 03:26 PM

    Social media has been Heaven for those who wouldn't otherwise be listened to. Everyone has an opinion and many people have become belligerent bullies, regardless if they have common sense, intelligence or moral standards.

    We have to pray for discernment and not be an audience for those people. God said that at some point light will be called darkness, and darkness will be called light: bitter will be called sweet, and sweet will be called bitter.

    We're learning about some of the most heinous crimes against humanity: Luciferianism, child and human trafficking, killing children for ritual sacrifice, and more. We must look to God's Word every day. Hollywood? The music industry? Famous/rich people? Deep State? Witchcraft and spells? Pure evil. It's time to put on the full armor of God.

    Thank you, Mr. Huckabee! I appreciate all you share.

  • Eveline M Garrison

    01/31/2019 01:27 PM

    Interestingly enough, the first time I saw the video of the high school teenager smiling at the Native American, I didn't have the sound on, and thought it looked like he was enjoying the show. I didn't see any ill will there. Only after seeing it again with the sound on and hearing what the commentator was saying, did I think there was even a smirk on his face. So it is not only the visuals that have to be considered. I no longer believe any news I see or hear.