One of the lasting legacies from the contentious presidential campaign that recently concluded in the United States is that the concept of fake news gained a bizarre new foothold in the public consciousness. Heated rhetoric between the candidates led to even more vitriolic responses from their respective supporters.
The difference from previous campaigns is that Donald Trump, who ended up defeating Hillary Clinton on November 8, was able to exploit the willingness of his supporters to believe such falsehoods.
In one case, Trump stated that President Obama screamed at one of his supporters who was being escorted out of a rally in support of Clinton. Video of this incident wasn’t even doctored in any fashion; Trump simply exaggerated Obama’s response in order to inflame his supporters.
However, Trump’s campaign and the candidate himself apparently had no issue with showing support of pictures or videos that were either misrepresented or changed in some form. One example of this came during his Republican primary campaign, when a man attempting to rush the stage interrupted his speech in Dayton, Ohio.
Soon after, video of the man in question, Thomas DiMassimo, was posted on You Tube. The actual video was from a local television interview he had given during a protest. However, the video purported to show him expressing support for the terrorist group, ISIS.
Arabic writing appeared on the screen, which Trump claimed was proof of DiMassimo’s ties to ISIS. Yet individuals familiar with such videos noted distinct differences. These would likely be indistinguishable for the average person, especially one so emotionally connected to a political candidate.
One day before DiMassimo’s actions, a Trump rally in Chicago had been cancelled due to violence between his supporters and critics. During the course of the conflict, street protests developed and led to police patrolling the area.
One photo taken was of a woman giving a Nazi salute. The woman, Birgitt Peterson, was clearly shown to be wearing a Trump shirt. That failed to stop Trump’s own son, Donald, Jr., from claiming that she was a supporter of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.
Trump’s son would eventually delete his tweet after the woman was interviewed and noted that her actions were based on past experience from living in post-war Germany.
Allegations of Voter Fraud
During much of the general election campaign, Trump trailed Clinton in national polls. That situation resulted in his emphasizing that unknown forces were working against his candidacy and would result in a rigged election.
Trump supporters continued to make efforts to give examples of how balloting in certain states could be affected. These purported videos showed images from polling places that were presented as allegedly being from the states of Illinois, Pennsylvania and Arizona and showing how Democrats were stuffing ballot boxes.
A closer analysis found that one of the images came from the March 2012 presidential election in Russia. The others showed images from Russian elections that took place on September 18, 2016. The most distinctive giveaway to determine such fraudulency is that a timestamp was shown at the top of latter videos, written with the date first followed by the month. This is actually distinctly different from the American method of presenting month before date.
The 2012 Russian election video had been used before for similar purposes. In that instance, the Scottish referendum in 2014 on whether the country should break from Great Britain served as the basis.
The use of pictures that have clearly been tampered with was also fodder for Trump fundraising campaign mailers that were sent out. One example of this was in Ohio, where volunteers were provided questionable information with which to inform prospective donors.
In this case, each volunteer’s packet included doctored photos of Hillary Clinton allegedly shaking hands with Osama Bin Laden, the mastermind of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Another photo of Clinton hadn’t been tampered with, but simply cropped in order to imply that she supported the efforts of another terrorist, Yasser Arafat. The image had been taken on July 26, 1999, at the funeral of Moroccan King Hassan II, and shows Clinton with her husband, who was President at the time, and their daughter, Chelsea.
Arafat and Turkey’s then-president, Suleyman Demirel, were also in the photo but Demirel’s image was removed. The newly crafted photograph was then used to motivate Jewish voters to turn against her for the alleged betrayal.
The Residual Impact
Trump’s victory guarantees that such tactics won’t go away anytime soon. That means that voters will need to consider the origin of any video, picture or even the use of voice-changing software before casting a ballot.