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For as long as there have been photos, there have been clumsy and blatant attempts to manipulate them. In an age when you can't believe what you see, ever, under any circumstances, we offer up 15 of the most poorly manipulated photos, broken down into a handy guide to the warning signs that the picture you're looking at might not be what it appears...

Beware If It Has a Politician In It

Scientists have proven that politicians are magnetically attracted to bullshit. If you ever find yourself looking at a photo of a politician, keep in mind that the subject in the photograph is probably looking for the best way to trick you out of your vote/civil rights/a million dollars.

15. Republicans Suck at Internet Research, Quite Good at Photoshop Though

Do a Google Image Search for Al Franken, with safe search off. The above pic of Al in a diaper with a stuffed bear is, as of the time of this writing, the #2 result. Wow, amazing that he ever won an election with a photo like that out there!


Wow, what an oddly similar facial expression.

Well, the fact that it's Photoshop helps. When it seemed Al Franken was serious about this whole "getting involved in politics" thing in 2006, the Ohio Republican party set out to show people what a crazy, wacky nutjob he was. Republican strategists tried to find an embarrassing photo of Franken and failed, presumably because Ohio doesn't have the Internet and had never seen a late night cut of Stuart Saves His Family on Comedy Central.


This picture already exists.

The party did have a copy of Photoshop though, so they took a photo of a man dressed as a baby and stuck Franken's head on it. The photo was soon exposed as a fake and the Republicans quickly fired their public relations team, evidently because people felt that raping the Snuggles bear was crossing the line. What we can't figure out is why they stopped there. If you're Photoshopping anyway, why not make it a dirty diaper?

14. Mickey Mouse Mayor

OK, so what can possibly be wrong with this picture? It's a lady running for Mayor of New Orleans, with a standard picture of her standing in the French Quarter. Even if it's Photoshopped, so what? Surely she's been there before.

Ask yourself what's the saddest possible way this could go wrong. Well, it's sadder than that. See, in Disneyland they have a little area they've set up to look like the French Quarter (New Orleans Square). When her staff went looking for some generic shot to use as their background, guess what they found?

Yes, not only was it Photoshop, but they accidentally Photoshopped her in front of a Disneyland mockup of the city she was running for Mayor of.

13. Republicans Suck at Internet Research, Quite Good at Photoshop Though (Part 2)

During the 2004 election, Republicans needed to smear John Kerry as a radical, war-protesting Hippy. They decided the most damning piece of evidence would be a picture of him sitting right next to the queen of radical war-protesting hippies, Jane Fonda.

They grabbed the two photos above, one of Jane Fonda at a political rally and one of John Kerry at an anti-war rally, and prayed nobody would notice. People did, of course. But saddest of all? There is an actual real image of Jane Fonda sitting next to John Kerry at a Vietnam protest that was freely available.

What was the point? Hell, since they took the trouble, might as well have stuck a diaper on him.

12. Baby Hitler Made to Look Like Evil Baby

On one hand, this is probably the lowest political Photoshop trick possible. On the other hand, the victim was Hitler. The photo on the far left was printed in newspapers around the world in the 1930s as an image of Hitler as a baby. Look at that scowling asshole! Fuck him!

The photo was actually a retouched image of an American child (middle), because we are way more fat and evil looking than anyone in Europe. The real Hitler, above right, looked like any other (sissy) baby, full of innocence and mild confusion.

Yeah, yeah, it's Hitler, so anything goes. But doesn't it promote the idea that people are born good or evil? Sort of playing into the whole Master Race thing, isn't it?

Speaking of Hitler, another sign that a photo is a bad fake...

Watch Out for Photos Released by a Dictator

Mass murdering dictators are, in many respects, exactly like everyone else. For instance, they hate getting their photo taken, especially if that photograph embarrasses them in some way, or if they had everyone else in the photo was killed the next day.

It should come as no surprise then that they often touch up those photographs to remove any embarrassing spots, blemishes, stress marks and victims of political assassinations.

11. In Soviet Union, Stalin Kills You, and Everyone Else in the Photo

No one was better at this than Stalin. When he had a dude killed, he reached back and erased him from history. The above collection of four photos (from Wikipedia) is actually the same photo, as it evolved through the years and retouching. The four colleagues became three, then two, then just Stalin, as each of the other three did something to piss him off and were sent to the great Politburo in the sky.

This is probably just an optical illusion, but we swear the expression on Stalin's face gets a little lonelier each time. Good thing those kind of shenanigans are in Russia's distant past, right?

10. Vladamir Putin Will Make You Disappear from Television

And by distant past, we mean 2007. That's when Mikhail Delyagin appeared on the Russian chat show The People Want to Know... or maybe he didn't. Delyagin had made comments critical of Vladimir Putin, the Russian Prime Minister who decided that the people did not, in fact, want to know anything Delaygin had to say.

He was digitally removed from the footage and in one shot (above) there are only his disembodied legs and arm in a chair to the right of the man with the microphone.


"Comrades, the truth is the set was merely haunted by the ghost of Vladmir Notorso."

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If There's a Celebrity In It, It's Probably Fake

We've all figured out by this point that we view celebrities purely through a lens of cellulite-removal photo retouching. We can hardly blame them. We don't want to see all the nasty warts that (in reality) cover half of Rihanna's face.

But sometimes prettying things up just isn't enough, and that's when things start to get weird. And sleazy.

9. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie too far apart for Star Magazine

Brad and Angelina caught together! And he's totally married to somebody else at the time! They've even got the photo to prove it!

Of course, the magazine is stretching the definition of "together" a little, since Angelina is in Virginia and Brad is in the Caribbean. Still, they're on the same planet, so you know they were totally up to something. The magazine included a disclaimer on page 8 saying the cover was a "composite of two different photographs," proving once and for all that it's OK to lie to sell your magazine as long as you tell everyone the truth in tiny print beneath an unrelated article about Jerry O'Connell's beach house.

Again, we bring up the "if you're going to be Photoshopping anyway... " issue from earlier: Why not have them fucking? Tell us that wouldn't sell some magazines right there.

8. 15-Year-Old Character Too Small-Breasted for Hollywood

Warner Bros. knew that people go see Harry Potter movies for one reason: big ol' titties.

Their problem of course was that the leading lady was the 17-year-old Emma Watson, playing a 15-year-old Hermione Granger. Wait, did we say "problem"? Nothing is a problem when you have Photoshop!

A digital boob job and tummy tuck later, and you've got a busty girl wizard who'll put asses in the seats, dammit! Somebody probably got a raise over that shit.

7. Andy Roddick Too Skinny for Men's Fitness

Hey, the ladies aren't the only ones getting Photoshop boob jobs these days! Look at the pecs on that guy!

In 2007, Men's Fitness ran a feature on how to build big arms. To show off how to build a massive, Arnold Schwarzenegger-esque upper body they used... tennis star Andy Roddick?

Look, Cracked.com doesn't have a corporate tennis team for one reason only: massive, pumped up guns aren't ideal for swinging a racket. That's why Mr. Roddick (real body shown on the right) wasn't ideal for this particular cover. No problem! Crop that head and stick it on the body of some dude with the chest and biceps of the Incredible fucking Hulk!

If It Has a Black or White Person In It

Do you feel like the presence/absence of a black person in a photograph immediately makes it racist? Well don't worry, it just means that you're white and middle-class and probably suffer from the same racial guilt, awkwardness and possible unconscious prejudices as the picture editors of the below publications.

6. Black Guy Photoshopped In

In the summer of 2000, in a small room in the University of Wisconsin, the editors of the fall admissions brochure were frantically searching through every single photo ever taken on campus, desperately trying to find photographic evidence that black people went to their school.

Coming to terms with the fact that the black two percent of their student body were also afraid of cameras, they fired up Microsoft Paint and set out to integrate the university by circling a black man with a magnetic lasso, cutting of his head and dropping it in amongst a group of celebrating white people. The end result isn't even on the same scale, making it look like a black giant snuck into a pep rally.

Below, the editors of the Toronto Film Guide made a similar error in judgment, the clumsy insertion giving the black guy's smile a leering serial killer quality.

5. OJ Isn't Black Enough for Time Magazine

After OJ Simpson didn't murder his wife, Time Magazine ran his mug shot on its front page and, using a little artistic license, made him look more sinister and menacing, which for the white people involved, meant making him more black. So black, that his blackness actually sucks the light from the rest of the cover. A man this black cannot be innocent, America!

Meanwhile...

4. Beyonce is Too Black for L'Oreal

On the other end of the color spectrum, this L'Oreal ad caused embarrassment for the company when they were accused of whitening Beyonce's face until it looked like a photo negative of a black person.

L'Oreal denied the accusations, claiming that the altered skin color was a result of lighting used during the photo shoot. Lighting that, you know, made her look like a white person.

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It Was Taken in the Middle East

For some reason the Middle East is a hotspot for photo manipulation, possibly because it's notorious for information blackouts and is currently the focus of the entire world. How better to make sure the people see things your way than through some clever photo manipulation? Or even better, not so clever?

3. Terrorist Attack that Kills 68 People Not Bloody Enough for Swiss Newspaper

In 1997, Islamic terrorists killed 68 people at a temple in Egypt. The Swiss newspaper Blick decided that the photo they had of the temple wasn't sensational enough and altered it so that a stream of water appeared as a stream of blood. While we're pretty certain an Olympic swimming pool couldn't hold that much blood, let alone 68 human bodies, we have to admire the restraint they showed in not adding severed limbs.

2. U.S. Army Topples Saddam Hussein's Statue, Pretends it was Iraqis

One of the most memorable images from the invasion of Iraq was the toppling of Saddam Hussein's statue, portrayed by the media as a spontaneous action of celebration by the Iraqi people. Most news outlets used closely cropped photos like the one used by the BBC on the above right.

Images taken from further out however show, show a tiny cluster of Iraqis huddled around the statue in an otherwise empty area. A 2004 Army report revealed that the whole thing was actually orchestrated by the U.S. PSYOP division, who came up with the idea to topple the statue and gathered a bunch of Iraqis together to mislead the media as to what happened.

Wait, they really did find Saddam later, right?

1. Toy Soldier Kidnapped in Iraq, Tortured Under Magnifying Glass

In 2005, the Iraqi insurgents proved that they could suck at photo manipulation just as bad as the Western media, and at a fraction of the cost. The above photo was released to the Internet, claiming the soldier was "John Adam."

After it made the rounds experts expressed doubts about the photo's authenticity, and finally an American company recognized the man as one of theirs.

The company was an action-figure manufacturer called Dragon Models, and the missing man was this guy:

A soldier action figure named "Cody."

Soon after a 20-year-old Iraqi took responsibility for the hoax and the media issued corrections. Cody remains missing in action, despite the joint efforts of GI Joe, the Thundercats and the Millennium Falcon.

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For photos that look fake but actually aren't, check out our You Won't Believe They Aren't Photoshop Series.

And stop by our Top Picks to see a non-Photoshopped photo of Swaim and Bucholz in bed together.

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