Have we all learned nothing from watching the NFL? Two days ago, the White House sent an intern to try to yank the microphone out of Jim Acosta’s hand while he was asking a question. There were cameras all around it, everyone saw it, and everyone knew what had happened.
Yesterday, everyone felt obliged to write countless unreadable posts about the video. I’d dig one up and link to it as an example but I don’t ever want to look at one again. The White House had lied about the incident, and then the White House had shared a cruddy version of the video, supplied by an Infowars clown, that was supposed to demonstrate that the lie was true, and now the internet was full of people breaking down frame rates and audio synchronization and the perceptual effects of format transfers.
Obviously there was more important news yesterday, built on more important minutiae—the governor of Florida calling out law enforcement to try to interfere with the vote count in his state’s elections, for one thing, or Arizona trying to introduce chicanery in its count of mail-in ballots, or the emerging consensus that the appointment of the acting attorney general was illegal. Set that aside. Grant that it is fully newsworthy to report the White House is putting out propaganda video, in concert with Infowars, as justification for its banning a reporter from covering the president.
Even so: What was everyone thinking? Or how were they thinking, as they dragged the news cycle down into the forensic rabbithole? They were thinking like the cranks and nutjobs who have taken over the discourse, that if they could isolate the duplicated frames, the whole thing would come crashing down.
Far down at the end of the line, there may be a meaningful conclusion to be had. It matters, on its own terms, whether the Infowars guy was party to an intentional distortion of the video that the White House then distributed, or whether the discrepancies between the video and other videos were simply an artifact of hacky editing and the process of shitposting a shitvid. The New York Times did a perfectly sound job of writing that story, late in the day, after weighing the evidence and drawing its conclusions:
There is no evidence the video has been faked. But the editing, including zooming in and repeating several frames, exaggerated the contact between Mr. Acosta and the intern. The low quality of the video, which briefly freezes either deliberately or because of a glitch, adds to the ambiguity, the analysis showed.
But the Times spared the readers the performance of the process itself. If this seems inadequate, just watch some football. Or don’t, because football is unwatchable, because it has been broken down into a process by which clearly intelligible events (He caught the ball) become fragmented video evidence (Does this angle show him establishing possession? Does that angle show him making a football move? Does this third angle prove that he had established possession prior to making a football move?). A White House flunky tried to interrupt a reporter and grab a microphone out of his hand. Let the play on the field stand.