By INIGO ‘NAUGHTY’ ZENICAZELAYA
THIS week we were introduced to the idea of “deepfakes” in our politics, and watched an unnecessary catfight play out in public.
For those who don’t have enough time in one lifetime to keep up with the latest tech jargon, allow me to explain “deepfakes” to you. It’s the latest scary technology that enables you to alter digital video whereby you can manipulate someone’s face, body, and voice to make it appear they did or said something they (in reality) did not.
While this tech – which can be had by purchasing expensive software or even a cheap app – has been a concern for large nations because of the damage malicious actors can do, little old us never really had to think about it that seriously.
Who would bother to deepfake any of our politicians, who often freely (and openly) damage their own reputations for all to see?
Still, now that it’s silly season, fake news and deepfakes are on the rise, according to Opposition Leader Philip “Brave” Davis.
At a last-minute press conference held at Progressive Liberal Party Headquarters on Thursday, Brave denounced fake news, deepfakes, viral memes, and fake accounts littering Bahamians’ digital spaces. He slammed Facebook as a veritable “fake news” politics drug den while unironically live-streaming on Facebook.
At one point, the phrase “garbage juice” was used, and the stench of modern politicking came full circle.
It’s not uncommon for politicians to complain about media or fairness of ads even as they employ armies of online trolls themselves, but this was different.
Indeed, the amount of dirty tricks and vomit-inducing material I have seen so far is genuinely astounding. But by introducing “deepfakes” to the conversation, our would-be leader is pre-emptively asking us to automatically disregard as fake any distasteful video (or two) which may come to light. The problem is he did so without showing us proof that our politics have indeed sunk to that new low.
Deepfakes are not only dangerous; they are democracy destabilising. Accusations of their existence in our system shouldn’t be haphazard. Mr Davis is making an extraordinary claim, which requires extraordinary evidence. And voters have a right to hold to account anyone who dares to employ deepfakes to control us.
Strangely enough, though, in the same presser, Brave reminded us that “Facebook profits by amplifying lies”. Then he said accused sex-abuser Peter Nygard was just “a guy who paid for some T-shirts ten years ago”, despite video showing PLP Cabinet ministers bending the knee at Nygard Cay not that long ago.
George Orwell warned in his book ‘1984’: “The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command. His heart sank as he thought of the enormous power.” That was my cue to log out.
Meet Your Match
When I logged back in, my WhatsApp was a wasteland of messages detailing the Fred Mitchell versus Pakesia Parker-Edgecombe backyard brawl.
As a personal rule, I usually do not write about the West End MP because we are related.
Now that I have disclosed that fact, I will merely walk you through the events that transpired this week without (much) of my usual witty commentary.
A Facebook user asked Pakesia what she had done for her constituency. To which she replied, “Enough to ensure the PLP never sees it again.”
PLP chairman Fred Mitchell then claimed the Facebook user as “one of our supporters” in a voice note.
Mitchell accused Parker-Edgecombe of “begging to join the PLP” two weeks ago. He then took to that “amplifier of lies”, Facebook, to proclaim he would “tell the entire story” of her meeting with him.
Fred even brought his party leader, Brave Davis, into the bust-up, saying Parker-Edgecombe went to the “GB airport to see the Leader and [himself] and to request [they] give her two weeks and then she would join the PLP”.
Feel free to take a moment. I know, it’s a lot to follow.
Once Mitchell’s statements went viral and articles questioning the integrity of the accusations were out there, Pakesia issued her own statement: “It is a blatant lie.”
Asked at his press conference on Thursday to corroborate the bizarre accusations, PLP Leader Philip “Brave” Davis reportedly confirmed he has NOT been in conversations with Pakesia Parker Edgecombe about joining the PLP.
Say what now?
To say Fred is left flapping in the wind with this wild story is an understatement.
It’s strange that with so many other important issues happening in the country, he chose this to be his hill to die on. Juicy stories of alleged clandestine drive-by meetings may get tongues wagging, but they won’t feed bellies. Or keep the lights on.
The only thing I can take away from the whole affair is the answer to that age-old question of what would happen if a Fox Hiller “buck up on” on a West Ender.
Now we know.