Thursday, March 06, 2008

The end of authenticity and the rise of skepticism

Ivan Amato's eight year old article describes the history of digital image manipulation from its beginnings as an esoteric, gee-whiz type application to a capability now almost literally within the reach of everyone.

it's becoming simple and cheap enough to spread everywhere. And that has some observers wondering whether real-time video manipulation will erode public confidence in live television images, even when aired by news outlets.

Last fall, for instance, CBS hired PVI to virtually insert the network's familiar logo all over New York City on buildings, billboards, fountains and other places-during broadcasts of the network's The Early Show. The New York Times ran a front-page story in January raising questions about the journalistic ethics of altering the appearance of what is really there. ...

The scenario Amato warned against became real during the Hezbollah/Israel war of 2006 when stringers began to circulate faked or staged images showing atrocities which may or may not have happened. What Amato failed to anticipate in 2000 was that the very same Internet which he feared would spread of disinformation would partly compensate by increasing the degree of scrutiny to which 'news' stories were subjected. Spotting "fauxtography" became a mass participation sport which reddened more than a few newsroom faces.

Since then the Internet, and in particular the blogosphere, has become an unofficial part of the news cycle. It's importance at fact checking has now reached the stage where it is relevant to ask whether with the availability of so many digital image and audio manipulation techniques to fraudsters any meaningful 'news' is still possible without the accompanying near real-time analysis by Internet pundits. The day-after scrutiny has become so much a part of the 'news' generation process that news would be significantly less reliable without it. Whether the task consists in noticing that Barack Obama is shaded too black in a Hillary Clinton campaign ad or observing that 'missiles' found in Afghan ruins are really unexploded 155 mm artillery shells, no major news story is accepted out of the box any more until it is prodded, poked and assayed.

When the blogosphere debunked Scott Beauchamp's reportage at New Republic, they were doing the editors not a disservice, but a favor. The plasticity of the video, audio and print record of events now means that traditional editors need an active an skeptical audience to tell them if their own sources are telling the truth.

'All bugs are shallow to many eyes' versus 'there are none so blind as they who will not see'.





The Belmont Club is supported largely by donations from its readers.

17 Comments:

Blogger Peter Grynch said...

I found a photo of Jesus Christ for sale on e-bay. I thought it was a fake until the seller pointed out it was autographed!!!

3/06/2008 03:57:00 AM  
Blogger RWE said...

The problem remains that even when such expert analysis is available, news reports produce a general “feeling” in the public that often defies logic. The big challenge is not merely to point out fabrications but to modify or reverse that general feeling. And that takes the MSM.

Our challenge, therefore, is to change the minds of the MSM and not merely satisfy our happy band. That is immensely more difficult, but fortunately, there are enough news outlets today to enable that to happen on occasion. But let us not fail to recognize the real problem.

Peter: I often sit at my authentic Early American computer desk that is an exact reproduction of the one that Thomas Jefferson used at Monticello and marvel at such obvious fabrications. Some people will believe anything!

3/06/2008 06:47:00 AM  
Blogger Mətušélaḥ said...

The MSM's Gaza Candles.

You don't try to change this, you kill it. And you kill the MSM by not giving them the time and money.

3/06/2008 07:42:00 AM  
Blogger eggplant said...

RWE said:

"The problem remains that even when such expert analysis is available, news reports produce a general “feeling” in the public that often defies logic. The big challenge is not merely to point out fabrications but to modify or reverse that general feeling. And that takes the MSM."

The MSM's not so secret weapon does not defy logic. It is the old tried-and-true Joseph Goebbel's tactic of ceaseless repetition. We saw that technique used very effectively in the propaganda campaign against President Bush and the Iraq War. The MSM has also endlessly repeated Barack Hussein's mindless slogans (they really want that guy to win). Someone needs to stand next to the MSM and shout "It's a lie!" everytime the MSM says something --or-- convince the public to turn their televisions off. Both tasks are hard to do.

3/06/2008 09:06:00 AM  
Blogger Aenea said...

"...history of digital image manipulation from its beginnings as an esoteric, gee-whiz type application to a capability now almost literally within the reach of everyone."

So the next time the Secretary of State goes before the UN Security Council with a bunch of images to build a case for invading another four-letter country that starts with "I" we should take them with a bag of salt.

3/06/2008 10:34:00 AM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

The next time we'll just go right into the country that begins with an "I", and to hell with the UN. What have Russia, China or France accomplished lately that we need to get their approval for ANYthing?

I wonder if someone were to develop a software or a gizmo that's simple enough even for a newspaper editor to use that would instantly detect shenanigans with a photo, if MSM would bother to use it. Sort of like an x-ray machine for pictures, where the viewer could determine what changes had been made. There probably already is something like that for an original photo, but we need something for newspaper pictures and internet pictures ... and on-line dating sites.

3/06/2008 12:05:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

-

3/06/2008 12:06:00 PM  
Blogger hdgreene said...

As an Ohio voter I've posted my impression of the recent campaign -- an impression which is impressionistic. And hopefully manipulative. Still, it is authentic and need not be veiwed skeptically.

Hope Preserved. www.lizoids.blogspot.com

Full disclosure: it is an annoyingly long fairy tale.

3/06/2008 12:20:00 PM  
Blogger Zenster said...

Since then the Internet, and in particular the blogosphere, has become an unofficial part of the news cycle. It's importance at fact checking has now reached the stage where it is relevant to ask whether with the availability of so many digital image and audio manipulation techniques to fraudsters any meaningful 'news' is still possible without the accompanying near real-time analysis by Internet pundits. The day-after scrutiny has become so much a part of the 'news' generation process that news would be significantly less reliable without it.

If there is one thing that will redeem the Internet's introduction into our lives of spam, it is the Blogosphere's fact-checking ability.

The big challenge is not merely to point out fabrications but to modify or reverse that general feeling. And that takes the MSM.

Not entirely so. While the Blogosphere may not yet have the immense momentum necessary to fight the MSM's "Great Lies", I would venture that—right about now—Dan Rather feels a bit modified and reversed.

Peter Grynch: I found a photo of Jesus Christ for sale on e-bay. I thought it was a fake until the seller pointed out it was autographed!!!

RWE: Peter: I often sit at my authentic Early American computer desk that is an exact reproduction of the one that Thomas Jefferson used at Monticello and marvel at such obvious fabrications. Some people will believe anything!

Bah! Both of you will be drooling to get your hands on my literary magnum opus, "Great Swiss Naval Battles"! I expect its sales to meet or exceed those of my last work, "Stage Lighting for Radio".

3/06/2008 12:24:00 PM  
Blogger Mətušélaḥ said...

The pinko MSM, employers and their hires, have full knowledge of the staged theatre they choose to participate in. In fact, they've banked on it. This has been going on for a long long time. Best to acknowledge this, understand them for what they are, and act against them with the contempt they deserve.

3/06/2008 12:35:00 PM  
Blogger Aenea said...

Nahncee: What have Russia, China or France accomplished lately that we need to get their approval for ANYthing?

France just got a $40 billion dollar contract to make tankers for the air force. We might have to ask their permission if we want to use them in a war, if we want to keep getting our tankers from France in the future.

3/06/2008 01:56:00 PM  
Blogger Mad Fiddler said...

DAMMIT PEOPLE!

(1) You're really missing the point about the fakeries.

There is no such thing as an infallible gadget to detect the forgeries; the capability of forgeries is a direct result of the dependence of people on gadgets and processes they do not understand. Of course, everyone has to commit to some specialized task these days, and nobody can know everything about everything... How's *that* for trafficking in the bleedin' obvious?

Seriously...

(2) Forgeries and fakes have been around since humans were scratching the Big Man's mark on mud tablets.

The ONLY way consistently and reliably to detect forgeries is for intelligent and skeptical people who work regularly (i.e., "constantly") with the crafts, technologies or processes involved to examine things critically.


(3) First, we all need to be much less credulous and ready to accept claims just on the basis of authority. Secondly, we need to be much more keenly aware of our history --- technology, culture, politics, EVERYTHING --- to be able to spot anachronisms and anomalies that almost inevitably creep into the fringes and backgrounds of forgeries and fakes. The only reason the idiots at CBS ever believed either (a) that the faked memos were real, or (b) if they knew they were fakes, that they could fob them off on the public as real, was because so many idiots in the public were utterly unaware of the differences between the typing/typesetting technologies of the 1970's compared with those that have evolved since.

(4) No, I mis-spoke that.

The public were not just unaware of the differences, they were mostly utterly unaware that there WERE any differences, which points to a MASSIVE Institutional amnesia. And this is results DIRECTLY from the atrocious job that our schools and universities have been doing in educating the last several generations of alleged graduates.

(5) Our public schools and universities have been hijacked by a bunch of jerks, half of 'em leftwing lying bastards, and the other half idiots obsessed with social-experiment-at-any-cost, and another half of'em milking the system for all the loot they can glom. I know, that seems to be THREE halves, but it turns out that some of the leftwing lying bastards and some of the social-experimenters are also perfectly happy to loot the system and hire their friends and families whenever they can get away with it. (Take a little time to research the history of, say, the Chicago public school system.) I know there are lots of really good teachers, but they're overwhelmed by the pirates!

(6) The point of education is not supposed to be to indoctrinate kids to accepting the prevailing political dogma, nor is it to cram a specific mass of facts, theories, and opinions into their brains so they can parrot them back on command.

The point of education is to give the students the tools and skills they need to EDUCATE THEMSELVES. We have incredible libraries. Who uses 'em anymore?
Our libraries have stories, encyclopedias, How-to books, biographies of astounding individuals, technical manuals, textbooks, literature, books on every scientific discipline --- information about every conceivable area of human endeavor and activity, for all places on the face of the planet, spanning the life of the observable universe. This is a treasury of knowledge and wisdom unavailable even to kings and emperors just a few generations ago. We in the U.S. have easy access to this store of knowledge. So few people actually use any of it.

(7) When I moved to California in 1993 to begin work in the interactive games industry, one of the first things I did was visit the Alameda County public library to get a library card. As I approached the entrance I saw a sign taped to the door announcing and apologizing for a pending cutback in hours of operation, owing to budgetary shortfalls. After filling in my application, I handed it to the person at the desk and asked, "What's the fine for overdue books?"

The woman looked at me with amused surprise, and said, "Oh, we don't charge people for overdue books." As though I'd just asked where were the stone-carvers who made copies of really important documents.

I *can't* be the only one who sees a connection between the poster on the entrance and the "no-penalty-for-failure-to-return-valuable-assets" policy?

I have to confess: I'm a real shit for failing to start a movement there to restore late fees for the public library, but it was just ONE pebble in the general avalanche of idiotic contradictory interlocking brain-exploding tooth-fairy assumptions of how the world works. Unfortunately, the Bay Area is only a little more conspicuous in its insanity than the rest of the country.

3/06/2008 02:00:00 PM  
Blogger Mad Fiddler said...

p.s. Thanks for the humor, guys.

3/06/2008 02:06:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

France just got a $40 billion dollar contract to make tankers for the air force.

Yes, precisely. We are paying THEM for their Froggy airplanes. Are you seriously proposing that if France gets het up about us invading another country starting with an "I" that they'll return the money, which we can then turn around and spend on good old red white and blue Boeing planes?

Makes me almost want to invade Iran instead of nuking it into a parking lot just to see the French reaction.

3/06/2008 02:21:00 PM  
Blogger always right said...

Mad Fiddler:
"The ONLY way consistently and reliably to detect forgeries is for intelligent and skeptical people who work regularly (i.e., "constantly") with the crafts, technologies or processes involved to examine things critically."

A good place to start is to treat whatever tale the msm's pushing with a 5 lb skepticism.

3/06/2008 03:01:00 PM  
Blogger Sparks fly said...

RWE

Excellent comment about that "feeling" the MSM generates.

It's called a spirit. It is a spirit of deception. It has to be countered on the spiritual level. We must appeal to right and wrong as established by some unimpeachable outside standard. It must be a spiritual standard.

It must be the Bible.

There is no other. And that's what it takes to win in this arena. Review the Dan Rather affair. Every point was examined minutely to see if it was "true". Truth is a spiritual reality. Rather lied. The bloggers told the truth. The "good" people of the United States listened to the truth and acted: they tuned out Dan Rather. They heard. They made a spiritual decision. This speaks well for this country.

As a patriot it feeds my soul.

Encore! Encore!

3/11/2008 06:19:00 PM  
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3/16/2008 09:35:00 PM  

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