Monday, September 1, 2008

Photoschlock 1.0

This photo of Barack Obama is making the rounds on the internet. It's obviously Photoshopped (in fact, the original, sans cigarette, appears elsewhere on the internet), and Photoshopped in comically poor fashion. Leaving aside the absurdity of the image for the moment, two of the more obvious flaws are the length of the filter, none of which is between the lips, and the fact that the lips aren't parted. The only thing that surprises me is that whoever did it didn't make it a joint. In an age when ten-year olds can master Photoshop, you've got to do better than this.

I mean, anyone can throw a cigarette on top of a picture and create a preposterous and unconvincing impression of someone smoking a cigarette. This one of McCain (below) took just a couple of minutes, using Barack's cigarette.

But there's a bigger point. Considering what's at stake in this election, who needs cheap shots that are no loftier than, say, drawing devil's horns on a candidate's picture?* The internet is a place where fact and fiction, truth and lies are easily confused. As Joseph Goebbles noted, if you repeat a lie often enough, people will come to believe it. Images make especially powerful lies. A cheap joke that doesn't merit dissemination beyond a middle school locker room can morph into a pack of rats scurrying through the bowels of the internet, popping up hither and yon and resembling fact to undiscerning eyes. While "Barack with Photoshopped Cigarette" isn't particularly pernicious or masterfully executed, it's the ubiquity of lying and its power in the internet age that makes me wonder how many perceptions are shifted and votes cast based on some slipshod Photoshop job.

*I know about all this. I went to Catholic school. In third grade religion class, we occasionally read Crusader magazine, which was handed out, read, and then collected afterward. One month, I made the mistake of drawing glasses and a mustache on a "pagan baby" that graced that month's cover. I ended up face to face with the principal -- one Sister John Christopher, who I always liked -- and was told never to draw in school again (no doubt influencing my decision to become an illustrator.)

But that was third grade. And my masterpiece never made it beyond the principal's office.

No comments: