September 19, 2010

Gay or Gandalf: A Faked T-Shirt Fools Many

Greetings. As if we really should need a reminder that in the Age of Photoshop one must be very careful about trusting images on the Net, yesterday the Web was abuzz with a photo of Sir Ian McKellen, marching at a London protest against the visit of Pope Benedict.

But the mere fact of his presence wasn't the only trigger for so much attention, it was the t-shirt that he was apparently wearing. There, amidst a group of protesters wearing "Some people are gay. Get over it!" shirts, was Sir Ian, wearing the exact same style shirt, but his read "I'm Gandalf and Magneto. Get over it!"

Wow. What a sense of humor! That's pretty gutsy. "Best T-Shirt Ever!" flashed around the world endlessly in tweets, emails, and most every other form of electronic communication. Observers commented at length about McKellen's "amazing" t-shirt.

Except of course, there was no such shirt. It was a Photoshop job, and in reality (as logic prevailing over emotion would have dictated), McKellen was wearing a t-shirt with the same slogan as everyone else in the protest group. Judging from comments around the Net, it's clear that some people recognized this immediately. But it's also obvious that a great many -- likely the vast majority forwarding the image yesterday -- did not.

True, it was a pretty damn good Photoshop fraud. And yes, perhaps it's not totally impossible to imagine that McKellen was provided with a "special" shirt for the protest.

But logically, it didn't make a lot of sense for someone of Sir Ian's character to play along with a stunt quite like that involving a cause that he's known to feel very strongly about.

No real harm done by this particular episode. But it's an important reminder nonetheless, since the next provocative photo that makes the rounds may relate to a topic of great import with real consequences.

It doesn't take a wizard of Gandalf's stature to feign convincing phantasms of faked photos.


Posted by Lauren at September 19, 2010 11:14 AM | Permalink
Twitter: @laurenweinstein
Google+: Lauren Weinstein