First they canceled for the racists...; also RE AI image anxiety
A low-effort post to close the week of meta-commentary on the current thing
And then they canceled for the Jews
The current reboot of the American media-political franchise drama known as Israel/Palestine© continues to be plagued by an implacable miasma of awkwardness.
As in my previous two posts regarding this topic I refer not to the events themselves — I do not seek to trivialize the Holy Land’s hour of bedlam and armageddon — but the inability of the American mainstream media-state to sell the “story” of how Americans are supposed to feel about the situation.
This in light of so many years of radical assault on the prevailing so-called “civic religion” of the late 20th Century, which in the woke era not inaccurately was revealed, outed, as merely a rebranded regime of anglo-Protestant “whiteness.” Only this May, Joe Biden, winner of the most votes in any Presidential election in history, declared to the graduating class at Howard University that white supremacy is a terrorist poison defiling America. Just exactly how can the same administration now condemn the pillage and rape of Israel by Hamas, or even decline to cheer it on?
On the best days, enough of us have the guts and the heart to stand up for the best in us,” Biden said. “To stand up against the poison of white supremacy … to single it out as the most dangerous terrorist threat to our homeland.”
“I thought, when I graduated, we could defeat hate. But it never goes away. It only hides under the rocks,” Biden said, urging the audience to “redeem the soul of this nation.”
Stirring words, regarding the evil threat lurking vaguely adjacent to white supremacy, but encompassing something so immutable it must surely extend beyond it into the very genes of some race. So then why shouldn’t Hamas likewise root out the whiteness and “hate” in Israel, redeeming the Jew’s nation? They needn’t even look under the rocks — the “stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.”
A meta-narrative demonization of whiteness so pervasive that the President can’t help but unintentionally mirror the Hamas Covenant when speaking about race certainly makes it difficult to articulate what is so awful about slaughtering Israeli Jews, and likewise the Holocaust itself.
The impossibility of such a sudden change in course afflicts the media and educational system at large, and as this system is populated by no small fraction of Jews there has now been a flurry of sober whiplash on the part of the same cohort. Establishment Jews, and Jewish youths in higher education, are just flummoxed that race-card-holding Americans of myriad stripes are celebrating Hamas’s attack.
This has proven a source of amusement to the nebulous online right — commenters in this sphere were quick to point out that the same establishment Jews now clutching their pearls have passively or actively supported the demonization of the West’s whites for the last several years. This, it would now seem, it can only be inferred from their present reaction, while somehow imagining that non-whites would not one day come to see them as “whites.” Had it been imagined that there was an actual, specific rule against this? Isn’t it on their behalf that the West must remember “and then they came for me”?
I highlight this embarrassing situation with love — I love Jews. But the schadenfreude is irresistible (even if the association of Summers with explicit tolerance of “wokeness” is, as far as I am aware, totally ahistorical).
One is even tempted to wonder if this portends the spoiling of Jewish liberalism in America, and a subsequent great infusing of mental talent and media savvy into whatever populist alternatives might be salient when the dust has settled. It is too early to do anything but remark on the incoherence of the present moment.
A brief note on the AI panic
Another awkward moment came as the administration was asked whether it had verified the authenticity of three photos released by Netanyahu’s office to illustrate Hamas’ slaughter of infants. National Security Council spokesman Kirby rebuffed the premise that the authenticity should need verification to begin with. In this the weakness of the mainstream narrative is reflected, as the centralized account of information can seemingly be defined or challenged by anyone.
Firstly, the photos had been preceded by reports of desecrations which they do not precisely document. Biden claimed, then recanted having seen photos of Hamas beheading children. Netanyahu’s office published on twitter (“X”) two photographs of immolated infants and one which was ambiguously bloodied and apparently lifeless. In other words it’s not clear that the release of the photos was intended to substantiate the somewhat controversial subject of beheading.
Following this story, or preceding it, I am not sure, someone fed at least one of the images into an AI-generated-image detector; a certain Jackson Hinkle reported (twitter.com) that the detector had detected an AI-generate image.
This is first of all silly. Even if these detectors were in fact authoritative (they aren’t, and probably can’t be), one does not seriously imagine that part of the training and calibration involves testing real and simulated photographs of the type being examined. The detector has no idea what it is looking at.
Also silly is the resulting consternation over whether this is another sign that AI has rendered it permanently impossible to tell what is real in the world. No such change has in fact taken place.
It was already, before 2023, entirely possible to produce faked images. If someone would ask AI to produce a fake image of a horrible act, they could also instead just ask someone handy in Photoshop to do the same, or just create a prop and photograph it. Were the gruesome trophies set out for photography during Eisenhower’s Buchenwald tours (wikipedia.com) really found in camp headquarters, or packed along in a suitcase during capture? Regardless of what you think the answer is, the question isn’t a problem resulting from AI.
I do not think the images released by Netanyahu’s office are fake. Nor, really, are they any more upsetting than the mere ideas they substantiate — in fact they fail to live up to the words. They are mere pixels; the violence they depict is almost indiscernible for the overkill. And in so far as they reflect the Balkanization of the American media-state’s control over the narrative of reality, this process has many causes beyond a broken AI image detector.
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