4 Reasons Not to Use Stolen Images to Make a Political Point

Lazy webmasters have been stealing images off the Internet since before Google Image search was invented. You need a generic picture of a guy in a lab coat, you just search "guy in lab coat" and grab the first one you see. Of course, if you don't take a few minutes to at least figure out who's in the image you just borrowed, this can lead to all sorts of unintentional hilarity and/or horror. Especially if you're using the image to make a political point.

#4. A Christian Book About Traditional Families Accidentally Uses an Image from Modern Family

When looking for a good image to place on the front of his new book about the biblical way to raise children (which we're assuming involves making them wander around the desert), evangelical preacher Doug Sehorne did a quick Internet search and thought this one looked good:

Doug Sehorne via gawker.com
The cover took dozens upon dozens of man-seconds to design.

The problem is, the people in that picture are the fictional Dunphy family, from the show Modern Family, which you may know involves a same-sex married couple raising a child. When Sehorne discovered the source of his blatant copyright infringement, he reacted in a completely reasonable manner and blamed it all on the television show, saying he would never tolerate "wickedness as sodomy or even TV" in a rambling Facebook post that proclaims his innocence of the imaginary crime of watching gay people on television while freely admitting to his very real crime of stealing images that don't belong to him and selling them in his book:

Facebook via gawker.com
Due to the smooth baldness of his head, the point was able to *whoosh* over it at double speed.

#3. Egypt Bases Propaganda on a Screen from Curb Your Enthusiasm

Like all good leaders, General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the man in charge of the recent military coup in Egypt, has been releasing propaganda to quell the wave of protesters objecting to his reign, because nothing convinces people you are right quite like telling them they agree with you. Like this poster, featuring his face pasted onto every citizen:

David D. Kirkpatrick
"I'll admit, I may have taken this 'face of a nation' thing a bit too far."

The caption, which translates to "We are all al-Sisi," is supposed to represent Egypt's unanimous support for the general, indicated by the sea of Egyptian citizens all bearing his marginally contemplative visage that seems to suggest he was trying to determine the best place in his office to put a gumball machine when the initial photo was taken. Unfortunately, keen-eyed journalists quickly noticed that the poster was a badly Photoshopped copy of an ad for the HBO comedy series Curb Your Enthusiasm.

David D. Kirkpatrick, HBO
In fairness, we could see Larry David leading an oppressive regime.

The backgrounds of the two images are exactly the same, and some of the figures are even wearing the same clothes. In fact, the only changes al-Sisi's PR team seems to have made were to crudely Photoshop in more male figures to cover up all the women in the original ad, because women's opinions don't matter.

#2. A Photo of a Supposedly Random Citizen Is Actually Game of Thrones Star Emilia Clarke

smh.com.au

This recent political ad for a Russian mayoral incumbent contains a testimonial from a woman named Anya about how she feels safe walking around in her city thanks to the mayor's incredible leadership, including such memorable quotes as "I now have confidence ... that no one will attack me or rape me." Evidently this mayor is Russian Batman.

Anyhow, beneath the testimonial is a picture of Anya, thanking her awesome mayor and urging us to vote for him. Problem is, the woman in the picture isn't Anya -- that's actress Emilia Clarke, best known for her current role as the perpetually naked dragon princess Daenerys on the HBO series Game of Thrones, because apparently HBO is the only source of media in the Eastern world. Anya doesn't even exist. So if you think about it, in the mayor's defense, she is totally safe from harm.

Pixland/Pixland/Getty Images
Unless the fan-fic community finds out about her. Then all bets are off.

But the danger of grabbing random images to promote an agenda doesn't just extend to mistaking TV character screen grabs for stock photos ...

#1. Two Heterosexual Athletes Are Praised for Their Heroic Gayness

Russia is constantly in the headlines these days due to fairly horrific anti-gay laws and the international community realizing how bad it's going to look when they all show up in Russia for the upcoming Winter Olympics. So it got some attention recently when, after earning gold medals for defeating the United States in an important race, two members of the Russian female 400-meter relay team passionately locked lips. Boom! That right there is a defiant embrace to protest Russia's strict anti-gay legislation!

Paul Gilham/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images
"Nah, it's cool when hot chicks do it." -Russian (Br)Official

The news media scooped up the story and spread the picture all over the world, applauding these two brave athletes for their courage and making them stars of the gay rights movement.

CBC News

Slate.com

There is only one minor problem: Neither of those two women is gay. They are heterosexual and both married (to men), and they had to rush to the press to remind everyone of that. Not a single news agency bothered to do any fact checking or basic research into Russian culture before running the "Gay Heroes" headline -- otherwise they'd have realized that Russians kiss each other all the time. It's a cultural thing. It doesn't matter if it's the president and the patriarch of the Eastern Orthodox church:

02varvara.wordpress.com

Or the premier of the Soviet Union:

AP
"The Cold War's ending; let's heat things up."

It's just a common formality, and it took us less than a minute to look that up and find both of those pictures. Because news agencies around the world couldn't be bothered to do the same, they wound up associating two professional athletes with a movement that, in their home country, could get them fined, banned from ever competing in another race, or thrown in freaking prison (or even all three). Yet when history books look back on the controversy, we have a feeling this iconic image will get lumped in with all the past's other badly misunderstood symbols.

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