I admit it, I’m one of the more than 3.6 million people who logged onto YouTube to see the 22-second clip of UFOs flying over Haiti. Just about every post I saw asked the question: real or fake?
What scared me more than the shaky hand-held video of two UFOs giving Haiti residents a flyby was that I really couldn’t answer the question – was what I was seeing real or fake? Back to YouTube for the answer.
I was already behind the curve. By the time I got to see the original post there were already a large number of posts discrediting the “video” through various forms of slow motion analysis. There was even a post by Poofyponcho of CNN video titled, “UFO Haiti Hoax.”
Luckily “Web Scout” David Sarno of the Los Angeles Times did all the journalistic legwork necessary to dash my hopes of actually seeing UFOs on tape. (Which can also be read here at the Baltimore Sun if you haven’t registered with the LA Times.) Sarno tracked down the 35-year-old professional animator, known only as Barsolff814, who admitted to digitally creating the video as part of a social experiment – that’s right, 100 percent digitally generated.
Embarrassed that I even for a second believed in the spider-like flying objects I returned to YouTube only to find another post by Barsolff814 of two old ladies flying the same creations via remote control. I actually liked this one better.
How could I as a visual journalist fall for such a fake? Was it because I wanted the video to be true so I threw my good and healthy skepticism aside? And what bothered me more was summed up by another poster, Teabowbraine, who said, “Videos like this could discredit the truth.”
But does the video discredit the truth? I fear that people will see my photographs and not believe the validity of them because it is technologically possible for me now to digitally create something false. This is against everything I do in my profession.
But do we really hold items posted on YouTube to the same integrity as items posted on newspaper Web site. I certainly don’t. And really, just for a minute, it felt good to set my skepticism aside. Not that the ability to change, create and invent images doesn’t scare me quite a lot.
As long as we remember, “The truth is out there.”
It might just not be on YouTube.
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