Before going any further, it should be noted that it is not my intent to ignore the gravity of what is currently happening to those on the eastern coast of the United States. Those folks are experiencing hardship with more ahead, and I join with those praying for their safety.
That kind of sentiment, though, is common in these situations. People – and I use that term generally, as I’m aware that there is some number of folks who either don’t care about the plight of those in harm’s way or take some sick pleasure in watching them suffer – have a natural response to other people in the path of imminent danger or its aftermath.
It’s where the reaction is taken from that point forward that concerns me, and a brief glimpse at your Facebook or Twitter feed will get you started as to why.
Over the last two days, a number of photos have circulated displaying the storm. Many of them are amazing. Many of those are fake or taken out of context.
In case you hadn’t already heard, keep an eye out for these:
– A photo of guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, standing watch through a heavy storm, was taken earlier this year, not during Hurricane Sandy.
– There are a few photos showing storm activity near famous landmarks in New York City. A few are real, but most of the ones that gained the most immediate popularity are either Photoshopped images or lifted directly from the weather-disaster film The Day After Tomorrow.
– One photo shows a flooded New Jersey street with a shark swimming by. Should go without saying, but, FAKE.
– My favorite of the photos is a flooded McDonald’s, which, ironically, was lifted from an art installation film called Flooded McDonald’s.
The base reaction to these photos is not a real problem for me. People see the photos, think about what their fellow man is currently going through, pray (or the equivalent of prayer for those who don’t subscribe to the practice) for those people and circulate the photos in an attempt to have others join them.
What bothers me is with that someone who planted the seed, knowing that they were perpetuating a lie and that – again, in general – many people would fall for it. And every time such a photo reaches a new level of the mainstream, that person reaches a new level of satisfaction.
It’s part of the problem with social media – that immediacy. You see or read something, have an immediate reaction, type out that reaction and click your mouse. Within 30 seconds, you’ve unknowingly joined in another person’s ruse.
Thankfully, for the most part, the intended result these photo fakers were seeking – whatever that was – is being ignored for something more positive.
Let’s keep that going. Or let’s seek out some more truthful photos. Trust me, they’re out there, and they’re just as powerful as any of the fakes.
Justin McGill is executive editor of The Cadiz Record and can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.