Sarah Palin and the veracity of information on the web

The Huffington Post runs an article on the recent Photoshop altered pictures of Sarah Palin, the Republican Vice Presidential nominee and running mate of presidential hopeful McCain. Thanks to Deane for this heads-up.

It’s not the first time altered images made headlines – first for being taken seriously as the truth and then once again when they were discovered to be false. AFP’s image of the Iranian missile test earlier this year was one of the most notable

As news spread across the world of Iran’s provocative missile tests, so did an image of four missiles heading skyward in unison. Unfortunately, it appeared to contain one too many missiles, a point that had not emerged before the photo was used on the front pages of The Los Angeles Times, The Financial Times, The Chicago Tribune and several other newspapers as well as on BBC News, MSNBC, Yahoo! News, NYTimes.com and many other major news Web sites.

In the four-missile version of the image released Wednesday by Sepah News, the media arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, two major sections (encircled in red) appear to closely replicate other sections (encircled in orange). (Illustration by The New York Times; photo via Agence France-Presse)

The first and perhaps best known example in the same vein was the doctored photo showing the aftermath of an Israeli air attack in Beirut in 2006 circulated by Reuters

 

This two-photo combination made available Monday, Aug. 7, 2006 by the Reuters news agency, shows an Aug. 5, 2006 photograph of smoke rising from burning buildings after an Israeli air strike on the suburbs of Beirut by Beirut-based Reuters freelance photographer Adnan Hajj. Reuters on Sunday, Aug.6 withdrew the image after evidence emerged that it was manipulated to show more smoke. The manipulated image is shown on the left. The unaltered image, shown on the right, has since run. Reuters has told the photographer, freelance Adnan Hajj, that the agency will not use any more of his pictures. (AP Photo/Adnan Hajj, Reuters)

This two-photo combination made available Monday, Aug. 7, 2006 by the Reuters news agency, shows an Aug. 5, 2006 photograph of smoke rising from burning buildings after an Israeli air strike on the suburbs of Beirut by Beirut-based Reuters freelance photographer Adnan Hajj. Reuters on Sunday, Aug.6 withdrew the image after evidence emerged that it was manipulated to show more smoke. The manipulated image is shown on the left. The unaltered image, shown on the right, has since run. Reuters has told the photographer, freelance Adnan Hajj, that the agency will not use any more of his pictures. (AP Photo/Adnan Hajj, Reuters)

Though I’ve limited myself to photo manipulation in this post, examples from Wikipedia and other websites suggest that the business of altering personal, professional, organisational and processual is growing apace. And with increasing sophistication to boot, making it difficult to judge the veracity of news and information on the web. 

I would be remiss in this post if I didn’t link up to the original photo of Sarah Palin, which is posted on Flickr with excellent commentary by the photographer, Addison Godel aka Doctor Casino. As he notes,

We deserve better from this election than deception and worn-out old narratives. It’s deception to keep forwarding along a fake photo as a real one. It’s a worn-out old narrative to imply that a female candidate (for any position, political or not) is unqualified because she has a body and sometimes puts a bathing suit on it (the “bimbo” frame-up). 

Sarah Palin is in my view unqualified to be President, and being qualified to be President is really the only qualification to be Vice President. But she’s not unqualified because she’s a woman, or because of what’s going on in her family, or because some Internet person put her face on the photo of some other Internet person. Her lack of qualification broadcasts itself right off of her resume, and is indeed the driving force behind her narrative as “hockey mom”; if she were qualified, she would lose the glow of the Everyperson. 

A photographer who can write well to boot. Now there’s a rarity.

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