If not for the camera…

Does it exist?

This person does not exist
from Thispersondoesnotexist. com

The murder of George Floyd pointed out one stark fact. If not for the camera, or in most of these cases, cellphone video, it would be difficult if not impossible, to believe that another person could be so devoid of humanity.

And if not for the phone footage taken by now-convicted murderer William Bryan, there wouldn’t have been an arrest of him, Travis, and Gregory McMichael. Travis shot and killed Ahmaud Arbury on February 23, 2020. But the McMichaels and Bryan weren’t arrested on state charges of felony murder until May after Bryan’s video was “leaked.”

So when Evanier posts a brief list of some of the folks convicted of murder but then exonerated, it makes one pause.

This reminded me of some passing comment a blogger buddy made. “If there’s no picture, it didn’t happen.” I don’t believe that, but clearly, many do. Certainly, in these cases, and many others, you have to go to the videotape, as it were. Also, I often muse on how what we see informs in a manner different from what we read.

There was one moment in the McMichaels/Bryan trial that, if I had read about it in the paper, I would have assumed it must have been mistranscribed. Laura Hogue, Greg McMichael’s attorney, blamed the victim. “Turning Ahmaud Arbery into a victim after the choices that he made, does not reflect the reality of what brought Ahmaud Arbery to Satilla Shores in his khaki shorts, with no socks to cover his long, dirty toenails.”

Is it real?

“His long, dirty toenails.” My wife and I always watch the news after it is recorded on the DVR. I stopped the broadcast and had to play it again. This seemed to want to portray Ahmaud as “less than”, a common tactic and one, I suspect, did not go well with the mostly-white jury.

Googling for this piece, I came across an article from 2019. This Website Generates AI Portraits of People Who Don’t Exist. “NVIDIA got the world talking in December 2018 after showing off a new AI that can create ultra-realistic photos of people who don’t actually exist. Now there’s a website that lets you generate these imaginary portraits yourself. It’s called  thispersondoesnotexist.com” In fact, I purloined the picture on this page from the site.

It would be easy to go down a wormhole about deepfakes and how it is getting harder to spot. Maybe some other time.

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

4 thoughts on “If not for the camera…”

  1. If a tree falls in a forest…and so on. Last week I was ruminating on the two recent trials – the punk in the Midwest (wrong verdict, IMHO) and Ahmaud Arbery (right verdict) and your blog makes me wonder: if the videotape in the Midwest trial had been clearer, might the jury have decided guilty on at least a lesser count? Still, videotape or not, I think between the judge’s obvious bias, and this awful lie (tell it long and loud enough and it becomes a true) that this kid had a “right” to take an AK-47 and “defend” his grandfather’s parking lot….

    I worry for our kids and their kids….

  2. Armen – I agree that it was a HORRIBLE precedent in WI – take an assault weapon to a volatile situation and claim self-defense when other folks had reason to believe that THEIR safety was in jeopardy.

  3. Oddly, I thought of a detail from “the Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” – that in a postmortem photo, someone, maybe it was the book author, noticed her painted toenails and realized….her humanity. This was a woman, a woman with people she loved, and a sense of fun, and a desire to be “pretty,” however she might envision that.

    In other words, taking her from the bearer of a line of cells that is now THE line of cells used (from the cancer that killed her), to a human being who once lived and breathed and loved and hoped…

    One of the most dangerous things we do, I think, is “othering” other people.

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