Photographs and videos have been the gold standard for documenting the truth. Anyone can make a fake claim, but without video evidence, it is usually one person’s word against another’s. In 2020, however, the public is slowly starting to learn that the media can lie just as well with carefully edited videos.
Video Editing Hoax
Entrepreneur and Dilbert-creator, Scott Adams, has identified what he calls the video editing hoax. It is accomplished by editing out crucial contexts that alter and, in some cases, reverse the meaning.
Possibly, the most famous of these is the “Fine people” hoax, in which the media shows President Donald Trump saying that there were “very fine people on both sides” during the infamous 2017 Charlottesville statue protest, but they remove the next sentence in which he says, “and I am not talking about the neo-Nazis or the white nationalists because they should be condemned totally.”
An internet search quickly debunks this hoax, and yet all the mainstream media news sites allow it to go unchallenged. In Joe Biden’s acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention, he repeated this false claim, and no major news network, including Fox News, called him out on it.
Drinking Bleach Hoax
CNN’s Anderson Cooper and many others have told the American public that Trump suggested drinking bleach to combat the Chinese Coronavirus. They use a clip from his press conference where he indeed speculates that “injecting disinfectants” into the body could kill the virus.
However, just before and after this clip, Trump makes it clear that he is talking about UV light, not bleach. He was referring to new experimental technology for injecting UV light into the lungs. By editing out this context, the media created the “drinking bleach” hoax.
The Covington Kids Hoax
CNN pushed the inaccurate narrative that the Covington Catholic student Nicholas Sandmann was taunting and bullying a Native American during a 2019 confrontation in Washington, D.C. The network achieved this by editing out the context, which showed the opposite.
Unlike other video hoaxes, CNN was sued and had to pay an undisclosed amount in a settlement with Sandmann. Later, The Washington Post – which pushed the same fake story – also settled with Sandmann.
Lying with video editing has also played an essential role in the recent cases of a black man being killed by a police officer. New video evidence and testimony from the George Floyd case showed that what seemed like a self-evident case of police brutality became far more nuanced.
In the recent police shooting of Jacob Blake, the media ran with a short video segment showing Blake being shot in the back while entering a car, sparking the Kenosha, WI, riots.
What the legacy news edited out was the fact that the police were there to protect a woman from his unlawful intrusion into her house. He resisted arrest, fought with the officers, and went to his car to get his knife. What at first appeared to be an unambiguously unjustified shooting now looks far less so.
Race hoaxes using selective editing are not new. In the shooting of Trayvon Martin in 2012, NBC edited a 911 call from the shooter, George Zimmerman, to make it seem as though the killing was racially motivated. What is new in 2020 is the scale of the destruction that media hoaxes cause, and so it is vital that people slowly wake up to the fact that videos can easily lie.
While the legacy media refuses to follow basic standards of journalism, all viewers and readers might do well to assume that a video used in breaking news is faked by selective editing until proven otherwise.
Read more from Onar Åm.