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kottke.org posts about Hannah Arendt

Fox News Moves Closer to the Truth as COVID-19 Crisis Deepens

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 18, 2020

The Washington Post made this short video that shows how Fox News personalities were talking about the COVID-19 pandemic a week or two ago — it’s a Democrat hoax!! — compared to their more recent coverage that aligns closer with the truth.

For weeks, some of Fox News’s most popular hosts downplayed the threat of the coronavirus, characterizing it as a conspiracy by media organizations and Democrats to undermine President Trump.

Fox News personalities such as Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham accused the news media of whipping up “mass hysteria” and being “panic pushers.” Fox Business host Trish Regan called the alleged media-Democratic alliance “yet another attempt to impeach the president.”

It has never been more plain that Fox News is not journalism but conservative propaganda. They, along with Trump, some conservative members of Congress, and conservative talk radio, were just straight up lying, misleading the public, and peddling conspiracy theories until it became overwhelmingly clear that this is a serious situation, as experts had been saying for weeks. The video shows completely contradictory statements made by the same people days apart; as Andrew Kaczynski says, “what a damning indictment”. I’ll go further than that: Fox News endangered the lives of Americans with their false and misleading coverage. People will suffer and die unnecessarily because of it.

I’d urge you to show this to your red state relatives and ask them to defend Fox News as journalism, but I don’t think it will actually do any good. The whole point of propaganda is to deprive people of, as Hannah Arendt puts it, the “capacity to think and to judge”.

The moment we no longer have a free press, anything can happen. What makes it possible for a totalitarian or any other dictatorship to rule is that people are not informed; how can you have an opinion if you are not informed? If everybody always lies to you, the consequence is not that you believe the lies, but rather that nobody believes anything any longer. This is because lies, by their very nature, have to be changed, and a lying government has constantly to rewrite its own history. On the receiving end you get not only one lie-a lie which you could go on for the rest of your days-but you get a great number of lies, depending on how the political wind blows. And a people that no longer can believe anything cannot make up its mind. It is deprived not only of its capacity to act but also of its capacity to think and to judge. And with such a people you can then do what you please.

The Shining Starring Jim Carrey

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 15, 2019

Taking advantage of inexpensive and easy-to-use software, deepfake artist Ctrl Shift Face has replaced Jack Nicholson’s face with Jim Carrey’s face in several scenes from The Shining. If you pay close attention it looks a little off — it’s not as good as the Bill Hader / Arnold Schwarzenegger one — but if you were unaware of Nicholson or The Shining going in, you probably wouldn’t notice.

These Shining videos are clever and fun and we’ve talked a little bit about how deepfakes might affect our society, but this Hannah Arendt quote from a 1974 interview is likely relevant:

If everybody always lies to you, the consequence is not that you believe the lies, but rather that nobody believes anything any longer. This is because lies, by their very nature, have to be changed, and a lying government has constantly to rewrite its own history. On the receiving end you get not only one lie — a lie which you could go on for the rest of your days — but you get a great number of lies, depending on how the political wind blows. And a people that no longer can believe anything cannot make up its mind. It is deprived not only of its capacity to act but also of its capacity to think and to judge. And with such a people you can then do what you please.

This is the incredible and interesting and dangerous thing about the combination of our current technology, the internet, and mass media: “a lying government” is no longer necessary — we’re doing it to ourselves and anyone with sufficient motivation will be able to take advantage of people without the capacity to think and judge.