Estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 31 seconds

Reflecting Allowed

Falsification Story: Trump’s Sea of Love

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 31 seconds

Watch this. It is going around on WhatsApp in Egypt



A friend showed it to me and we were both immediately skeptical.

In case you don’t know what that is in the picture, it is a picture of Muslims in Mecca moving around the holy Kaaba during the annual Muslim pilgrimage.

But I couldn’t be quietly skeptical. It felt, rather than looked doctored and I wanted to prove it.

We wondered if the words were superimposed or taken out of context but…I thought the best guess was that the picture was originally of something else, and had been replaced by the Kaaba picture. There was some light reflected on the picture in the video. I normally wouldn’t be able to use that as evidence of doctoring, but you would think ABC camerapeople could avoid that glare.

I searched for the full ABC interview online and found it. But I was too impatient to watch the entire thing. So instead I searched “Trump ABC Sea of love” and bingo!

Watch minute 3:20

It was originally a picture of his inauguration, man. Now it all makes sense.

Now here is why this story is not about the technical skill of investigating fakeness (though it helps of course, e.g. to check the original source like ABC). It’s about deep knowledge of Trump, Mecca, and the motivation of someone to doctor the video.

  1. Trump says he is impressed by people coming from “all over the country, maybe the world”. That’s not particularly impressive in Saudi Arabia. It’s not a small country, but anyone who knows anything about Mecca and the pilgrimage knows it’s impressive because people come from all over the world. All over the country isn’t really that big a deal
  2. Trump comments on how people on one end can’t see. And this has little or no relevance for Mecca
  3. And of course, we all know there is no way Trump is impressed by Muslim anything. And he can’t possibly call it a sea of love, put it up in the white house, or make it the last stop on his tour.
  4. There is motivation in this part of the world to make people like Trump. I don’t understand it, but I know it’s there. Someone made this video to convince people Trump actually liked something about Islam. Yay. Because Muslims, for some odd reason, regularly look for weird signs that people like them or are impressed by them. Too many stories for me to retell here

Long story short: there are many technical ways to assert the truth or falsity of this video. But there is quite a bit of  non-technical skepticism built on years of knowledge that helped me search and discover the truth within maybe 10 minutes.

Congratulations. And you’re welcome. Can I post this on hoaxbusters now? Or Snopes?

P.S. The glare? It’s also in the original ABC film 🙂

9 thoughts on “Falsification Story: Trump’s Sea of Love

  1. Nice detective work. I went through and matched the frames. It’s not terribly complex to create masks and superimpose a different image in video effects software, they even reproduced the glare of the light in the photo.

    While we need this kind of scrutiny, it seemingly has no effect on people who want to believe this man, this lying man. They can rationalize it quite easily, the belief is stronger than the critical thinking.

    I try to imagine what it’s like for this man, who so desperately want so be liked, who knows that he can only be liked through power and money, who daily sees an abundance of people who openly despise and dispute him. Then he has to reconstruct his fabricated version of his world, a lie by lie by deceit structure. He knows it.

    I want to believe there is a heavy cost somewhere for that effort. I want to believe…

  2. Trump can’t last. He’s a bad liar and so self-centered that he doesn’t have the necessary regard for others that would allow him to fool people in the long run. The dark side of empathy would allow him to relate to people and respond in a way that kept their attention and adapted as expectations developed. He sees only the surface and underestimates people to the point of not caring to understand them.
    My sense is his tricks have all been spent. The slogans are already wearing thin and the feedback in the form of results requires such a deep level of gullibility that his loyalist will simply forget to breath one day and all topple over in a massive hysterical snit.
    Alternately, as Leslie suggests, Trump is the distractor. All eyes follow him while the magician sets up his trick in full view of the audience. The trick is?

    This story is hopeful:
    Meet the 16-year-old Canadian girl who took down Milo Yiannopoulos
    This is the real story of how the video that took down Milo surfaced.
    Feb 24, 2017, 4:00pm EST

  3. I couldn’t comprehend why anyone would have done this until I got to your point 4. And now I am even more intrigued by the idea that people would share this on WhatsApp. It’s like a whispering campaign – bizarre! Do you think that Trump might have had a hand in it?

    1. Don’t think Trump would have a hand in it, no. Why would you think so?

      WhatsApp, like Facebook, is full of made-up stuff that goes viral. I honestly don’t think the medium makes ppl less critical. I think the medium helps uncritical ppl spread ignorance faster maybe?

  4. I don’t think Trump would have had a hand in it but then I don’t know why anyone would have done it as a rational individual action. Reading about 4Chan’s role in much of this misinformation, it seems like what might be partially mischief can become part of a network (of human and non-humans) that can exploit emergent effects with powerful nodes taking advantage of opportunities as they present themselves. The only encouraging aspect for me is that some nodes like Milo Y can be ditched if they are no longer useful but this doesn’t mean that the even more powerful nodes have come to their senses. As Laurie Penny said “Those suddenly dropping Yiannopoulos are making a business decision, not a moral one — and yes, even in Donald Trump’s America, there’s still a difference. ” Self-interest all the way down.

    1. I did try to explain that there are ppl w interest here to make ppl like Donald Trump and that involves making ppl believe he isn’t an Islamophobe. Ppl here saw the recent ban on some Muslim countries and didn’t blink. Seriously. Lots of people. They saw ppl in airports unable to reach their families and said “well he told em not to go they should not have traveled” (try to explain these ppl may have been in transit, no luck).

      There’s also definitely the part about Muslims just wanting to prove ppl r impressed by Islam.

      There’s a rumor about Neil Armstrong hearing the Muslim call for prayer when he stepped on the moon. About Michael Jackson being a closet Muslim. What the heck, u know?

      But it’s the first reason, the political one, that I believe is the reason someone would do it.

  5. Thanks for the great article Frances. The traditional role for young men has been to leverage their energy for use as cannon-fodder. And in the age of information warfare it makes sense that Milo, as leader of the young hackers brigade, would be worth sponsoring. After all, these kids could be the new soldiers in the post-kinetic war age. The “problem” with Milo though I think was his uncontrollably that disrupted everything around him. This had him competing with the Orange Julius and the need for Mr. J’s handlers to control the flow of chaos-messaging to a level of hesitant nervous doubtfulness not tip it into the wackiness-made-obvious stage. As long a The OJ dominates the field of view, the message-scrambling can stay in the this-might-make-sense-somehow range and keep us all THINKING we get it.

    Agree with you that this Milo made Redundant episode is not necessarily a sign of sensibility. Rather it shows the can learn from their mistakes and increases their chances for survival–not a happy thought.

  6. Good interview Frances. I keep reading “On Truth” by Harry G. Frankfurt to understand the cognitive space where certainty or the believable clicks into place without benefit of facts. I’ve heard Milo’s defense of the non-fact environment presented as a hunch or even a kind of hyper-expertise that appears as an “insight” from deep study of a topic. Thinking about the bossiness of Mr Orange and his pal Milo reminds me though of bell hooks or Angela Davis on patriarchy. There’s an underlying tone of “I get to say what I please and your duty is to understand it!” So it isn’t what the words mean at all but the projection of unquestionable authority behind the words.

    Makes sense in the “Look how I am loved by so many.” or “Watch me dominate the conversation by talking over you.” I think people start be liking boldness and deliberate social contempt. It’s a display of power and confidence but as Alan mentioned, a display of desperation. In OJ’s case that desperation my be genuine. Growing up a rice boy, I bet there was no way to tell if people liked you, were paid to like you, or were afraid to be honest.

    There’s also a concept in subversive persuasion that uses nonsense or continuous, and even obvious, factual distortion to confuse people into believing against their own beliefs. But really, I think the issue here is the directly personal disregard of people because of their religion. This is a deeper and more significant problem. What does it mean when we permit some to build “enemies” from distortions and lies? To take the potential of discovery and fellowship from the beauty of difference and soil it with hate?

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