States, Lies and Video: A Century of States Using Video to Deny Human Rights Abuses
November 11, 2021 | 12:15 - 1:30 pm | Zoom Webinar
On Thursday, November 11, the Strauss and Clements Centers’ Asia Policy Program hosted Sandra Fahy, Associate Professor in International and Global Studies with the Kroeger School of Public Affairs at Carleton University, for a virtual talk on “States, Lies and Video: A Century of States Using Video to Deny Human Rights Abuses.” The talk was moderated by Sheena Greitens, director of the Asia Policy Program and associate professor at the LBJ School of Public Affairs. Professor Fahy began by describing the focus of her work: the phenomenon whereby states use videos to deny or cover up human rights abuses and violations. She noted that the first case in her study was from 1927 in the Soviet and the most recent occurred in Afghanistan this year.
She began by using the evocative incident of the murder of Jamal Kashoggi by the Saudi state to illustrate her analysis. She assessed the video presented by the Saudi state which used a body double for Kashoggi. By presenting this false evidence, the state aimed to free itself from liability for the incident or at the very least create plausible liability. She then discussed the use of CCTV recording by North Korea in attempting to dodge blame for the murder of Kim Jong Nam in Kuala Lumpur—again an instance of creating plausible deniability by using visual misinformation. Professor Fahy then introduced the questions which framed her research, and the various fields and ideas her work draws from. These includes deep fakes and AI, propaganda and cinematic theory, totalitarianism, human rights activism, and more.
She then assessed North Korea’s use of “government organizes non-governmental organizations” which used the language and visuals of human rights organizers to spread a false narrative. Mobilizing civil society, she noted, is a central tool in the playbook of human rights abusers, who curate messages targeted at the international community. She concluded by presenting her main findings, which affirmed that states have long used video to deny culpability for rights violations, among other things.
Sandra Fahy, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor in International and Global Studies with the Kroeger School of Public Affairs at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. She is the author of Dying for Rights: Putting North Korea’s Human Rights Abuses on the Record (Columbia University Press, 2019) and Marching Through Suffering: Loss and Survival in North Korea (Columbia University Press, 2015 [reprint 2018]). She is also the author of several peer-review articles and book chapters. She is currently writing a book titled States, Lies and Video: A Century of States Using Video to Deny Human Rights Abuses.