In response to President Joe Biden’s reelection announcement, the Republican Party provided an official response that was created entirely with artificial intelligence-generated scenes of destruction and fear. As Walter Einenkel reported, everything shown in the GOP ad was a fake.
Which also makes it perfect. Perfect for the current Republican Party, because party leaders have made it clear they have no interest in reality.
This is, after all, the party that has for years insisted that American cities were burning, that blue states had become unlivable, and that antifa buses were prowling the backroads, looking to export some of the violence and chaos to a town near you. The leading Republican presidential candidate is basing his entire campaign around a lie that led to an insurrection in 2021, while warning that without him we’ll have World War III. Fake ads are just right for a fake party.
The AI-generated attack ad was only the latest in a years-long campaign to generate the bad news Republicans want their voters to believe exists.
In 2020, Republicans in small towns across the nation took to the streets with guns because of a hoax spread through social media claiming that “hordes of ravening ‘antifa’ activists, loaded en masse onto buses and intent on wreaking havoc” were headed to rural communities. The entire thing was swallowed so completely that in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, the local chamber of commerce sent out warnings of “buses en route from Fargo for today's march downtown,” and warned businesses to “bring in any furniture, signs, etc. that could possibly be thrown through windows.”
Rumors of “two buses heading this way from Portland, full of ANTIFA members and loaded with bricks” garnered support from the commander of the Oregon Air National Guard’s 173rd Fighter Wing. In Humboldt County, California, it was the sheriff who not only issued warnings and called for backup, but insisted that there were “substantiated, law enforcement reports” of these buses. “These aren’t unsubstantiated stories,” said William Honsel. “This is the reality, and we have to deal with that.” The California Highway Patrol even sent out aircraft to search for one of the reported antifa buses.
There were no buses. There were no law enforcement reports. There’s not even any antifa, at least not in the way the right-wing media machine wants folks to believe. Antifa is anyone who resists right-wing authoritarianism, not some organized group capable of funding and filling a single bus.
That ridiculous episode is just one example of how the right wing isn’t just knee deep in conspiracy theories, it’s over its head in plain old fear. A good percentage of the nation is convinced that Seattle and Portland are burned-out ruins, that it’s impossible to walk through New York City without being attacked, and that San Francisco is a blighted combination of drug den and public urinal. They think this because it’s what they’re being told, over and over, by a party and right-wing media that insists that everything on the other side of that red-blue line is a disaster.
The video that the GOP released in response to Biden’s reelection announcement may be innovative in the sense that it used AI to generate all the fake images that it used to generate fear, but it’s certainly not the first time the right has gone there without the help of Midjourney or similar tools. In selling its viewers the fantasy of Seattle in crisis, Fox News borrowed an image from a fire that had happened weeks earlier in Minnesota, and it didn’t stop there.
When the real world didn’t provide the kind of chaos Fox wanted to sell, it dipped into a box of digital tools, dragging together incidents across blocks and days to create the appearance of much greater damage and of a city run amok. For many Americans, those false images of burning blocks and shattered windows are Seattle—and the fact that the actual city is still there, still fine, and still serving up fantastic walk-up sandwiches at Banh Mi Burgers Pho or a good, sloppy breakfast from Biscuit Bitch is completely beside the point. Seattle is gone. Portland, too. They saw it, and that’s all there is to it.
New York’s a hellhole. Chicago, even worse.
The Republican ad even features this line: “Officials closed the city of San Francisco this morning citing the escalating crime and fentanyl crisis.” Does that make any sort of sense to anyone? Don’t worry about it. Apparently you can’t even walk across San Francisco without dying from touching a homeless person covered in fentanyl. Which is why Donald Trump has proposed that we just get on with it and move everyone who can’t afford rent to internment camps in the desert.
In Republican fantasyland, it’s not rural America that is the center of opioid misuse, or the place where housing prices are falling due to declining demand, or the area where health, education, and opportunities are all worse. It’s certainly not rural America, red-state America, where murder rates are actually soaring as crime in the cities declines.
All that stuff happens over there. In Biden Land. And if they have to harness AI image generators to “take” a picture of that land because it doesn’t exist in this world, then by God, they will.
In the real world, Joe Biden has initiated the fastest rate of job creation in history, has held on to a growing economy in spite of dire predictions, has finally begun to address the nation’s long-standing issues with infrastructure, has stood strong against Russian aggression, and has rebuilt alliances that Trump tried to shred. The real world is where violent crimes soared under Donald Trump, but since Biden took office, they’ve been on the decline.
Republicans don’t like that world.
And the tactic of inventing what doesn’t exist has thus far been a successful one. So expect plenty of future ads in which grade schools are overrun by aggressive “groomers” luring them into a “trans lifestyle,” or where furries line up during math class to use the school litter box. And of course, you should expect ads showing children being herded through the secret sub basements of pizza franchises. Toss in a few scenes of George Soros directing those space lasers at good, honest Christian folk.
You can’t really blame the GOP. They don’t have any real basis for their claims. It’s much easier to change reality than it is to accept just how wrong they’ve always been.
The past week seems to have packed in a month’s worth of news. Markos and Kerry tackle it all, from Joe Biden’s big announcement to Tucker Carlson’s early retirement from Fox News.