Does US President Barack Obama really support Israel? What are Iran’s real
nuclear aspirations? Is smoking really bad for you? Is Coca- Cola truly the
Technological and cultural advancements are changing the
availability of information, knowledge and ideas. So is our world becoming more
revealed, genuine and true?
Intuitively, the answer should be – yes, for surely
we must know more than we knew in the past about... well,
Advances in science and technology, from medicine to space
exploration, enable us to better understand ourselves, our planet and the
Technology and its cultural implications are making our lives
more documented and exposed. Almost everything is penetrable, accessible and
From smartphones to banks, cameras are everywhere. Life-bloggers
have been recording personal daily activities for years, and soon people will be
wearing augmented reality glasses with cool features such as facial
Dramatic development in forensics enables authorities to
solve crimes more scientifically than ever before. Fingerprints can be matched
with worldwide databases, and DNA samples offer unequivocal identity
Our attraction to the up-close, personal and real, have made
the “reality show” a popular genre. We like following real people in real-life
Our governmental cultures are also becoming transparent, open
and communicative, from direct interaction with politicians, to public access to
But the best example is the Internet, where the world
is literally at our fingertips.Social media has revolutionized the way
we interact and share information. It has even become complicated to lie.
You can’t tell your boss you were home sick if someone tagged you at the
So it seems that the modern world has brought openness, candidness
and realism. Our lives are more and more exposed to the true state of things,
Well, no. Not at all!
During the weeks of coalition building, Yesh Atid’s
Yair Lapid and Ofer Shelach posted updates with this recurring theme: “Don’t
believe what is being published. It’s all disinformation and spins.” The two
ex-media professionals were telling us the truth – there is really no such thing
as the truth.
Their colleague, Rabbi Shai Piron, insulted by false
publications intended to smear his credibility, posted: “Have we gone mad? Is it
normal that I should now constantly deal with fear and terror? Is this the
language of a fair and moral society?”
No, rabbi, it is not. Unfortunately,
truth is not a moral beacon in politics, local or global. A biased United
Nations proves that what matters are agendas and narratives, not
The postmodern French philosopher Michel Foucault has taught us
that truth is a subjective concept, and depends on social discourse and cultural
circumstances. It is not something out there waiting to be discovered, but more
for us to collectively adopt and create.
Another Frenchman, the social
theorist Jean Baudrillard, coined the term “hyper-reality,” claiming that there
is no way of knowing what “real” really is.
Modern mankind is immersed in
a world of “simulacra,” where mass media poses a simulated reality of signs and
Facebook is a classic example of hyper-reality. We sometimes seem
to leave reality behind for a better, virtual, reality. Our friends’ lives are
not really as glamorous as they may seem online.
Although we upload
increasingly more pictures and videos, this does not contribute to a realistic
portrayal of the world, for at the same time more tools are implemented to
distort and manipulate them.
Computer-generated imagery (CGI)
revolutionized film-making to a point where it is almost impossible to tell the
difference between live-action and animation.
Schwarzenegger fly a Harrier jet in the 1994 film True Lies, I was amazed how
realistic it seemed.Who would believe that it was actually filmed in a
studio, with a model plane in front of a green-screen? Baudrillard would
probably say the same holds true for much of our modern
Virtual-world and alternate-reality gaming, such as “Second Life,”
may also be examples of hyper-reality. For some young players, the lines between
the real and simulated world are blurred.
There are recent examples.
Participants in the Tel Aviv Marathon may think of it as a sports event, but in
fact it is a promotional campaign for Gillette, and every “personal” photo
posted online was actually a deodorant advertisement.
Coca-Cola is operating a “recycling factory,” to “promote their overall
environmental responsibility strategy.” Hyper-reality at its best.
deceptively named “reality shows” are far from portraying reality. They
are edited, manipulated and sometimes even staged, taking advantage of our human
nature and current trends.
Considered foolproof, forensic science may be
exploited to frame innocent people. Computer data manipulation, fabricated DNA
samples, fake fingerprints and even Facebook posts may all be used to falsely
place an individual at a crime scene. The flip side may be criminals creating a
scientifically credible alibi to withstand future allegations.
Internet is an ocean of knowledge, but also filled with distorted information
and outright nonsense. Many users, especially young people, attach too much
credibility to things they see online, without having the tools to evaluate
When we google a term, the results are not “reality,” but
the product of a search algorithm. “Search engine optimization” (SME) or the
broader “online reputation management” (ORM) are manipulative actions used to
influence what we see on page 1.
What can we do to mitigate the effects
of hyper-realism? The most important thing is awareness. Internalize that
all sources of information are biased, and take everything you see, not with a
grain, but with a heaping spoon of salt.
Teach your children techniques
for how to ascertain what is useful and what is junk.
anything, even if you see it with your own eyes, unless you validate and
cross-check the source.
Don’t make decisions based on anonymous sources,
especially on important issues, such as your health.
Be aware that many
“likes” and customer reviews are contracted fakes.
Assume that everything
you do or say is recorded and may be accessible by anyone, anytime.
answer the question about President Obama, I will follow Michel Foucault
teachings, and say that it is Obama’s words, and more than that – his deeds,
that attest to his unwavering support for Israel. All the rest is speculation,
deception and spins.
The writer is a former Israel Air Force pilot and
founder of Cross-Cultural Strategies Ltd.