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White House pushes ridiculous ‘assault’ video to defend reporter ban


Sarah Huckabee Sanders yesterday accused CNNs Jim Acosta of inappropriate behavior towards a White House intern, citing this as the reason his press pass was revoked. The Press Secretary did this in a 194-word screed posted from an official White House account on Twitter. She then punctuated her point by sharing a video of the incident edited by Infowars Paul Joseph Watson. Not here exactly, but on our new hardware site Plugged. The incident in question occurred yesterday during President Donald Trumps press conference in the West Wing. Throughout the presser, the President took questions from a number of reporters including Acosta. As the event wore on, Acosta elicited Trumps ire by continually questioning the President concerning the White Houses rhetoric about the migrant caravan and other hardball issues. The President eventually became testy and demanded Acosta stop talking. While the President spoke over Acosta, a White House intern approached the reporter and attempted to take his microphone away. What happened next is the subject of no small amount of debate on the internet. BREAKING: White House aide grabs and tries to physically remove a microphone from CNN Correspondent Jim Acosta during a contentious exchange with President Trump at a news conference. Whether or not Acosta made a downward motion with his arm, intending to strike the intern with a karate chop – and how intense an action this was – appears to be the basis of the debate. By some accounts, the reporter merely pulled his arm away from the intern, said Pardon me, maam, and covered the microphone so he could continue doing his job. Others werent so dismissive. "He never once touched her." That is a complete lie. He clearly did. Is whatever you're paid by CNN really worth making a total fool out of yourself for the world to see? And that brings us to President Trumps Press Secretary, who thought it would be a good idea to defend the POTUS by sharing a video uploaded and edited by Infowars Editor-At-Large and far-right provocateur Paul Joseph Watson. We stand by our decision to revoke this individuals hard pass. We will not tolerate the inappropriate behavior clearly documented in this video. The White House is painting the incident as an example of CNNs outrageous disregard for everyone, including young women, who work in this Administration, and as a reporter placing his hands on a young woman just trying to do her job as a White House intern. As a result, theres plenty of debate going on concerning the validity of the video and what Watsons version really shows, much of it incited by Watson himself. The short version is that he claims his video wasnt doctored in any way because he took a video from a news site and merely zoomed in. But the clip he used is a GIF, not a video, which explains why it looks different using the eyeball test, and why the argument is a semantic one. And, thats the real moral of this story: a semantics debate is a tried-and-true way to obscure an issue until the public tires of it. President Trump, it appears to many, issued a ban on a member of the free press for being rude. And Press Secretary Sanders made sure the headlines were about her and Infowars. This should help serve to stave off any need for the GOP to seriously discuss this unprecedented reinterpretation of the US Constitution by a sitting President. Say what you will about Sanders ethics, morals, integrity, or commitment to her country; but she appears to have gone above and beyond the call of duty in her service to Donald Trump this week.

The White House used a doctored video to tell a lie


Yesterday, in Donald Trumps first press conference following the midterm elections that swept a number of Democrats into Congress Tuesday night, CNN correspondent Jim Acosta had a contentious interaction with the president. Those few seconds have, in the intervening 24 hours, launched a nationwide conversation about doctored video. Theyre hundreds and hundreds of miles away. Thats not an invasion, Acosta said, referring to the caravan of migrants seeking asylum in the U.S. that Trump had demonized in the run-up to the elections. I think you should let me run the country, you run CNN. If you did it well, your ratings would be much better, Trump replied. As Acosta tried to ask another question, a White House intern went to grab the mic from him — pardon me, maam, he said — and the next two seconds launched an entire news cycle. Acosta blocked the aide from grabbing the mic. Trump called Acosta rude and a terrible person, apparently in response, and later that day revoked his press badge. That four-second exchange — in which Acosta moves his hand to push away the interns arm —was captured by C-SPAN and other news outlets, but two additional versions were shared: one from Infowars and one from Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. BREAKING: President Trump, CNN Correspondent Jim Acosta and @NBCNews Correspondent @PeterAlexander engage in tense exchanges in post-election news conference. We stand by our decision to revoke this individuals hard pass. We will not tolerate the inappropriate behavior clearly documented in this video. Many outlets reported that the videos had been doctored, and how, including The Washington Post and Fast Company. Something was certainly different, but with all the speculation it was difficult to understand exactly what made them different. So I got in touch with a friend of mine, video producer Jamison Hermann, to get a better grip on it. At first glance, he says that they sped up the clip to emphasize the motion — the video speeds up when Acostas hand makes contact with the interns arm. You can see the hand raised in the background moves more quickly, an and her face turns more quickly, and the guy on the left drops his mic down to waist level more quickly, he explains. Overlaying the two videos in the same frame, he says, is the best way to demonstrate exactly how it differs: the Press Secretarys video clearly speeds up at the moment Acostas hand touches the interns arm. This is not just frame blending, which would happen if you transcoded from different frame rates, Hermann said. its a sloppily-done speed change on the footage itself. The Verges design director William Joel agrees. I cant say for a certainty that Infowars sped up or slowed down their footage, but it is suspect that when the two clips are overlaid the only time we see a discrepancy is during the moment in question, he says. If this was truly a result of ghosting or some frame-rate difference from varying source materials, you would expect to see the same ghosting over the entire clip, not just during one specific moment. While the video the government shared does indeed appear to be doctored, given this administrations track record with lying without the use of visual aids, it didnt really need to be. The real problem here is how Sanders and the president boldly lied to the public — and everyone in the room last night — to bar a reporter they didnt like from questioning them directly. It was raw power exercised in the service of expanding their control. The video Sanders shared was a lie, and had Infowars and Sanders made the same allegations against Acosta using the exact same clip C-SPAN and NBC did, their supporters would likely still have believed the governments claims. President Trump has proven virtually unable to give a speech without getting in at least a few falsehoods about his enemies or about his achievements, but whats stunning in this incident is how far Sanders is willing to stretch a lie on the presidents behalf. The technical details of the video, whether it was doctored or not, were a pretext for Trumps continued attacks on the press. Theres a conversation to be had about this in the era of deepfakes, when cheap and easy image manipulation means that seeing is believing is no longer gospel. Half a century ago, images from the Civil Rights movement — of protesters being attacked by dogs and sprayed by firehoses — could convince President Lyndon Johnson and the American public that granting the full franchise to black Americans was the right thing to do. Donald Trump, on the other hand, appears bent on eroding the publics trust in what they see in order to consolidate his power as president and cow citizens into accepting his increasingly brutal policies. Whats often misunderstood about propaganda is its intent: the point isnt to misinform — its to get people to question whats real, whats provable. It is meant to divide.