This image is being spread around the Internet like wildfire.
As you can see, it appears to be a photograph of President Barack Obama wearing a t-shirt with the face of Aleister Crowley on it. An intense debate is raging as to whether or not this photograph is real and a number of arguments against its authenticity have been brought up. I personally don’t think these arguments hold any water, and here’s why:
1. First, I took a look at this photo’s EXIF data. This can be done by taking the URL of the photo (right click on the photo and click “Copy Image URL”) and running it through any EXIF data reader. Here’s a few online versions:
As you can see, this photo was taken with a Nikon D3 digital SLR camera, which is a fairly professional camera that one might expect to be carried by a journalist. EXIF data is stored by a digital camera to a photograph when the file is being written to the camera’s storage card. When saving a photo in Photoshop or other image editing software, this data is wiped out. You’ll notice that other hoax images online do not contain much EXIF data, if any at all. The fact that it is intact on this photo demonstrates that it has not been modified with Photoshop or similar image editing software.
2. Some have said that Obama’s head is much too big for this picture to be real. However, size distortion is a common issue with DSLR cameras, especially if the photographer was slightly inexperienced and made a minor mistake with the configuration of the camera. This can happen easily, either by choosing the wrong lens, setting the zoom incorrectly, or setting any number of the camera’s dozens (or hundreds) of other settings incorrectly. Here is an article explaining the science behind this phenomenon: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perspective_distortion_(photography) Despite all this, however, his head looks normal to me, even when compared with other images.
3. Some have said that the pixelation around the text on Obama’s shirt proves that it is Photoshopped. However, this isn’t the case either. When uploading JPEG images to websites like Flickr, various forms of compression are used to reduce the download size of the photo for users. This type of compression can cause “artifacts” in the image. Here’s an experiment: Open up MS paint and create a new image. Use the fillbucket tool to make the entire image red. Then upload it to Facebook. Notice anything? That’s right, artifacts! Sites like Flickr will actually keep EXIF data in place, too.
4. Obama’s shirt advertises “AC2012,” a website promoting a write-in campaign for Aleister Crowley for the 2012 United States Presidential election. Contrary to popular belief, this image does not originate from the AC2012 website. This can be seen by the lack of EXIF data on the AC2012 version of the photo. It was removed their compression algorithm. AC2012 thanks President Obama for his support of their website. They must have discovered the image elsewhere, like the rest of us.
5. Despite what some people think, this image isn’t just an April Fool’s joke. It made its way to a number of sites before April 1; it just so happened that April Fool’s Day was the day the right combination of people started sharing it for it to get noticed.
Here’s a link that had the image both before AC2012 picked it up and before April 1. Check the date on this one:
https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10150564571284112&set=p.10150564571284112&type=1&theater - That’s right, November 25, 2011! Long before April Fools Day. Other sites have a pre-April 1 date as well.
6. People have been saying that Obama would never wear this shirt because it would be political suicide. I wouldn’t be so sure. Aleister Crowley seems to have a bad rap among some groups due to slander by the media in his day about being “the Wickedest Man in the World.” This is because he strongly promoted the values of freedom and individual liberty in Victorian Era Britain, a notable repressive culture. Despite the bad rap he’s received, he’s actually done a lot of very good things. For instance, he worked with Winston Churchill to fight against the Nazis, developing the “V for Victory” hand sign as part of his campaign. Mussolini kicked him out of fascist Italy for spreading anti-fascist ideas there. Other accomplishments include setting world mountain climbing records, being a world chess champion, being one of the first Westerners to visit China as part of his extensive travels and cultural research, creating Thelema, a religion based on skepticism, a rejection of the supernatural, and pro-freedom ideals, etc.
Crowley inspired a number of very famous people, including the Beatles’ John Lennon, author Aldous Huxley, and many others. While I am not personally a fan of Obama’s policies, I am also not surprised that Obama is inspired by Mr. Crowley. Crowley’s ideas transcended both right and left wing politics.
In conclusion, make of this what you will, but I think this is the real deal folks.