For as long as people have been manipulating photographs (which is to say, for about as long as the concept of photography has existed), politicians have been common subjects of manipulated images for a variety of reasons: to criticize them
by making them look silly or foolish or dumb, to demonize them for propaganda purposes, or simply to use them as fodder for some light humor.
The practice of altering political images has risen to new heights in recent years, with the advent of digital editing programs allowing for much more realistic photo manipulation. As realistic as some of these creatively imagined pictures may be these days, however, the absurdity of what many of them depict should be obvious clues as to their fabricated nature. Nonetheless, many such photos have seen wide online circulation and prompted hundreds of "Is this photo real?" queries from our readers. Below we list several of the most popular manipulated images featuring President Barack Obama, ones for which a simple consideration of the context should have been sufficient to dismiss them as fabrications:
1) Kissing Cousins
Okay, there are parts of the world in which it may be customary for men to greet each other with a friendly peck on the cheek, but really ... people seriously thought the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom might really have engaged in a full-on, lip-lock
kiss at a state event in full view of press cameras? Created to illustrate a satirical article, this image is another example of Poe's law
2) The Left-Handed Salute
Yuk, yuk; we get it — Democrats are such unpatriotic, America-hating traitors that they don't even know which hand you're supposed to place over your heart when saluting the flag (an Internet political meme which well antedated
the arrival of the Obamas at the White House. But honestly, how could anyone who went to school in the U.S. in an era in which the hand-over-the-heart recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance was a daily occurrence, and who had spent many years attending the innumerable flag-waving rallies and patriotic ceremonies that go hand-in-hand with gaining and holding national political office, not have caught on to the proper form of this simple gesture?
3) White House Ball
This image is at least excusable in the sense that it was created as part of a Worth1000.com Photoshop contest for which contestants were tasked "to show us what the world would be like if it were ruled by pimps and players," and it fits that theme admirably. But for those who encountered it out of that context and questioned its authenticity ... you actually think the President and First Lady of the United States would attend a state function (or even a non-political, just-for-fun costume party) dressed as a pimp and a ho? Some ugly racial overtones there.
Hardy har har. This guy I don't like is so stupid that he can't even figure out which end of a telephone receiver to use, despite his having spent several decades living in a world in which this was the standard (if not only) type of phone available. It was a dumb joke when it was applied to President Bush
, and it's just as dumb here.
5) Air Force Done
Not a photograph of President Obama himself, but it still fits this category. So yes, we're supposed to think that the tail number of the President's official airplane spells out the most notorious racial slur in the entirety of the English language, and nobody noticed it until some random dude posted a picture of it on the Internet. Another unfortunate example of someone using "humor" as camouflage for expressing unsavory social attitudes.
6) Surprise Party
"Those who do not learn from the past are condemned to repost fake photos of it," or something like that. Even those who buy into the myth of Barack Obama as an extreme radical in his youth should have enough of a nodding acquaintance with history to realize that Barack Obama was a mere child in the 1960s and early 1970s, not an adult political agitator. We do appreciate that this image originated with a "Earn your own entry on Snopes.com" Photoshop contest, though — someone managed to pull off the task well enough to accomplish that goal, which is not nearly as easy as it might seem.
7) Head of the Class
Okay, this is
a real, non-manipulated photo of Barack Obama, and he is known for his habit of employing teleprompters for public speaking occasions, but ... he needed three
teleprompters just to talk to a class of 6th graders?
Uh, no — those devices were set up in a separate classroom so that the President could speak to the assembled press pool after his visit with the elementary school students.
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