Imagine seeing yourself on a video doing and saying things – especially scandalous things – you never did. At least, you cannot recall them, and you know you would never do them. I need not elaborate on what ‘things’ and ‘them’ might be, but, say you see yourself on some TikTok video on the front lines with a few of the Just Stop Oil freaks throwing a bucket of mushroom soup on the tomb of Pius X in Saint Peter’s, yelling for an end to patriarchy and papacy.
The result of an alcoholic blackout? But you look quite sober. Were you body-snatched, drugged, hypnotized, Manchurian-candidate-style, your memory swiped to a blank slate?
Or, with the technology we now have, as Nicholas Carr describes, have you been the victim of a deep fake?
They’re not quite up to what’s described above, and at this point most fakes are rather, well, fake, and a few tell-tale signs betray them. But with advances in artificial ‘intelligence’, they’re now able to produce simple fakes that don’t appear fake, but more real often than the real thing. With a few photos, along with some bites of the sound of your voice, computers can now paste together not only a life-like image of you, but can make that image – an avatar, if you will – very, very convincing.
Perhaps with just as deep forensic analysis, the image may be proven false, but that takes time, money, resources, which few of us have, and, even so, by then the damage is already done. As they say, something seen can never really be unseen.
And people wonder why the media is losing trust. If they’ve been caught in everyday lies, why not deep ones? We’re at this point well into 1984 and Fahrenheit 451 territory, even if Orwell and Bradbury did not predict the full extent of the technology now available. For most people, it’s enough that they ‘saw it on TV’, or was announced by some talking head, so it must be true. Such scarcely need deep fakes. But to convince the otherwise inconvincible, they do.
How, then, to stay in the truth, which is the only thing that can set us free?
I don’t have any definitive answers, but here are some things that come to mind:
First, think for yourself, independently, using the mind God gave you. As Chesterton said, the task of education is to make us good critics, which means, from the original Greek etymology of the word, good judges, able to discern between truth and falsity. To put it mildly, education doesn’t do that much anymore, but breeds lemmings, all running off the cliffs of insanity in one giant herd, biting each other along the way to go faster. Slow down, and think.
Second, live locally, setting our thoughts primarily on where we actually live, and deal with the problems around us, especially those of our households, our workplaces, our parishes, our towns and neighbourhoods, which are our primary concern. Pray for the rest of the world, certainly, and help where you might, but don’t get immersed or obsessed with what’s happening – or not happening – thousands of miles away. We can’t let our souls fall into anxiety, especially if much of what is presented is skewed.
Third, use common sense and intuition. By that, I mean what ‘makes sense’, what is most likely given past experience, how people would act, human nature. If something feels wrong, it usually is. Quacking and walking ducks and all that. Beware of shysters and con-men. If they’re pushing something on you, and you even lightly demur, and they ramp up the coercion – back off, take a deep breath, and gather your wits. Our ‘elites’ are like used-car salesmen in a seedy lot, trying to foist a crappy, rusted, foreign two-seater convertible on a home-schooling mother with six children. Or, as I wrote a while ago, like those wild west snake-oil medicine men, whose primary interest is profit.
Fourth, delve into history, to be ignorant of which is to be doomed to repeat it. That includes literature, which offers an artistic glimpse into what transpired in other eras. What people did before, they will do again, albeit, to paraphrase Twain, in a different key. Totalitarians are not all that imaginative, and presume the hoi polloi are gullible, ignorant and easily enslaved. Let’s at least some of us prove them wrong.
Fifth, know your Faith and its moral and eschatological dimension. That is, how to act here and now, and to get where we’re going in the end. Any violation of morality is a violation of truth, and a lie. And we are called to a life far beyond this life. ‘Tis a far, far better place to which we go, and we don’t want to get hung up here, much of which is the devil’s playground.
Finally, pray. The Holy Spirit will guide us with supernatural wisdom to see through the haze of deceit and obfuscation. He will also give us the words to say, and the courage to put those words into effect. Of course, we must beware of illusory inspirations, for satan can transform himself into an angel of light – but the evil one will always betray himself, at some point speaking falsely. And he never offers true peace. On the other hand, God always speaks truly, brings peace to our conscience, and will vindicate us, if we remain steadfast in His word.
In the end, fret not. Even if they do lie and say all sorts of falsehood against us, know that our reward is great in heaven. God, Who can neither lie nor be deceived, is the witness of all things, even the secrets deep within our hearts. The truth, and nothing but, will be revealed in the end. +