A computer-rendering

Above: An artist's impression graphic-rendering of an Israeli F15 bombing a target in Tehran, Iran. Credit: Al Clark, 2012.

Hassan Sabbah Order of the Assassins

The infamous aphorism, "Nothing is true--everything is permitted."--variously attributed to Nietzsche, Dostoevsky, and recorded as the last words Hassan Sabbah, the Old Man of the Mountain, founder of the Order of the Assassins and quoted by Betty Bouthoul in her The Master of the Assassins, often referenced by William Burroughs as his source for the quote which he returned to often--is highly applicable to information encountered on the Web.

Images encountered on the Web are undecidable and indeterminable. (OED: Incapable of being decided or settled; incapable of being definitely fixed or ascertained.) Any image happened upon (on the Web, or on social media) may be authentic or it might be fake, fraudulent, simulated, phoney. The quality of indeterminableness has two key aspects: is the photo itself a "real" photo--not staged or altered digitally? And second, is the photo-caption truthful and authentic--does it describe what is actually in the picture?

If the staff of Google are as clever as popular myth has it, then they should produce an AI tool which can give a percentage-based estimate as to whether any given image and its caption has integrity. (Such a tool is probably in development.)

One amazing recent example of a used-and-abused photo-image (and a great mini-case-study for students) is the above artist's impression CGI-rendering of an Israeli F15 attacking a target in Tehran, Iran. This is the photo that UK Member of Parliament Diane Abbott used to illustrate a Tweet opposing UK airstrikes on Syrian targets on 16 April, 2018. The photo-image has been used to illustrate thousands of news articles on the Web; stories about airstrikes anywhere really, certainly not only in Iran. Even though the image is not a reportage photo, or even a photograph of something that once happened.

The image was created in 2012. As David Cenciotti of The Aviationist has clarified: "The following drawing, exclusively prepared by Al Clark for The Aviationist, shows how an attack by a formation of F-15s on a nuclear facility located in downtown Tehran might look like. Obviously, it is only a fictional scene, however it is quite realistic for an eventual strike on the Tehran Nuclear Research Center, that is located not far from the Milad Tower, clearly visible on the background. Someone might argue that the first and most of strikes would be launched at night. That is true, but it is quite likely that subsequent missions would be flown during daylight conditions too. Even the surroundings of the Nuclear Research Center are probably a bit different from those depicted, the payload could be different, tanks would be dropped, altitude should be higher and so on, but please take it just as an interesting artwork. Please note that I've used the word image on the title because it is not a drawing or a photograph, but a computer-generated image--CGI."

(17 April 2018)