Academia proves it can fake presidential speeches

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

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"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs." --San Antonio Express-News

MIT last week released a seven-minute-long fake documentary that made believe the Apollo 11 landing on the Moon was a failure and that Armstrong and Aldrin had died. The big moment in the film was the faked but very real-looking broadcast of President Richard Nixon giving the speech to the nation, announcing their death. (The speech was actually written by Nixon just in case the mission had failed, so those are his words, though never actually spoken in public.)

In this disturbingly real deepfake video, President Nixon breaks the news that NASA failed and astronauts died on the moon. Deepfakes are video forgeries that make people appear to be doing or saying things they aren’t. Deepfake software has made manipulated videos accessible and increasingly harder to detect as fake.

…It took a half a year for Massachusetts Institute of Technology AI experts to create the very convincing 7-minute deepfake video that mixes actual NASA footage with Nixon delivering a tragic speech as though Apollo 11 had not succeeded in its mission to the moon.

Artificial intelligence “deep-learning” technology was used to make Nixon’s voice and facial movements convincing. The contingency speech (which can be found in National Archives) was read aloud by an actor.

The makers of this fake film claim it was done “to show people the dangerous influence deepfake videos can have on an unsuspecting public.” I say it was done to demonstrate that it could be done, and thus lay the groundwork for discrediting politicians who don’t toe the party line. Politicians now know that they can be destroyed either with faked videos having them do something ugly, or by convincing the public that something they really did say was instead fake.

The level of immorality required to spend the time to create such fakery boggles my mind. It used to be that people questioned the morality of everything they did. For example, in the 1930s physicists and nuclear scientists wrestled with the idea of working on nuclear weapons, and most only ended up doing it during World War II because of the threat that the Nazis would get it first. Otherwise most would not have refused.

It is for this exact same moral reason that I always let my readers know every change I make to any NASA image, in order to gain their trust about what I present.

It appears to me that makers of this video at MIT had no such moral qualms. Instead, their effort has acted to further erode the public’s faith in any information they get about anything. Soon no one will be able to trust anything they read or see, especially because most mainstream news organizations today are decidedly lax about revealing such photo-shopping. Instead, such photo-manipulation is becoming increasingly common, without any notice to the public that it is being done.

This fake video demonstrates that now, anything goes. And yes, we all should expect this technology to be used quite soon in politics. There is no ethics there any longer, at all. Politicians were always a profession that attracted a low class of individuals, but that class is now lower because the entire society has declined.

Hat tip Mike Nelson.


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  • Col Beausabre

    “Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?”

    – Groucho Marx

  • wayne

    “Ace In The Hole” -Trailer
    Billy Wilder – 1951

    “Unscrupulous reporter Chuck Tatum (Kirk Douglas) delays the rescue of a man trapped in an ancient Indian mine to grab a big story, literally creating a media circus. Tatum, the sheriff, and even the man’s wife (Jan Sterling) are out to make a buck from his misfortune.”

  • Chris

    Michael Crichton – Rising Run 1992

  • MJMJ

    Just to correct a minor point: The speech was written by William Safire.

  • sippin_bourbon

    There is already side of the political spectrum that has determined that they must win in November, because “Orange Man Bad” or something and that there is no line that should not be crossed to accomplish that goal.

    On one hand the ability to create fakes (it has actually been here for a few years).
    On the other hand, the willingness to suppress and censor voices, videos, entire sites, from the People.

    They have the ability to spin any story they want, and to suppress the truth that would counter it.
    And, as I said, have expressed the willingness to use such tools.

    95 days until the election.

  • V-Man

    There’s another advantage to getting the public used to deep-fake videos: when films of highly-placed individuals (say, Democrat politicians) in compromising positions (say, enjoying young girls on Epstein’s island) appear, they can be easily dismissed as deep-faked hit jobs by the press.

    We live in interesting times.

  • MDN

    I knew I could not trust anything I saw in the printed press ever again in something like 1984 when I saw a picture of Boy George visiting with Ronald Reagan in the oval office. It took a $200,000 specialty computer system of the day to do, but that simply meant it was exclusive for a while. But with Photoshop and desktop publishing just starting to hit the market it was clear it would be a commodity capability in just a few short years.

    I sent this clip to Bob as it crossed the same quality threshold. Deep fakes have been around for a while yes, but their quality has been poor and the audio especially has been a stark tell that they were fakes. This clip however is scarily realistic, including the audio, which to me is the big leap. And just as before while the technology is fairly exclusive today, in just a few short years it will be ubiquitous. And given the reprehensible behavior of today’s social media it is inevitable that it will be perverted to persecute those who disagree with the politically correct viewpoint of the day.

  • Christopher Landrum

    This is a really scarey concept, deep fake videos will be impossible to discredit.
    Equally scary are pundits that get “tow the line” and “toe the line” confused.
    As a fisherman I have towed a few lines, as a Navy Sailor I frequently toed the line in formation. Now I stand on a social distance spot so no one yells at me.
    Thanks for making me more cynical…😂😂.

  • Christopher Landrum. Oy. I’ve made this mistake repeatedly. It is now fixed. Thank you.

  • Col Beausabre

    “There was Sergeant John McCaffery and Captain Donahue
    Oh they made us march and toe the mark in gallant company Q
    Well the drums would roll upon me soul this is the style we go
    Forty miles a day on beans and hay in the Regular Army O”

    From the days of the Indian fighting Army….Beans for the men, hay for the horses

  • John

    That was good, but it was done in 1969 TV resolution.

    They’ll get better and it will be another convenient way to lie.

    This country is nothing but lies now.

  • David M. Cook

    I find it sad that MIT choose this topic to fake; they built the navigation system that made it possible!

  • wayne

    (My confirmation-bias is in full effect. I’m being picky where-as I might not normally be critical.)
    -Does Nixon’s head look to be slightly out of proportion?
    -Everything looks visually seamless but it doesn’t sound exactly like Nixon.
    -A tip-off for me might be; the film-quality images from aboard the spacecraft. We never saw images that nice until after they brought the film back.

    Tangentially– been listening to Tiger Baseball this week– the phony crowd noises kill me.
    ( Har–according to the documentary “The Matrix,” we can expect this sort of treacherous fakery.)

  • pzatchok

    This has been around since we have had very good impersonators.

    A little background noise, a bad camera angle and poor lighting and who can really tell if that is Bill on the Island or not.

    Absolute proof you were never there is the only way to protect yourself.

  • sippin_bourbon

    Col B.

    That cadence always makes me think about Fort Apache ( Fonda, The Duke, Barrymore).

  • sippin_bourbon

    Arg, Bond, not Barrymore.. what was I thinking..

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