One of the 21st century’s most necessary and profound battles will be fought over the very concept of the truth itself.
We live in a world of “fake news”, wherein you and your neighbor could read the exact same data and come to wildly different conclusions, likely skewed by your political allegiances having been weaponized by the mainstream media. Climate change is just one great example where two scientists, graduating from the same school, in the same year, taking the same classes with the same professors, and performing academically identical to one another could have wildly different beliefs on what exactly is happening with our environment.
Then, there are the “deep fakes”; video clips masterfully created by digital artists in order to place a person in a place they’ve never been, saying things that they’ve never said, with alarmingly convincing realism.
Here is just one hilariously terrifying example:
And while that one is simply silly, take a look at this interview with Bill Hader where, ever so subtly, the impressionist comedian transforms into both Tom Cruise and Seth Rogen while speaking:
Remember, this technological wizardry is advancing in addition to the glut of “fake news” being propagated in basements and newsrooms alike, all around this great nation.
A new report states that the danger of this technology isn’t just being tricked by our peers, or creeped out by these deep fakes. These sort of falsehoods are leaving very real impressions within our own minds.
According to a joint study conducted by both American and Irish researchers, fake news almost certainly influences voters, and can even cause many to form false memories based on fabricated news reports they’ve seen.
After analyzing voters in the week leading up to the 2018 Irish referendum on abortion, researchers say that individuals are more likely to form false memories based off of a fake news report if it aligns with their political beliefs. Furthermore, the more a topic elicits an emotional response, the more likely a person is to form false memories that support their preconceived notions. With this in mind, the study’s authors say they expect fake and fabricated news to have a similar effect on U.S. voters in 2020.
“In highly emotional, partisan political contests, such as the 2020 US Presidential election, voters may ‘remember’ entirely fabricated news stories,” explains lead author Gillian Murphy of University College Cork in a media release. “In particular, they are likely to ‘remember’ scandals that reflect poorly on the opposing candidate.”
Just how did researchers come to this conclusion?
A total of 3,140 potential Irish voters were surveyed. Each person was asked about their voting plans heading into the abortion referendum. Then, each participant was given six news reports. Two of those news stories were completely fabricated, and consisted of political figures on both sides of the abortion debate engaging in illegal or immoral behavior. After reading each of the six news stories, participants were asked if they had heard about the depicted events before, and if so, they were requested to recall specific memories.
Next, participants were told that some of the news stories they had just read were false, and were asked to identify which reports they believed to be fake. Each study subject also completed a cognitive test.
Almost half of the participants reported a memory pertaining to at least one completely fabricated news story, and many even recalled intricate details about a fake story. Interestingly, those in favor of legalized abortion were more likely to remember a false claim about anti-abortion figures, and those against legalized abortion were more likely to recall a false memory about pro-abortion political figures.
Of course, these concerns don’t end within one’s own mind, especially in a nation such as the United States, where the mainstream media is constantly goading We The People toward conflict.