Written By Michael Ferrara
Created on 2023-12-07 13:59
Published on 2023-12-20 14:13
Walter J. Scheirer's "A History of Fake Things on the Internet" masterfully chronicles the emergence of the "Age of Postmodern Rhetoric" in the digital world, a time heavily influenced by the Trump campaign and presidency. Scheirer's work intricately examines the complex web where truth and falsehood blur, highlighting how technology has been instrumental in fostering disinformation campaigns, manipulating images, and promoting misleading narratives. His analysis delves deep into the Trump era, revealing how digital deception and internet subcultures were skillfully maneuvered. This comprehensive review of Scheirer's book underscores the profound impact of technology on political discourse and the evolving concept of truth in the digital age, offering a critical look at how internet narratives wield power and reshape our understanding of reality.
Entering the Age of Postmodern Rhetoric, the Trump era emerges as a critical period in shaping digital deception. This segment explores the influence of disinformation, the alteration of images, and the use of misleading narratives in political discourse.
Trump Campaign Disinformation (2016 - Presidential Term): The Trump campaign actively utilized disinformation, an approach that continued throughout Trump's presidential term, tapping into alternate realities associated with internet subcultures.
Doctored Images of Political Figures: Examples include retweeting a photo of Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi in Islamic garb, circulating a doctored image of Joe Biden alone in his basement during COVID-19, and Eric Trump tweeting a manipulated photo of Ice Cube and 50 Cent wearing Trump 2020 hats.
Misleading Statements on COVID-19: Trump frequently downplayed the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic, making claims about the virus being under control in the U.S., that people shouldn't be afraid of it, and that he was immune after contracting it.
Connection with Guccifer 2.0 and WikiLeaks: The Guccifer 2.0 persona, believed to be part of a Russian intelligence operation, collaborated with WikiLeaks to release hacked documents to smear the Clinton campaign, a narrative continuously defended by Trump administration officials.
Social Media Bans: Due to his controversial statements and actions, Trump was eventually banned from major social-media platforms.
Fake News Era: Trump's tenure marked the proliferation of fake news, with technological advancements aiding the spread of false information, undermining trust in recorded information.
Trump and Bolsonaro as Virtual Politicians: Trump and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro utilized social media and internet narratives heavily in their political approaches, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Participatory Fakery in Politics: Trump encouraged his followers to create and share deceitful political content, including memes with misleading information, contributing to a global spread of misinformation.
Washington Post Report on False Claims: According to the Washington Post, Trump made 30,573 false or misleading claims during his time in office.
Fomenting Political Division: Trump's presidency, paralleled by Bolsonaro's in Brazil, was marked by stirring political divisions, with both leaders being labeled as authoritarian strongmen posing threats to democracy.
These controversies highlight the complex interplay between politics, misinformation, and the power of internet narratives during Trump's presidency.
Non-political controversies, often sparked by the rapid dissemination of information on the internet, have increasingly captured public attention. From sensationalist journalism to the ethical dilemmas of fake content creation, these incidents reveal the complex interplay between technology, media, and societal norms. They challenge our perceptions of truth and highlight the evolving nature of information in the digital age.
Mortal Kombat Controversy: The infamous cheat code in the Sega Genesis version of Mortal Kombat, which unlocked grisly "fatality" actions, led to a moral panic in the early nineties. Suburban mothers were shocked by the violent content, but the controversy fueled increased demand for the game and the cheat code.
Quentin's Hacking Adventures and Dateline: Quentin, a hacker, was involved in stealing corporate secrets and reading the emails of American politicians. This was showcased on Dateline, with claims of uncovering evidence of extraterrestrial phenomena from military computers. This episode is noted as one of the most creative acts of deception executed on the Internet.
Journalistic Malpractice at Dateline: Dateline and other news outlets were criticized for sensationalism and violating journalistic principles. Hackers exploited this tendency for their own purposes, manipulating journalists and anticipating the rise of reality TV and social media.
Dateline's Misconduct in Reporting: Dateline's approach to reporting, focusing more on sensational stories than public responsibility, led to controversies, including staging a truck explosion and a tragic incident involving a man's suicide during filming.
Phrack Magazine's Mockery of Government Security: Phrack magazine humorously mocked government security procedures, which could lead to dismissal of real, valuable technical information contained within its pages.
Misconceptions and Motivations Behind Fake News: A case study explored how computer hackers exploited both television and the Internet to create fake news, challenging the common belief that all fake news is maliciously intended to undermine truth.
Impact of Fake Content and Ethical Dilemmas: There's a discussion on how fake content creation, especially when it reaches unintended audiences or drives harmful behavior, poses ethical challenges and requires a more nuanced understanding of technology's role in society.
Sensationalism in Dateline's Reporting: The sensationalist approach in Dateline's reporting, particularly in political scoops and stories about hacking groups like the Legion of Doom, is highlighted as a controversial aspect of journalism.
Conspiracy Theories and Government Misconduct Accusations: Reports in Phrack magazine, like PROJECT ALF-1 and Project Green Cheese, led to accusations of government misconduct and fueled conspiracy theories. These reports blended technical facts with imaginative elements.
The Role of Fake News in Modern Culture: The broader role of fake news in contemporary culture is examined, particularly in how it's been used creatively on the Internet and in broadcast media, and its impact on public perception and trust.
These controversies illustrate various facets of how the internet and media can be used to create, spread, and amplify controversial and often deceptive narratives, affecting public opinion and societal norms.
In conclusion, "A History of Fake Things on the Internet" sheds light on the profound impact of digital deception and misinformation in shaping contemporary society. From the politically charged disinformation campaigns of the Trump era to the more subtle yet equally significant non-political controversies, this narrative reveals a world where truth is often blurred by the persuasive power of technology and media. These cases not only reflect the growing sophistication of digital falsehoods but also underscore the urgent need for critical media literacy and ethical awareness in the digital age. As we navigate this complex landscape, it becomes increasingly vital to discern fact from fiction, uphold journalistic integrity, and foster a digital environment conducive to truthful discourse, thereby safeguarding the foundational values of democracy and societal trust.
I highly recommend "A History of Fake Things on the Internet" by Walter Scheirer. This insightful exploration of internet deception provides invaluable context for understanding the challenges of navigating today's digital landscape. Scheirer's engaging writing style and meticulous research make it an essential read for anyone concerned about misinformation and its impact on society.
As I delve into the fascinating realms of technology and science for our newsletter, I can't help but acknowledge the crucial role of seamless IT networks, efficient desktop environments, and effective cloud systems. This brings to light an important aspect of my work that I am proud to share with you all. Besides curating engaging content, I personally offer a range of IT services tailored to your unique needs. Be it solid desktop support, robust network solutions, or skilled cloud administration, I'm here to ensure you conquer your technological challenges with ease and confidence. My expertise is yours to command. Contact me at email@example.com.
Tech Topics is a newsletter with a focus on contemporary challenges and innovations in the workplace and the broader world of technology. Produced by Boston-based Conceptual Technology (http://www.conceptualtech.com), the articles explore various aspects of professional life, including workplace dynamics, evolving technological trends, job satisfaction, diversity and discrimination issues, and cybersecurity challenges. These themes reflect a keen interest in understanding and navigating the complexities of modern work environments and the ever-changing landscape of technology.
Tech Topics offers a multi-faceted view of the challenges and opportunities at the intersection of technology, work, and life. It prompts readers to think critically about how they interact with technology, both as professionals and as individuals. The publication encourages a holistic approach to understanding these challenges, emphasizing the need for balance, inclusivity, and sustainability in our rapidly changing world. As we navigate this landscape, the insights provided by these articles can serve as valuable guides in our quest to harmonize technology with the human experience.