One of the more intriguing trends that one can see in contemporary music videos (and in contemporary communication) is the popularity of the deepfake. There are essentially two general ways in which people can try to create a deepfake. The first is by removing evidence of something that actually happened so that no trace of it can be found afterwards, lest it disrupt the narrative that is being constructed now. The second is by attempting to construct false evidence that something occurred by faking so that people are fooled into believing the fake is the truth.
The first of these methods is by no means a new one. During the Cold War, it would be routine to see the Soviets attempt to airbrush people out of photos once they were no longer in favor, and although the early efforts at wiping out traces of people who were no longer in favor and whose presence was awkward to the party were highly amateurish, the fact that such attempts were made was demonstration of the high levels of falsity and fakery that were involved in the self-presentation of communist regimes. Because one can never know that one’s current positions or current associates will be convenient, one can never let the truth stand without having some sort of effort to airbrush or clean it up later. We see this when people wipe their social media to get rid of the trace of awkward or embarrassing comments that they want to go down the memory hole so that they can present themselves as better and less biased people than the truth would reveal.
The second method has become more popular recently because advances in photo editing and video editing have made it increasingly difficult to tell the difference between an actual photo and a fake. The desire to make reality more flattering has been relatively consistent throughout human history, but propaganda that used to feel itself confined to texts and images that presented a glorified and obviously biased version of the truth like the information found in ancient Near East inscriptions that glorified some long-dead divine ruler then moved to airbrushing historical accounts and airbrushing photos to make the reality appear to be different than it was. One of the chief benefits of having official power has always been the attempt to control the narrative, and what we see among America’s floundering leftists to control the narrative of tech companies with the government as the final source of pravda is an imitation of authoritarian and corrupt regimes the world over that have always sought to control what was seen and understood by the people under their misrule.
What are the implications of this? If authorities, both cultural and political, follow up on this intense interest of music video creators in order to explore deepfakes as a more common phenomenon, the effects on the basic trustworthiness of such authorities is likely to plummet even further than it already has. The knowledge that authorities are interested in withholding truth and in publishing falsehood means that nothing that they say can be trusted and no evidence that they bring to bear to support their claims can be trusted if it can be faked. Those who have any reason to mistrust will know that such evidence can be faked and, lacking trust in the people who are providing supposed evidence, will assume that such unfriendly evidence is in fact false and is not worthy of consideration. How can trust be rebuilt in an atmosphere where authorities seem intent on destroying their own credibility?