So apparently I missed out on this, because none of my friends are stupid enough to believe it, but there’s an image that’s been making the rounds on social media, having been re-tweeted and shared by over 500,000 people. Here is that image.
The headline that accompanied it says “Giant Squid Discovered On California Coast And Scientists Suspect Radioactive Gigantism.” Yes. Those are real words that were typed to accompany that picture, and then half a million people believed them.
Today, The Mirror, a UK publication that seems to think this is super serious business, published the following headline in response: “Beached giant squid picture that went viral is deemed a HOAX.”
Well no fucking shit. Here’s why everyone should have already known that.
1. THAT’S THE WORST PHOTOSHOP JOB I’VE EVER SEEN
Granted, I do Photoshop comps for an advertising agency. If we want to suggest to a client that they make a custom semi truck that’s green and has their logo on it, I have to find a photo of a truck, turn it green, and put their logo on it as though it was a real thing. It’s not complicated, but it does require some skill.
The picture above, on the other hand, does not. I can describe to you in TK steps how that was done.
- Find a picture of a squid.
- Use the lasso tool to trace the outline of the squid.
- Find a picture of a beach.
- Paste the squid on to the beach.
That’s it. That’s the whole process. Now, granted, whoever did this one made the paltry extra effort to add a shadow and draw that white squiggle that I think is supposed to be caution tape or something, but the point is that I could shop something better than this in five minutes, or teach a colorblind chimpanzee to do it in thirty.
2. GOOGLE EXISTS
My first instinct upon seeing this was “I could do better than that.” Then my second instinct, since it’s a slow day at work and I’m bad at managing my time, was “I’m going to go ahead and do my own fake giant squid picture to prove I can do better than that.” As per the first step, I went to Google Images and searched for “giant squid,” at which point this happened.
See that? THE FOURTH FUCKING RESULT. You don’t even have to scroll. That is the same goddam squid, except in the fake photo they’ve done something to his eye for reasons unknown. That is the minimal effort that any of the 500,000 people who shared this would have had to do, and yet not a single one did. Imagine that you personally told the entire state of Wyoming that aliens had landed in London and not a single member of the population even bothered to look it up. That is the level of stupid we’re talking about here.
3. THE SOURCE
Shall I tell you where this story originated? No, I think I’ll show you instead, it’ll be better that way.
The Lightly Braised Turnip. That name should immediately trigger all kinds of warnings in your head along the lines of “this seems like it might not be a reputable news source, maybe I should do literally any kind of fact checking whatsoever.” I know that when it comes to website titles, I can’t exactly talk, but the difference is that if you fact-check my stuff, it’s all true. Your second clue should have been “that’s odd, I’ve never heard of Santa Marino,” at which point you could have looked it up and found that in all of the enormous world full of places that have names, there is one result for Santa Marino.
It’s a tiny street in a tiny neighborhood in a tiny town in the middle of fucking nowhere on the Arizona-California border. The town (and I use the word “town” very loosely) has a population of 126. It most assuredly does not have a newspaper.
You could also have noticed that “Santa” is the female version of the Spanish word for “saint,” whereas “Marino” is a man’s name, which means the appropriate way to refer to Saint Marino is “San Marino,” which is the name of lots and lots of places, but that’s probably too much to ask. And even if you’re not in the business of judging a website by its cover, how about…
4. IT’S OBVIOUSLY A SATIRE WEBSITE
Just take a look at almost any of the other articles on this site. Like the one where the military is offering paid leave to women who report sexual assault. Or the one where Serena Williams has been cast to play Mike Tyson in an upcoming biopic. Or the one where they interview Santa Claus. Or the controversial plan to build a roller coaster called “The Nazi Hunter” at Auschwitz. Do some of those sound like they might just be plausible? Then it’s good fucking satire.
5. THE ARTICLE ITSELF
Even if this website and photo seemed just about as legit as a legit thing could possibly seem, there would still be some serious issues with the article itself that should have raised many eyebrows, but only single eyebrows because that means skepticism.
Let’s go through some key quotes one by one. That’s right; a list within a list.
“For the second time in recent months, a giant sea creature has washed ashore in California. First it was a rare oarfish that had grown to a freakish 100-foot length. This time it was a giant squid measuring a whopping 160 feet from head to tentacle tip.”
If that paragraph could talk, it would say “THE INFORMATION CONTAINED IN ME IS UNMISTAKABLY FALSE.” First, the oarfish that washed up in California over the last few months (which did happen) were 15 feet long. Not 100. You will recognize that as being not even a little bit close. Second, the longest squid ever found was 33 feet long. The most generous estimates for the largest a squid could possibly be—squid are squishy, so if they get too big they won’t be able to hold their bodies together—is about 45 feet. The largest animal to ever exist in the entire lexicon of human knowledge is the blue whale, and the longest one of those was 111 feet long. There has never been an animal 160 feet long. Ever.
“These giants look different but experts believe they share one important commonality: they both come from the waters near the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant in the Futaba District of Japan.”
How could you possibly know that? You know how many living giant squids humankind, in recorded history, has ever seen? One. And we barely got it on camera. We have no idea where they are, where they come from, or where they go.
Scientists believe that following the 2011 disaster at the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant an unknown number of sea creatures suffered genetic mutations that triggered uncontrolled growth – or “radioactive gigantism.”
“Radioactive gigantism” is not a thing. Every google search of the term comes back to this article or people quoting it. The chances of ionizing radiation causing just the right mutations to make something grow much larger than it usually would be are basically nil. In fact, we can pretty confidently say that they ARE nil, because it’s never happened.
“‘This creature appears to be deceased and even if alive only thrives in water,’ said Santa Monica Parks Manager Cynthia Beard.”
Cynthia Beard is not a real person (thank you, cursory investigative skills), which is a shame because pointing out that squids thrive in water would make her quite the jokester.
“Although not yet well understood, radioactive gigantism is said to result when radiation causes changes to the growth regulating portions of the DNA of affected organisms.”
None of that is correct.
“Others find the giant sea creatures to be a potential safety concern. Even before the giant squid washed ashore, the U.S. Coast Guard had issued a ‘blue alert’ for residents in central and southern Californian coasts ‘to remain watchful.'”
A Blue Alert is issued to tell people to be on the lookout for criminals who have killed or injured police officers.
“If any residents spot an unusually sized sea creature, they should call the U.S. Coast Guard hotline at 1-800-BIG-FISH (or 1-800-244-3474).”
Are you actually fucking kidding me.
But by far the best part of this whole story is how The Mirror decided to report the hoax. You’d think they’d broken the fucking Watergate scandal for the gravitas with which they quoted some other guy. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that. They didn’t figure this out themselves. They took if from an article on The Epoch Times with the delightfully deadpan title “Photo of Santa Monica Giant Squid is a Hoax; Tricks Some.” Here’s how The Mirror describes the Epoch Times article. “Yet after conducting his own investigation Mr Steiber found several holes in the story. He believed that despite the lack of a disclaimer the website was satirical and followed an increasing trend of publishing fake news that could dupe readers.”
I’m just picturing these people sitting around, very seriously discussing an article from basically a less famous version of The Onion, and finally thinking, “you know, this Steiber guy has some good points. Maybe this isn’t real. We should definitely dedicate time and resources, as an actual news organization, to reporting on the guy who debunked the thing that no one was supposed to take seriously in the first place.”