Jordan Peele, star of Comedy Central’s “Key and Peele” and the Oscar-winning director of “Get Out,” gave America a glimpse of the future that was both terrifying and hilarious at the same time.
In a video released April 17, President Barack Obama appeared to say, among other things, that “President Donald Trump is a total and compete dipshit.” But appeared is the key word. The video was a total fabrication. It was made by Peele to highlight the growing danger, to borrow a term the current president uses quite often, of “fake news” and propaganda.
“It may sound basic, but how we move forward in the age of information is going to be the difference between whether we survive or whether we become some kind of fucked up dystopia,” said Peele as Obama in the voiceover.
According to The Verge, “The video was made by Peele’s production company using a combination of old and new technology: Adobe After Effects and the AI face-swapping tool FakeApp.” If you look closely at Obama’s mouth, you can see the distortions that came from the digital manipulation. This technology is still at a point where you can tell it’s fake. But, in a few years, as Peele says, we’re all going to have to be even more careful about what we trust.
This technology, if it continues to be developed, which there’s no reason to think it won’t be, has grave implications for the ability of the public to tell what’s real and what isn’t. And, given the terrible track record of Americans as a whole to sift through what’s real and what isn’t, video has the potential to completely fool huge segments of the electorate into believing things that are simply not true.
Just like the real audio of Trump’s Access Hollywood tape caused a lot of damage to Trump’s campaign, a fake video of a future political candidate could have the same consequences. There’s also the possibility that a politician caught on video saying something controversial could claim it’s fake and use the accusation to escape the consequences of his actions.
Unfortunately, “fake news” is an epidemic that doesn’t discriminate. Like a real disease, political party doesn’t matter. Democrats, Republicans, and independents have all believed incorrect information and shared it with their friends and family on social media.
In February, scores of liberals shared a fake tweet that made it appear Trump talked about the “Dow Joans” and stated, “If the Dow Joans ever falls more than 1000 ‘points’ in a Single Day the sitting president should be ‘loaded’ into a very big cannon and Shot into the sun at TREMENDOUS SPEED! No excuses!”
If the American experiment is going to survive, Americans, as a whole, are going to have to become a lot more skeptical about what we read, hear, and see. As Hunter S. Thompson said, “In a democracy, you have to be a player.” Was he talking about “fake news”? I doubt it. But, in today’s democracy, being a player means being good at not letting false information influence your vote.