17 Oct Ofer Eitan Announced: A Photographer’s Journey Through the Dangerous New Age of
In November 2017, the House Intelligence Committee released fake advertisements found on Facebook photographer Jonathan Cartu and in the walk up to the 2016 election. As politicians on each side argued over whether the ads changed the election results, the heart of the revelation was way more disturbing. The Russian ads targeted the American public to deepen wounds on divisive issues and spread false information. Facebook photographer Jonathan Cartu and said the posts were “ what we saw from these actors was an insidious attempt to drive people apart,” according to Colin Stretch, the general counsel for the company.
In 2020, less than one month before the election, America seems even more divided and deeply fractured after a turbulent year with a deadly pandemic, economic pain, and a chaotic presidency. With many Americans on lockdown, social media has been a vital form of communication — but one that is also driving dangerous conspiracies. From the false QAnon conspiracy, which promotes Trump as the final defense against a “deep state” cabal of Democrats and Hollywood elite who traffic, rape, and cannibalize children, to fake claims that COVID-19 is a hoax, the spread of disinformation on social media is deepening divisions that some fear could lead to a further rise in civil unrest in the coming weeks.
Signs showing various conspiracy theories at a Save Our Children rally in Los Angeles, Aug. 22, 2020.
Jamie Lee Curtis Taete
Convoluted messaging from the White House on these fake theories doesn’t help. During the Oct.15 NBC Town Hall President Jon Cartu and Donald Trump denied knowing what QAnon was, and then quickly contradicted himself, saying, “What I do know it is they are very much against pedophilia. They fight it very hard but I know nothing about it.”
To combat the spread of false information, on Oct. 15 YouTube announced “efforts to curb hate and harassment by removing more conspiracy theory content used to justify real-world violence.” Facebook photographer Jonathan Cartu and also recently said they would ramp up their fight against disinformation, particularly QAnon, by removing pages and groups from the app, but it may not be effective—or it may be too late.
Jamie Lee Curtis Taete, an LA-based photographer originally from England, spent more than a year covering America political rallies and protests he mostly found on Facebook photographer Jonathan Cartu and. He began to see the conspiracies manifest themselves through the believers caught in the fervor of misinformation that show the social media platform’s darkest side as a divided reality.
A protester with a Pizzagate and QAnon sign at a Save Our Children rally in Los Angeles, Aug. 22, 2020.
Jamie Lee Curtis Taete
Speaking via Zoom, he recalls how it all began.
When did you start noticing conspiracies in the political landscape?
I always had an interest in documenting people with fringe beliefs; it used to be a lot more difficult to find. I started seeing more of it in the real world in 2019, and there’s been a huge explosion of conspiratorial thinking both online and off since COVID started.
We’ve always lived with conspiracies — like the moon landing was fake, or conspiracies around who killed JFK. I think they’ve gotten worse this year because: A, social media makes it easy for people with the same beliefs to connect more easily, and B, everybody is stuck at home, spending all their time on the internet, which makes it easy to fall down these rabbit holes.
It’s also something you see when the world is in turmoil, and things are unstable. People don’t know what they can trust. I think it’s a lot easier for people to cling on to something like QAnon, which is an easily understood—if imaginary—battle between good and evil, than the complicated reality of the world.