I’ve posted a follow-up post to this article to clarify a few details and put to rest a few rumours.
A fellow skeptic (President of the Granite State Skeptics Travis Roy) recently posted a request on the Skeptoid mailing list regarding an image that has been making the rounds on Facebook. The image is an aerial shot of a supposedly huge turnout for the Occupy Wall St protest against corruption and greed. What appears to be thousands of protesters clog the streets of New York near the City Hall, with a caption stating:
Occupy Wall Street Turnout: My TV says nothing. The only thing I hear is its [sic] a small 100 person turn out. Turn off your TV. Ask your friends. Dont [sic] trust the media they lie!
After a request from Wettstein (and a warning from my hosting provider) I have removed his plagiarised propaganda image from my site. However the original can be found on Google Image Search.
My skeptical colleague saw this image and immediately smelled something fishy. Travis noticed that the image was an aerial photo of New York City Hall, whereas the protests were happening several blocks away at Liberty Square. He sent the image to the mailing list for other opinions. To my eyes the mass of protesters looked out of place, the crowd looked too uniform and dense to be real. I took the image into Photoshop to see if I could pick up any pattern to the image. My original thought was that they had used the clone tool to make a smaller group of people look much larger. Not being able to find anything obvious, I started to wonder where the background plate may have come from. Immediately Google Maps came to mind. I looked up the location featured in the image, and then I saw it:
Look familiar? How about now:
According to Google Earth, this particular aerial photograph of City Hall was taken on the 3rd of June, 2011, one month before the Occupy Wall Street initiative even began.
I have no strong opinions regarding what these people are protesting about. I’m sure they believe their cause is just and I respect their right to make a stand. I do however find it supremely ironic that a group who is supposedly protesting about corruption and lies would produce such a blatant piece of propaganda. Especially one so readily falsifiable. I respect that people have their own opinions and beliefs, however I have no respect for those who blatantly lie to defend their beliefs.
“Don’t trust the media. They Lie!”
Update: I have had a request to produce an overlaid version of the image to better demonstrate the similarities. Never wanting to disappoint my fan, here’s an animated gif.
Update#2: The eagle eyed among you will have noticed I have disabled the comments. Everything that needed to be said has been said, and the comments were getting nasty on both side of the fence.