It Isn’t Just In MAGA-World

Let’s be honest: believing the people who tell you what you want to hear is a trait shared by all humans–Left, Right and Center. There’s a reason researchers study  confirmation bias–the current terminology for what we used to call “cherry-picking the facts.”

Just one recent example: MAGA folks who are frantic to believe that Joe Biden is just as corrupt as Donald Trump (okay, maybe not quite that corrupt…) have latched onto a report issued by James Comer, a Republican House member determined to find something to support that accusation. Unfortunately, as TNR (among many other media outlets) has reported, there just isn’t anything that we might call “evidence” to support that desired belief.

The House GOP accused Joe Biden and his family on Wednesday of engaging in business with foreign entities—but were unable to provide any actual evidence linking the president to any wrongdoing.

House Oversight Committee Chair James Comer released a 65-page memo detailing a sprawling investigation into Biden and some of his relatives, particularly his son Hunter Biden. Nowhere in the massive document was there a specific allegation of a crime committed by Biden or any of his relatives.

During a press conference explaining the investigation, Comer was asked if he had evidence directly linking Biden to corruption. The Kentucky Republican hemmed and hawed but ultimately admitted he didn’t.

It’s easy enough to see confirmation bias at work when a commenter to this blog “cites” to Comer, a lawmaker who has publicly admitted that he “intuited” misbehavior by the Biden family, despite the fact that even Fox “News” personalities have admitted that there’s no there there. But it isn’t only folks on the Right who engage in confirmation bias–and the strength of that human impulse to cherry-pick is about to get a test on steroids.

Researchers have recently warned about the likely misuse of AI--artificial intelligence–in producing misleading and dishonest political campaigns

Computer engineers and tech-inclined political scientists have warned for years that cheap, powerful artificial intelligence tools would soon allow anyone to create fake images, video and audio that was realistic enough to fool voters and perhaps sway an election.

The synthetic images that emerged were often crude, unconvincing and costly to produce, especially when other kinds of misinformation were so inexpensive and easy to spread on social media. The threat posed by AI and so-called deepfakes always seemed a year or two away.

No more.

Sophisticated generative AI tools can now create cloned human voices and hyper-realistic images, videos and audio in seconds, at minimal cost. When strapped to powerful social media algorithms, this fake and digitally created content can spread far and fast and target highly specific audiences, potentially taking campaign dirty tricks to a new low.

The implications for the 2024 campaigns and elections are as large as they are troubling: Generative AI can not only rapidly produce targeted campaign emails, texts or videos, it also could be used to mislead voters, impersonate candidates and undermine elections on a scale and at a speed not yet seen.

“We’re not prepared for this,” warned A.J. Nash, vice president of intelligence at the cybersecurity firm ZeroFox. “To me, the big leap forward is the audio and video capabilities that have emerged. When you can do that on a large scale, and distribute it on social platforms, well, it’s going to have a major impact.”

Some of the ways in which AI can mislead voters include the production of automated robocall messages that use a (simulated) candidate’s voice and instruct voters to cast their ballots on the wrong date, or phony audio recordings that sound as if a candidate was expressing racist views– AI can easily produce video footage showing someone giving a speech or interview that they never gave. It would be especially simple for AI to fake images designed to look like local news reports making a variety of false claims….The possibilities are endless. And what happens if an international entity — a cybercriminal or a nation state — impersonates someone?

AI-generated political disinformation already has gone viral online ahead of the 2024 election, from a doctored video of Biden appearing to give a speech attacking transgender people to AI-generated images of children supposedly learning satanism in libraries.

If we have trouble now knowing who or what to believe, today’s confusion over what constitutes “fact” and what doesn’t is about to be eclipsed by the coming creation of a world largely invented by digital liars employing tools we’ve never before encountered.

If regulators can’t figure out how to address the dangers inherent in this new technology–and quickly!– artificial intelligence plus confirmation bias may just put the end to whatever remains of America’s rational self-government.


  1. It doesn’t take AI plus confirmation bias. I recently took a Trump Tweet to task and after looking into it could find no evidence that it was accurate.

    It fit his behavior so I didn’t question it. I was wrong.

  2. Excellent point, Sheila!

    We already receive troves of lies and propaganda through the entertainment media. We’ve just learned that #RussiaGate was a complete hoax concocted by the Democratic National Committee.

    Also, trust in media is approaching single digits. AI-produced images and documents will only make it worse until we have some method of control. I’ve been using it to produce articles and clean up the editing process. It’s handy, but I can also imagine how it will be used to create trickery.

    Trust will easily slip into the single digits. We’ve moved past self-governing into the world of our oligarchies arranging the chairs on the Titanic.

    Buy a bag of your favorite Indiana popping corn and get ready!

  3. Humans continue to invent things that lead to intra-species conflict. Why is that? Is it still a part of our tribalism? Do we use our cleverness to slake the thirst for power in our caveman brains?

    What will happen next? An AI generated thermonuclear holocaust? Even Einstein never saw AI coming.

  4. “If regulators can’t figure out how to address the dangers inherent in this new technology–and quickly!– artificial intelligence plus confirmation bias may just put the end to whatever remains of America’s rational self-government.”

    AI is Alan Watts’ prophecy from decades ago that “Man will computerize himself out of existence.” carried to the extreme. The science fiction book hasn’t yet been written about our world with only those left who enter information into that cyber Big Brother system; but is there anyone left out there to seek the information? I think I did see an episode of “Twilight Zone” which covered that future possibility…which is coming closer at an accelerated speed at this time. AI Regulators are necessary to decipher the “garbage in, garbage out” of the system; but who will they be and what information sources will they have to use?

  5. The people involved in the creation of AI at the large software firms, like Microsoft, are urging Congress to regulate it. I haven’t heard or read a single word by any members of Congress interested in regulating AI. That doesn’t mean that something is being done behind closed doors, but I would really like some assurance that it is being urgently addressed.

    I realize that it is too late to stop the current and near future abuse of AI, but Congress needs to urgently address this issue as if our country has been bombed by foreign entities starting a war with is.

  6. I don’t think we can count on politicians (from either party) to create legislation that limits the use of AI. Both sides want the ability to use it to combat the other. What they’re forgetting is that China and Russia are miles ahead of us in using AI to disturb elections. So as team red and team blue try to outsmart each other creating fake videos, foreign governments will be able to create complete disinformation campaigns and wreck havoc in 2024.

  7. Sweden started teaching school age kids,how to look at,and read bias,and news facts,years ago. its a school required subject,i believe ongoing thru-out all grades. we have of course,desantis style of education dug up under some wet rock theory. being said,there are teachers here in the U.S. that walk the trump boardwalk. educate now this AI style of mind thought? were a little behind in making a path that is already on fire. for a few gens now,all the kids come home to is that infinate glass window and whatever ot sells. social media is the pathway for this style of hacking into ones mind. if you never touched a computer,you may have saved yourself from harm. now, do the math, you cant live without one and even get a job app in today. ever aspect of life in this so called modern age,is in fact, demanded by the ones who on;y see us as something to manipulate.
    one other issue, just for the trial, i went and put in a job app, for a corp run job,service style, it wouldnt allow me to continue or make a go around unless i put my SSN number in. now if i dont get the job or? they have my personal info,they should have no right to ask for that until im employed,they claim its dumped,but how far does it go before its dumped?

  8. so this is the second or third time i have seen someone in these comments state that there is proof that #russiagate was all a Democratic hoax. Why no push back on these obvious lies! Todd, if you have proof to support your lies, let’s see it. Otherwise, letting these lies go unchallenged is a big part of the big lie strategy pushed by the Republicans and other enemies of America. Repeating a lie continually, hoping that the truth is drowned in the fire hose of false information.

  9. My old pappy used to say, “Believe none of what you hear, and half of what you see.” My first response to everything is skepticism and I highly recommend it to everyone.

  10. Holy Omnivore, Batman! We are going to be eating ourselves up alive, it appears.
    The human race has, for a long time now, outstrippoed our collective capacity to
    adapt to our own creations/inventions.
    The cynical part of me believes that even were congress to legislate controls on AI,
    it would build in, or simply innocently (?) leave loopholes to be exploited by whomever.
    Yes, Todd, let’s see it!

  11. “If regulators can’t figure out how to address the dangers inherent in this new technology–and quickly!– artificial intelligence plus confirmation bias may just put the end to whatever remains of America’s rational self-government.”

    Alas, my fear is that the genie is already out of the bottle, and corralling it (aka, regulating it), much less returning it to the bottle, may be an insurmountable challenge. Those with the ability to do something years ago opted instead to wait and see…as others commented, because they saw how they might be able to use it. I’m afraid we just might be fahrkakt.

  12. It’s clear that among the reasons that attacks on civilized living have become more prevalent include, they are easier to do effectively, and everyone is looking for ways to mitigate what we perceive as the causes of social instability. We are afraid of massive change and our inclination is to run from it by denying the need for it and to understand the causes of it. That’s human but it’s going to happen anyway and those both most effected by it and most tolerant of change are the young with nothing to lose and everything to gain from it. Those at the end of their run need to hand the baton to those at the beginning of theirs and go quietly into that good night.

    Of course those in charge of the current mess that is the cause of the impending massive change would rather defend their role in creating the mess by blaming others in their cohort for derailing their cause.

    “Old soldiers never die” (but should) “just fade away.

  13. Interesting!

    So humans develop AI, and AI advances to the point of being able to, at direction, imitate its creator, and not for the common good! With continued advancement and learning from the garbage in garbage out credo, Will it completely discredit and demonize its creator? I kind of think that’s what happened with humanity and humanity’s creator!

  14. It was recently on this very forum when AI was lauded as not only inevitable, but as a signal foreshadowing progress. Specifically lauded when such progress involved the loss of jobs among those deemed deplorable.

    Only now,you shed crocodile tears. I guess that’s more a reflection of self-interest coming from The ME Generation. It’s probably a feature – not a bug- of the narcissistic cult currently calling itself the Democratic party . Republicanism is a cult as well. But, at least they don’t fetishize mutilating children.

  15. “There’s a reason researchers study confirmation bias–the current terminology for what we used to call “cherry-picking the facts.”

    “It Isn’t Just In MAGA-World” I am resigned to the fact that the Republicans will not oust George Santos but allow him to remain in his elected term to completion. We all know, and it was admitted on air this morning, their reason is that they need his vote…especially with the looming debt crisis. The Democrats should not be expected to oust Sen. Diane Fienstien but allow her to complete her elected term on January 3, 2025. Call it “confirmation bias” or “cherry-picking the facts”; it all goes further back to “turn-about is fair play”. Thinking about that old hit song, “One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show”; both House and Senate songs must go on till “the fat lady sings” in this MAGA instigated 8-year Constitution crisis.

  16. Like most human progress AI was inevitable as a pathway to understanding how our brains work and now that it’s a known technological tool it may be used for both good and evil but a competent government would regulate it in order to mitigate the evil possibilities.

    What will our government do? They don’t seem capable of doing much of anything as long as Republicans can stand in the way.

    Personally I think that’s only a temporary glitch.

  17. Rick. Taking a new piece of info and fitting it into existing patterns is how we make sense of the world. Sometimes we put something the wrong place and have to make a correction. The important thing is to remember that we are capable of mistakes and learn from them. Sounds to me like you are pretty good at that.

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