Thursday, March 8, 2018

digi-glam and tyranny 4 u

"'Everything here is fake. That’s what you have to realize,” [said my Paramount Studios tour guide]. She did not mean “fake” in any negative sense. In the 20th century, such fake material was confined to the entertainment industry, which in that earlier age of technology was clearly separate from the news industry. Now the scope of what constitutes fake is vaster. And I do not mean President Trump’s false claims of “fake news,” which is merely news he doesn’t like or agree with. I mean the world of digital and video technology that has allowed the Hollywood mind-set of manipulating reality to distort how we think about the great issues of the day.

"Objective, professional journalism — which seeks balance among respectable points of view — flourished, we should remind ourselves, within the context of the print-and-typewriter age: a more benign technology much less given to forgery and alteration compared with that of our current era. The digital-video age may have begun in the latter part of the 20th century, but we saw its dramatic effect on politics during the 2016 election. It is common for there to be a lag time between technological innovation and political-military effect. Recall that although the Second Industrial Revolution began in the mid-19th century, we did not really see its effect on war until 1914.

"It is impossible to imagine Trump and his repeated big lies that go viral except in the digital-video age. It is impossible to imagine our present political polarization except in the age of the Internet, which drives people to sites of extreme views that validate their preexisting prejudices. And, in the spirit of Hollywood, it is impossible to imagine the degree and intensity of emotional and sensory manipulation, false rumors, exaggerations and character assassination that decay our public dialogue except in this new and terrifying age of technology which has only just begun.

"Digital-video technology, precisely because it is given to manipulation, is inherently controlling. Think of how the great film directors of the 20th century were able to take over your mind for a few hours: a new experience for audiences that previous generations had never known. Theater may be as old as the ancient Greeks, but the technology of film lent a new and powerful force to the theatrical experience. Moreover, it was contained within a limited time period, and afterward you came back to the real world....

"In the 21st century, dictators may have the capability to be the equivalent of film directors, and the show never stops. Indeed, Joseph Goebbels would undoubtedly thrive in today’s world. As for warfare itself, it will be increasingly about dividing and demoralizing enemy populations through disinformation campaigns whose techniques are still in their infancy....

"We will fight best by thinking tragically to avoid tragedy. This means learning to think like the tyrants who feed and prosper on misinformation so we can keep several steps ahead of them.... Constructive pessimism is called for. The innocent days when illusions were the province of movie stage sets are way behind us."

from "Everything here is fake" by Robert D. Kaplan Washington Post, March 2 2018




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