Sunday, October 17, 2010
Rumors spread about a stroke suffered by the unforgettable North Korean leader, and possible woman in disguise, Kim Jong Il. In an attempt to combat the spread of the news, North Korea published a photo of the leader standing strong and healthy amongst his fellow higher ups and whatever-you-call'ems. It's easy to convince a population of fearful citizens only allowed technologies created before 1994 that the leader is alive and well however pitching this to the outside world proved to be less effective. After the photo was published a Times Online reader wrote into the editor saying that the shadows cast by Il didn't match the direction of the shadows cast by the rest of his fellow whatever-you-call'ems. He suggested that the photo was tampered with using photoshop or some other North Korean equivilant like KidsPix to fake Kim Jong Ils presence in the picture.
This response to the incontinuity of the photo is standard practice in a society privy the technological capabilities that just about everyone has access to. Because, at this point just about anything can be faked in video or photos, we live in a world where we are constantly faced with the question is this real or not? Everyone has to be a cynic. Major motion pictures like Transformers and Avatar and all the other ludicrous masturbatory displays of the great effects technologies we have now have taught their audiences (all of us) that anything can be faked with the right amount of money and equipment. Therefore video and photographic evidences are not valued the way they used to be 15 and 20 years ago. You can't prove bigfoot exists with just a picture or a video, not because it looks like some bumpkin in a gorilla suit, but because it could very well be the product of some bumpkin with a shit ton of editing resources and access to the internet.
This cynicism, evidently, has even entered the most trusted realm of information, the news. With the ability to alter the meaning of any form of visual communication with this level of precision, we are left to question everything. It is a revival in hearsay. Someone you trust and believe 90 percent of the time explaining to you that something crazy just happened is just as valuable, if not more valuable, than a picture of the crazy thing occurring. The frightening thing is that anecdotal evidence hasn't become more valuable, photographic and video evidence has just become less valuable which leads to a society of natural cynics. Photographic evidence, now too, is just hearsay.