The White House doesn’t want us to believe what we’re seeing, so they’re showing us things that are unbelievable.
On Wednesday, President Trump was in a foul mood and decided to hold an impromptu news conference that lasted nearly 90 minutes. A lot of weird things happened, and Trump was clearly feeling defensive about losing the House to Democrats on election day.
Around 35-minutes into the meltdown, Trump got into a heated exchange with CNN’s Jim Acosta. A White House intern tried to step in and take the mic from Acosta, but when he held onto it, she backed away. Trump shouted him down. The whole thing seemed to be over until later that afternoon when White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced that Acosta’s press credentials had been revoked because he placed “his hands on a young woman just trying to do her job.” After taking criticism for the gross mischaracterization of events, Sanders proceeded to tweet a video of the event as evidence of Acosta’s “inappropriate behaviour.” The video, however, was manipulated.
We stand by our decision to revoke this individual’s hard pass. We will not tolerate the inappropriate behavior clearly documented in this video. pic.twitter.com/T8X1Ng912y
— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) November 8, 2018
The video shows most of the incident at normal speed, but just as Acosta is gesturing with his left arm and the intern reaches under to grab the mic, it speeds up. The manipulation vaguely makes the point of incidental contact look more forceful than it was. The only person who intentionally put their hands on someone is the intern. Video editors took to Twitter to show comparisons of the edited video and the unedited one, like this one from Slate’s Aymann Ismael:
The intern's reach for the mic is slowed down, and the "chop" motion is accelerated. Here's an annotated side by side comparison: pic.twitter.com/wLCG5GVdo1
— Aymann Ismail (@aymanndotcom) November 8, 2018
Prior to Sanders posting her tweet, the beginning, un-zoomed in part of the video was shared by InfoWars, causing many people to speculate that the conspiracy-spreading outlet was the source of the video.
If the Press Secretary is grabbing her propaganda from InfoWars, the chances of her admitting it seem close to zero. The InfoWars hack that first shared the video won’t admit that it’s manipulated and is doubling down on that bullshit assertion. And to be totally honest, I don’t think that sitting here saying “back and to the left” gets us anywhere.
The truly insidious thing is that the White House wants us to debate something that’s totally clear: Acosta did nothing wrong, and the White House press secretary shared a manipulated video. Watch the video yourself with your own to eyes. It was covered by every major outlet in the U.S. and beyond. Here’s an archive of the livestream from CBS News; the Acosta exchange comes 35-minutes in:
If you watch that and see an assault, fine. I think you’re wrong, but that’s fine. Pulling us down a further rabbit hole of un-reality with some minor editing tweaks is just nuts.
Since machine learning has been used to create convincing “deepfake” videos, onlookers have worried the technique could be used to fabricate clips of politicians. Sarah Sanders’ manipulation raises the question of whether we should worry about politicians making their own deepfakes. We probably should, but I’m not too concerned about this administration and its clown car of operatives getting very sophisticated. This fake is decidedly un-deep.