From chainsaws to proposed cabinets of cloned dogs, the ongoing presidential campaign in Argentina is packed with enough chaos as it is — and now, as The New York Times reports, AI has found its way into the mix in a major way. Great! Before we even begin to consider the potential implications of what could be the first true "AI election," we simply must know: who okayed this grisly-thumbed poster??
The poster in question features an image of center-left Argentinian presidential hopeful Sergio Massa, the nation's current Minister of Economy, standing triumphantly among a crowd of admirers, his raised hand pointing upwards towards... the future, we guess? That it was generated by AI is no secret; per the NYT, the prompt that Massa's campaign used to generate the image — yes, this is an official poster from an official campaign, not fan art — requested an image in the style of "Sovietic Political propaganda poster illustration by Gustav Klutsis featuring a leader, masssa [sic], standing firmly."
"Symbols of unity and power fill the environment," the prompt continued, according to the NYT. "The image exudes authority and determination."
The poster has those general vibes, we guess, if you ignore the AI-generated ghoulishness that abounds — but unfortunately, ignore it we cannot. For starters, there's the fact that the face of every person in the seemingly all-male crowd of admirers is mangled-beyond-comprehension nightmare fuel. We're also confused by a machine depicted in the far-left background: is it a train? A tractor? Howl's Moving Castle? All three?
And then, finally, there's Massa's chunky, misshapen thumb, which seemingly shares a nail with his middle finger. It's grotesque, and if we could go back in time and stop this picture from ever existing, we would.
Chonk-thumb is far from the only AI-generated image that Massa and his campaign have put out. The team has shared portraits in the style of US President Barack Obama's iconic Hope poster and New Yorker covers, and elsewhere more whimsically imagining Massa as a Ghostbuster and, strangely, the LoFi girl. And at the same time, they've used AI to attack Massa's rival, the eccentric anarcho-capitalist Javier Milei, depicting Milei as a villainous figure from films like "A Clockwork Orange" and "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas."
Milei, for his part, has fired back with his own AI generations, whipping up images of himself as a sweet cartoon lion hugging an Argentian duck — and his rival in the style of what strongly appears to be a Chinese dictator.
The brazenness with which two presidential candidates are using AI in the run-up to a major national vote feels notable; historically, new technologies play large roles in political elections, with those who learn to master them often coming out on top. John F. Kennedy, for example, is widely regarded as the "first TV president," whose charm and cool onstage at newly-onscreen debates captivated the public. Similarly, Obama is considered by many to be the "first social media president," embracing then-nascent social media platforms like Twitter to rise from obscurity to the Oval Office.
All that in mind, could AI ultimately play a defining role in the Argentinian election — or even the United States' ongoing 2024 race? It's still unclear, but history says it could happen. And we promise, we're thinking about that. But right now, we're mostly thinking about how we can scrub this thumb, and the zombie-faced crowds surrounding it, from our memories.
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