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It seems like trust – in politicians, in celebrities, in institutions – is fading fast around the globe.

Some of this has to do with new technology, as it’s easier than ever to manipulate facts, sound and images. But it’s also rooted in old-fashioned lying and deception that have been around roughly forever.

The royal uproar over Princess Kate altering a photo might seem like much ado about little, except that it has blown a hole in the family’s credibility, even though she’s one of its most popular members. At least she had the good sense to apologize.


Kate hasn’t been seen since Christmas, when she underwent abdominal surgery, unspecified because Buckingham Palace provided no details. Since there were concerns about her health, she put out a gorgeous photo of herself and her three kids, which ran around the world, for British Mother’s Day. 

But major photo services, led by the AP and Reuters, quickly retracted the picture after discovering it had been digitally altered. This may not have been the dreaded AI, but a simple Photoshop job.

The Princess of Wales posted that “like many amateur photographers, I do occasionally experiment with editing. I wanted to express my apologies for any confusion the family photograph we shared yesterday caused.”

But come on. Kate knows full well that she was trying to reassure the British public about the state of her health and instead accomplished exactly the opposite. 

The Washington Post describes the reaction of veteran photographer Paul Clarke: 

“What was up with Princess Charlotte’s hand, which seemed distorted by the cuff of her sleeve? Why were her mother’s fingers so blurry against the crisp knit of Prince Louis’s sweater? Were those glints of professional catchlights in the family’s eyes, in a photo supposedly snapped by Prince William? The photo, Clarke noted in a social media post that quickly went viral, contained ‘numerous … manipulations easily visible.’”

“He added: ‘What *were* they thinking?’”

No one can quite figure that out. Yes, the picture looked too perfect, but was it intended to hide something more damaging?

There is, to be sure, a clash of cultures here. As the paper puts it, “On one side, the ever-heightening expectations of celebrity perfection — smooth faces and cellulite-free thighs, best achieved with a little Photoshopping. On the other, certain ideals of journalistic transparency and integrity that are increasingly under assault as artificial intelligence deepfakes and cries of ‘fake news’ have wormed their way into culture.”

Even Clarke is quoted as saying this wasn’t so bad: “We all want photos of our children smiling.” 


But the rules are different when your husband is heir to the British throne and your own health is suspect because of your desire, and that of the palace, to release as little information as possible.

At the same time, what Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin did was far worse–he refused to tell the public, or his boss Joe Biden, that he’d secretly checked into the hospital for prostate cancer surgery.

That brings us to Katie Britt. The Alabama senator had the unenviable task of delivering the response to the State of the Union, and while her presentation from her kitchen was rather awkward, I was appalled by the incessant piling on that reached a Mean Girls level.

But the Republican lawmaker made a blatant miscalculation that she has not acknowledged.

Sen. Katie Britt

Britt was lambasting Biden’s border policies when she said a Mexican woman had told her a story of being held in sexual slavery. The unmistakable impression was that the president was to blame for the border crisis, which is of course a Democratic albatross, and this was a prime example.

But it quickly turned out that the woman, Karla Jacinto, had nothing to do with Biden or even the United States.

She now says that her years being sexually trafficked were between 2004 and 2008, long before Biden was president and even before he became vice president. He was just one of 100 senators.

What’s more, everything happened in Mexico. Jacinto has never been to the U.S. She has never applied for asylum in the U.S. She was kidnapped in Mexico and rescued in Mexico four years later.

When pressed by Shannon Bream on “Fox News Sunday,” Britt refused to concede an inch. She said the timing of her story had been clear and that it was fair to invoke the president’s policies.

Jacinto, now an activist working with sex trafficking victims, disputed the senator’s account on CNN later that day.

Human trafficking survivor Karla Jacinto

She said she had not been abducted by a Mexican drug cartel, as Britt had claimed.

She said she met the senator at an event with activists and lawmakers, not in a one-on-one discussion with her, as Britt had said.  

People who are really trafficked and abused, as she [Britt] mentioned. And I think she [Britt] should first take into account what really happens before telling a story of that magnitude.

“I hardly ever cooperate with politicians, because it seems to me that they only want an image. They only want a photo — and that to me is not fair,” Jacinto said.

She added that “people who are really trafficked and abused, as [Britt] mentioned. And I think she should first take into account what really happens before telling a story of that magnitude.”

If Britt had just said she didn’t mean to leave a misleading impression and needed to clarify things, the story wouldn’t have gotten worse for her every day.

Now there is a long and illustrious history of lying and deceiving politicians and other famous people.

Biden himself dropped out of his first White House campaign, in 1987, after admitting that he had plagiarized British political figure Neil Kinnock in his speeches.


Bill Clinton was lying when he said “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky,” as it turned out he was peddling an absurdly narrow definition of such relations.

Actor Jussie Smollett made up a story about being attacked on the street by pro-Trump thugs when in fact he had staged the whole thing.

But now, in the era of artificial intelligence, such things will be harder than ever for the average person to detect – with high tech making it exponentially more difficult to rely on your own eyes and ears.


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