The ability to manipulate a photograph and create an alternte reality has always been there since the beginning of photography. Multiple exposures, sandwiching negaitves, selective masking etc. Add to that the ability to fake reality by constructing a scene to fit the photographers vision such as Civil War photographers posing corpses for better compositions.
The only difference with digital is that the ability to do the above has moved from the hands of skilled darkroom technicians to anyone with a computer and photoshop. Now everyone can present their own version of reality.
I wonder what "real" photographers thought about all those regular folks buying cheap Japenese and in some cases German 35mm rangefinders and SLRs starting in the early 50s. I bet a lot of them thought it would be the end of the art of photography since people could go out and blast through 24 or 36 exposures without hardly thinking about it. Couple the cheap cameras with the idea of every camera nut being able to now afford enlarging gear for his 35mm frames and you end up with lots of crap elbowing for room with work from "real" photographers.
But photographic art survived and the formats and processes that many might have felt threatened back then not only survive but thrive today as never before.
Digital is really no different then analogue when it comes to the art aspect. I have seen truly stunning digital prints. the fact they were so good had nothing to do with the medium but the vision and execution of the idea by the artist. But those works are a small percentage of all the mediocre digital work that is out there, just like analogue. Good work will be recognized, applauded and given its due regardless of medium or process.