Last week, the 24-hour news cycle was briefly preoccupied with the story of the faked Pelosi videos that were posted on Facebook.
For those who spent last week in Croatia, in a hotel with no Internet, some nefarious person grabbed a video of Nancy Pelosi speaking and then slowed it down a bit to make it appear as though she was having a brain bleed or some serious neurological problems.
The video then went viral, spread by God only knows who, but as Mayor Pete so aptly observed, we have a fascination with the grotesque.
The reaction to the video was as virulent as the video itself. Outrage over the video; stark warnings about the dangers of doctored video.
For the past 500 years, at least since the invention of the printing press, we have lived in a tidal wave of printed and text material. Over the years we have grown very adept at not taking what we see in print all that seriously. We look at it and then move on.
If you go into the supermarket and you see the front page of a tabloid that screams 500 Pound Boy Found On Mars, you don't run home and hide in the closet, terrified of the coming invasion of the Martian Obese Army. You barely give it a second thought.
That's text maturity.
Until now, video has been different. From the moment of its inception (TV that is) in the 1950s, video and video news were very hard to produce and very expensive to distribute, Pretty much anything you saw on the screen was produced by someone like CBS or NBC, and they took their responsibilities very seriously.
You saw it on TV so you knew it had to be true.
Seeing is believing, we used to say.
It used to be that way in print as well. Before Gutenberg, the only people who had access to creating print content were the monks. And if the Monks said it was true, clearly it was. God's Written Word and all that stuff.
The advent of the printing press put the power of the written word in the hands of anyone with access to a press, some paper, and some ink. Pretty soon all kinds of terrible things were being printed. During the days leading up to the French Revolution, Paris newspapers were filled with shocking stories about how the Queen, Marie Antoinette, was having a lurid sexual relationship with the Dauphin, her son! Shocking!!
Was it true? Nope. Did it sell papers? You bet! As Mayor Pete says, we have a deep attraction to the grotesque.
So, over 500 years of exposure to a world in which anyone could make print, we developed a pretty good inner radar for BS detection. It doesn't always work, but overall, it's pretty good. We also developed a system for print in which trusted sources were, well, trusted. If the late News Of The World printed a story about alien invaders, well, that was the News of the World. On the other hand, if the NY Times printed it... which way to the closet?
Now we are in a world in which anyone with an iPhone and access to the Internet (3 billion at last count) has the same power to produce and publish as NBC or The BBC. Does that mean that every piece of video we see is the truth? Was Marie Antoinette sleeping with her son? Are 500 Pound Martians headed for the earth?
You get the picture.
So grow up. Wise up.
Seeing is NOT believing.
Ever seen CGI in the movies? (Or did you really believe that Spiderman can swing from buildings across Manhattan?)