reality is weirder than you think

Tag: fake news

Videoshopping the Steven Bannon Interview

Usually, when we think of retouching an image, we think of a photographer or retouch artist using photoshop to alter a still image. Turns out video isn’t exempt.

Peter Duke explains how the 60 Minutes crew altered footage of Steve Bannon:

I noticed the red eyes when I was watching clips of the interview last night, and figured something like this was going on. I don’t know much about color correction, but the way that Peter can estimate the amount of correction that’s happening based of the shade of Charlie Rose’s shirt is impressive. Makes me want to learn more about color.

Once I was talking with my brother about fake news, and his philosophy is now “show me the video.” Not the talking heads, not an article reporting on it, but the honest-to-gosh raw footage.

That’s a good start, but as we can clearly see here, video footage is also really easy to alter. There are structural alterations through editing, selective start and end times to cut off certain events from the feed. There are sonic edits, where you drop-in or dub in the wrong words, or splice together a new phrase from different phonetic sounds. And then there are visual spins like this one, where the editor goes out of his way to misrepresent the subject with bad lighting, color correction, or what have you. Frankly, with a sit-down interview, you could also achieve similar results with hot lights (done to Alex Jones), a mic too close, bad makeup, horrible clothing choices, or similar tricks.

This simple explanation by Peter Duke has me starting to think about critically evaluating all the video I watch, not just the photos I look at or the news stories I read. Every piece of information must be run through the bias-filter.

Video alone isn’t enough to get us at the truth of a matter. It’s certainly better than the written word or a still image for some things — like bare, on the ground reporting — but video cannot address ideas or abstract thoughts as well as the written word. Nor can it be as iconic as that perfect still image that visually encapsulates the ideas in a scene. And it’s just as susceptible to bias as other types of media.

The most trusted name in news

Five years ago, the “greentext” aesthetic was associated with epic stories, usually with some sort of groan-inducing pun or twist at the end. Or else they were super gross.

If you had told me then that I would trust a greentext news update more than I would trust my local nightly news, I would have laughed.

Now? I’m loving my daily news bulletin from /pol/ News Forever.

Reading green text on a peach background is not the greatest experience in the world (and can you imagine what it’s like for red-green colorblind people??) but, to me, it’s now an indicator that what I’m reading is plausible-to-true. The types of graphics that we see on CNN, or the local nightly news, with the ticker bars on the bottom of the screen and the rotating concentric circles, those now are a visual cue for fake news.

I wonder if I’m more willing to trust the butt-ugly chopped-together aesthetic of greentext as a direct contrast to the slickness of the mainstream media’s visual presentation.

This would make sense, as the Drudge Report is also incredibly popular, and its aesthetic focuses on “just the facts, ma’am.”

Sometimes Drudge’s layout looks extra special. I particularly like this one from yesterday. Most of the photos are crisp and bold, and fit into an overall red-yellow-green color palette (one of my favorites, tbh). Obviously Matt Drudge isn’t in the business of making news pretty, but sometimes it turns out that way.

It’ll be interesting to watch how the backlash against fake news also extends to the visual presentation of news. A sophisticated visual presentation doesn’t automatically mean that the content it contains is false, but it’s a lot easier to hide BS in a fancy container–there’s more distraction from what’s important.

The truth (or at the very least, the truth-as-you-see-it) needs very little varnishing to be effective.

When memes attack

The whole “paste someone famous’s face into a well-known scenario” meme has been around since…probably the dawn of photoshop.

It’s funny.

I have a feeling that the Trump era will be measured by his Twitter timeline, and the major milestones are when he tweets memes. This reminds me of the time he tweeted Presidential Pepe during the primaries–although there’s a bit of a difference. Back then, the media was covering him, but not in full-blown Victorian fainting couch vapors over him.

The people that saw and understood the Presidential Pepe tweet back in the day were energized because they knew (I personally wasn’t a Trump at that point) at that point that he was paying attention, that he knew how to nod-and-wink TO THE INTERNET. There was no media pushback.

Now, though, the media is a band of screeching harpies who don’t seem to be able to grasp the fact that memes are funny. Memes express concepts in a visual form, which often loses some nuance in the process. Now, we get extra energy from our God Emperor with the added bonus of Fake News freaking out in return.

The energy levels are like shooting a laser into a hall of mirrors.


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