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Trump's "Pee Tape": The First One Probably Won't Be Real

TL;DR: It would be easy to fake a Trump/Russia "pee tape." If one shows up, there's a very high likelihood it's a forgery meant to undermine the validity of the investigation of Trump when it's shown to be a fake.


What happens when you mix motivated reasoning and advanced computer graphics? You get a fake "pee tape" used as a way to undermine Trump critics and investigators.

As we read more claims of confirmation of elements of the so-called "Steele Dossier," the more likely it seems for many that the most salacious part of the Dossier, that Trump had prostitutes urinated on the bed upon which Obama had stayed at a swank Moscow hotel, would turn out to be true, too. Since the Dossier intimates that video recordings of this must exist, millions around the world await with barely-constrained glee the release of the "pee tape" (or "pee pee tape" or "piss tape"). Such a video recording would certainly bring down the Presidency, wouldn't it?

If such a video exists, it would likely end up in the hands of the Robert Mueller investigation. Whether or not it would eventually end up on YouTube isn't certain; if (as some of the flying rumors suggest) the prostitutes are minors, federal law would prohibit the tape being shown, period. Nonetheless, the existence of such a recording would help to buttress the array of accusations made by the Steele Dossier, many of which are far more criminal than prostitution or minor vandalism of a hotel room.

But the reverse is also (likely) true: if the "pee tape" were shown to be a forgery, then clearly the other elements of the Steele Dossier -- and quite possibly the larger array of accusations -- must be false as well.

You may remember the accusation that George W. Bush had escaped service in Viet Nam by running off to the Texas Air National Guard, helped by family connections. There's actually evidence that this is true, but all of that evidence has been overwhelmed by the (now known to be forged) documents that Dan Rather and the CBS Evening News put forward as air-tight proof that Bush cheated his way into avoiding combat. When the "Killian Documents" turned out to be fake, the argument against Bush fell apart, regardless of the veracity of other evidence. In short, one highly visible forgery, shown to be a forgery, was enough to undermine the larger body of evidence of a crime/cover-up.

We now live in an era where it's become unsettlingly easy to make believable digital simulations of people, both images and voices. See the "Face 2 Face" work from 2016, and the start-up Lyrebird, for two easy examples.

So imagine that a "pee tape" appears out of nowhere, clearly showing Trump with prostitutes urinating upon a hotel bed, then starting to engage in sexual activity. There's a very high likelihood, in my view, that the tape will be a fake, and that the revelation of the forgery would take place at an ideal time to fatally undermine the larger criminal investigation of Trump's Russia dealings.

One of the fundamental lessons of the emerging era of documented unreality is that nothing recorded with a single camera should be trusted. Such recordings can already be spoofed, and over the next few years will become ridiculously simple to fabricate. Like, "there's an App for that" level of simplicity.

If a Trump "pee tape" shows up, be highly skeptical. Frankly, if it shows up anywhere but directly from the Mueller investigation, it's almost certainly a fake. Don't fall for the bait.

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