Between Bullshit and Faketuality
The Viral Anomaly of the Image of Laith Al Saleh
This paper explores the anomalous role that today’s social media environments play in the dynamics of affective amplification through viral visual content. Affected by the post 9/11 logic of media securitization, the circulation of manipulated images and internet memes has created an atmosphere of controversial sentiments and irrational facts. The prevalent experience of disorientation that perpetuates itself in these relations feeds on the everyday micro-anticipations of claim and counterclaim, making the double binary of fact and fiction, source and adaptation impossible to sustain. Against this background, the discussion will focus on how the viral spread of one particular image during the refugee crisis has contributed to the emergence of the issue of ‘terrorist refugees’. Exploring the infrastructures of media alert behind this issue, I address the re- and premediating forces at play in the circulation of the image as faketual. Rather than relying on the availability of valid sources, networked formations of faketuality feel true even they are known to be fabricated. I develop this argument by adapting digital methods to reflect on the shifts in controversial relations of relevance/visibility as they unfold through our everyday encounters with search engines, online news media, and social platforms.
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