“The fundamental purpose of the exercise, or Russian disinformation, experts said, is to undermine the official version of events — even the very idea that there is an actual version of the facts — and foster a kind of policy paralysis.” Taken from The New York Times article, A Powerful Russian Weapon: The Spread of False Stories.
As I read that, my mind wandered to Facebook posts and emails from close relatives, all false, all coming from fake “news services” and all easily debunked with a quick Snopes search. In the past two weeks, the level of disinformation coming from people I know and love has become a deluge.
This strategy is not a new phenomenon though. Variations have been emerging since the creation of the internet. And more nuanced propaganda has been a weapon for much, much longer. What is different today? The ease and the volume. If we are not paying close attention, we easily become a victim of our desire to be right and to have proof of it. There is a deluge of misinformation out there, and it’s just easier to believe the lies that support our causes. No, this is not a new phenomenon either but is more powerful than ever.
What is a new phenomenon, however, is the open, blatant, no holds barred, outright lies that are now coming, not from disreputable sources, but from the mouth(s) of our Presidential candidates themselves. I have no love for either candidate, but I have a particular distaste for one of them. I’ll let you guess which. And I was going to write in more detail about disinformation as a political weapon, but then I realized… what’s the point?
If my private calls to people I know and love asking them to fact check before sending or posting to Facebook or Twitter continually fall on deaf ears, what is any public post going to accomplish? The practice only continues, unabated. Certainly, no lengthy post from me is going to make a dent in this practice.
Cynical? Sure. Lacking basis in reality? Probably not.
Instead, I’m going to talk about how I created the cool graphic shown above. 🙂
The first graphic in this post is an “illustration” of sorts, generated from a photograph and designed to illustrate the power of lies to undermine “the very idea that there is a true version of events.” I had an easy target.
How did I create it? Here’s how.
First, I searched for a good photo to use as my base. I found the perfect image here, though I’m not sure this is the source of the picture. I’d love to credit the photographer if anyone knows who captured it.
I downloaded it from Safari on my iPhone and then took the photo into an app called Elasticam. It allows you to distort an image, twist it, deform it, etc. I then reduced the size of Mr. Trump’s eyes – feel free to choose your metaphor for that decision – and twisted his mouth sideways a bit. In my mind, the twisting of the mouth accomplished two goals; it illustrates, figuratively, the literal “twisting” of words, while at the same time, heightening the feeling of anger that is the overwhelming tone of the campaign.
I then exported the resulting image to my camera roll and imported it into Prisma. Prisma is the latest, greatest, hottest painting simulation app on the planet. After applying several different artistic styles, I ultimately landed on the one you see featured in this post.
I think it does a good job of illustrating my intended message. I almost posted the image without any commentary. Almost.
We have to try harder to get to the truth.
And we have to want to know what it is. In the ever-growing sea of information on the web, it’s becoming more and more difficult to discern the truth. It’s certainly not going to get easier. We’ve opened a floodgate of disinformation that will be hard to close.
This concerns me greatly. It should concern you as well, regardless of your preferred side of the political aisle, or the candidate whose lies you dislike least in this particular Presidential election.
I appreciate the info on the links, for creating the art piece, displayed here. As for Donald and Hillary….I think it is possible that in the history of American politics, we have ever had two less desirable candidates…. Too bad Bernie bailed….Good job, Jeff. I try to never post or forward the FB or Twitter garbage, that abounds. Peace and love…. and, Sir Mormon says hello! NHT
Jeff Turner says
I’d like to go to sleep and wake up on Wednesday, November 9. Unfortunately, I don’t think the end of this election will be the end of the craziness. We may be in a new normal.
Dru Bloomfield says
After coming to terms with my escalating passion to be right, resulting in chronic fact checking, I decided to pay more attention to issues and ideas, rather than the people involved or the diverging opinions of friends and family. As a result, I discovered some amazing things about history, geography, psychology, and much more. If anything, this election is allowing and requiring me to clarify my personal values and to live my life accordingly.
I woke up this morning with a very clear thought. That if someone wanted to evaluate the minutiae of my life, they could paint either a very ugly story, or one filled with kindness, love, and dedication to service. And that was a reminder for me to focus more on the positives that surround me and to relax about outcomes.
Your parable helped me to put my changing attitude in clearer light. Thank you.
Jeff Turner says
I’m not sure I could like a comment more. I’m quite certain the same could be said of my life, and no doubt everyone’s life. We’re all very fragile. It helps to remember that, I think.
Bill Leider says
Jeff, I share your experiences, the distortions and the process of tilting any kind of so called “fact finding” to support your pre-existing beliefs. That’s an inherent characteristic of most “research.” It’s what got us into the Iraq. Michael Hayden, the former Air Force General and head of the CIA, who served under President Bush (junior) pointed out in his book, “Playing To The Edge,” that we had a room full of evidence that said Iraq had WMD. All the evidence was circumstantial and all of it was wrong. And he took responsibility for developing it.
But something even more disturbing on a personal level has surfaced – for me – in listening to people I know, but not well enough as it turns out, as they describe both their political choices and their feelings about our country. It goes like this: “We’ve got to damn many people in this country who are not like “us.” Too many Mexicans, way too many Muslims, too many Black people that don’t ‘know their place,’ and too many Jews controlling too much money.”
The closet bigotry that is now finding safety in speaking because this campaign, more than any other in modern history, has made it okay to HATE publicly. That, more than any other element of fact distortion, is what makes me fearful for our survival as a nation. I pray to God that I am wrong.