Iran: You Suck At Photoshop (updated)

Or perhaps the headline of this post should read, "American media: you suck at fact-checking."

Iran's state-run media agency has been accused before of having digitally manipulated images released to foreign media. This week, as word spread of purported missile tests in Iran, the validity of an image of four missiles shooting into the sky turned out to be photoshopped -- but not before a bunch of big news organizations printed it as legit.

From the NYT blog The Lede:

Unfortunately, it appeared to contain one too many missiles, a point that had not emerged before the photo appeared on the front pages of The Los Angeles Times, The Financial Times, The Chicago Tribune and several other newspapers as well as on BBC News, MSNBC, Yahoo! News, and many other major news Web sites.

Agence France-Presse said that it obtained the image from the Web site of Sepah News, the media arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, on Wednesday. But there was no sign of it there later in the day. Today, The Associated Press distributed what appeared to be a nearly identical photo from the same source, but without the fourth missile.

This morning, Agence France-Presse retracted the image as “apparently digitally altered.”

Here's the caption on the NYT illustration above:

In the four-missile version of the image released Wednesday by Sepah News, the media arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, two major sections (encircled in red) appear to closely replicate other sections (encircled in orange).

Boing Boing readers are invited to further manipulate the image, whip up nuclear cat macros, or create topically specific fan-remixed versions of YOU SUCK AT PHOTOSHOP.

Post links in the comments, and our digital manipulation ambassadors will evaluate as hastily as a nuclear missile seeks the heavens.

UPDATE: And the winner is... BB commenter CORPSE1, who says, "Here's my rendition. I fixed up a number of inaccuracies for them."

UPDATE 2: And the hits keep rolling in. More photoshoppery from BB readers after the jump; I'll update this post as more hijinks ensue.

Below, from BB commenter JIMH.

Below, from BB commenter THEBLUEONE.

Below, from BB commenter BIGROBINAUSTIN.

Below, from BB commenter SQUIRRELMONKEY.

Below, from BB commenter SIMONFT.



  1. I don’t see the point of the photoshop. The original picture coveys the same thing but with a wider angle and one less missle (the 4th missle is still on the truck)

    I’m going to submit that someone told the photoshopper “here, make this fit in your average news site photo box and make it look fucking awesomely dangerous.”

    and the guy was like “shit man, whats more dangerous than FOUR missles?” he finished the job and had a delicious lunch.

  2. Say what you will about this administration (and I will), but who ever doctored that photo is an IDIOT, and if Iran’s publicity machine knew it was doctored before they released it, they’re idiots.

    And I don’t see how they couldn’t have known it was doctored either.

    You know, if you’re going to play at the planet’s “adult table”, you really, really, need to make sure you don’t have idiots in your propaganda office.

  3. I think it’s interesting to note that the two photos on the NYTimes website appear to have been taken at slightly different times, as well. In the top, doctored photo, the rocket trails are obviously longer than in the bottom, undoctored one, but the difference in time is likely tenths of a second. I wonder if something else happened with that unfired missile in the bottom photo, like it went in the wrong direction, or exploded on the truck?

  4. the government of Iran are idiots, the people of Iran have the same percentage of idiots as your own country. Think about it.

  5. I noticed last night on the video that in one shot there was a missile that stayed on its launcher and wondered about it. I thought that perhaps the missiles were being volleyed and the unlaunched missile was part of the next volley. But if the doctored shot did come out of Iran, then it’s suggestive that that was a launch failure. In which case, they’ve just drawn attention to it.

  6. It’s also an old picture
    only carried by Sepah News the Revolutionary Guards media outfit, other Iranian media didn’t use the pic, which shows western media were far more easily duped. Perhaps willingly so as it feeds pro-attack paranoia.
    Also the reference -nuclear missile seeks the heavens.- while light hearted does obliquely associate Iran with nuclear weapons which they do not have, they don’t even have nuclear power yet. Interestingly in this current media landscape Iran is never associated with WMD’s because that would make the connection to the lies that preceded the Iraq invasion and make the current propaganda less effective. Despite it being an almost direct replay.

  7. #4: ‘You know, if you’re going to play at the planet’s “adult table”, you really, really, need to make sure you don’t have idiots in your propaganda office.’

    Why? We have one in the oval office.

  8. This is on MSNBC now. They’ve reiterated the “doctored the photo to hide the fact that the fourth missle failed” theory.


  10. Good Lord.
    That is just too much.

    Of course,the signal has been propagated now to the worlds media,and thus into global consciousness so nothing we discuss can change the intended message.

    Even though WE KNOW.

    The future does indeed look bright…too bright.

    Helpful advanced extra terrestrial species,NOW would be a good time to reveal yourselves-as it seems no amount of voting or protests can turn this horror around.

    JonesUltimatum,massively cheesed off
    (but hopeful as always,that we can somehow reach our potential without killing our brothers and sisters in any foreign land -in fact it may be the only way. )
    I am seriously cheesed off with all of this .This is not how we are supposed to live for gods sake.

    over and out for tonight.

    Meditation required.Rant over.Sorry.

  11. Here’s the peaceful solution to the Axis of Evil: Have Microsoft,Adobe,and the MPAA sue’em all back to the stone age for piracy.

    “The situation is tense in the Persian Gulf as the RIAA today began intercepting oil tankers to collect their fines for 30 million illegal downloads of ‘Rock the Casbah’. Sources within the Iranian Government denied the allegations, saying ‘They were only in our “shared” folder.'”

  12. @Jenniferfolly- couldn’t agree more on that point- propaganda is a constant in our lives. Our governments have mutual reasons to keep us antagonized with one another- control. It’s all in Foucault, I tells ya!

    And does anyone notice this keeps happening with Iran- on both sides. We faked that whole incident with them supposedly threatening us, and they do this crapola, with our media complicit. They want to be a threat, we want them to be a threat. I mean, wouldn’t a war be mutually advantageous for US, Israel, and Iran?

    “Of course there is no us and them/ but them they do not think the same”

    Honestly, I don’t know whether to laugh or to cry.


  13. @ Arkizzle

    What a fantastic code, I’m sure noone will ever be able to tell which post you are referring to. As a good samaritan I implore you, if you’re going to drink for every meme, please never visit /b/.

  14. #10 POSTED BY JENNIFERFOLLY , JULY 10, 2008 10:59 AM

    The “Big Deal” that you don’t get is…

    1. There were 4 launchers… only 3 went off. It doesn’t do any good to have a demonstration of military might only to show that your systems aren’t 100% fully functional and impressive… In fact it’s quite counter productive.
    2. yes, it is “more scary” to the average joe without close inspection or thought. The sub context is that Iran has weapons to spare and that they work.
    3. it shows that Iran understands these things.
    4. it also shows that you don’t understand these things. that means that if your representational of the american citizens … you’re open to such manipulation without your being aware of it.

    That is the most frightening part… you don’t see it.
    Guess Iran will be attacking the USA “because of our freedoms” very soon now huh?

  15. @Antinous
    Ahhh, the mighty google overlords have informed me of the meaning of those acronyms now.

  16. And these are the third-rate chumps that Republicans are trying to convince us constitute a clear and present danger to every person on the planet?

    I miss the good old days when our sworn enemy that had people pissing themselves could at least put together a launch of more than *three* missiles at a time.

    Boo to you Iran.

  17. American-Israeli interests are pushing Iran to be able to point at it and say “Hey, look, you touched us first, so now we have a reason to attack you without getting demonized by the public. Here, take this missile!”

    Who buys this shit? It’s passive-aggression.

  18. I can’t help but think that poor artist who did this is getting (or already got) some “special treatment” from his bosses.

  19. its sad that a 2 minute photoshop job is already in my top ten photos for views in just over 2 hours.


  20. @#49 KEVLAR: Haha, whoops…yeah, yoinking images off of Google Image Search comes back to bite me–especially after I see ALL the great shots on there I could have used! ;)

  21. #1: Antinous, in South Africa, the week they invaded Iraq, our independent unpaid TV channel (OK, we only have one) showed Wag the Dog as its Saturday-night movie.

    We lolled.

    #6: This was the Revolutionary Guard, not the government. (They do just happen to control about half the country’s military, but are more or less free of governmental control.) Iran’s a bit of a strange one…

  22. See, my problem was that every time I saw the picture, I couldn’t help but think “what’s so threatening about Iran shooting little finishing nails into the sky?”

    Guess you could put an eye out.

  23. So I think we have a documented case of Photoshopping leading directly to a rise in the price of oil globally. . .and thence to share price volatility. . .Adobe up or down do we think?

  24. It’s obvious that they WANTED people to notice the picture was photoshopped.

    Why? They got a LOT of media attention. Now everyone knows they have missiles.

  25. @#73, Not sure what you’re referencing there, but I just watched “Batman: The Movie” last week and there’s an image in there which is eerily similar.

  26. @#78, Wow! That looks just like a screen capture of the Batman movie that I watched (or at least what it *would* look like if a remake were produced by Jerry Bruckheimer). In the movie, the shark even explodes!

  27. I feel very sorry for the person who photoshopped this. They are DEFINITELY dead right now.

  28. I think that all images submitted for news content should have authentication embedded in the RAW file. I know Nikon provides this option in the D3. All “news” organizations must then be required to filter for said authentication before they can legally post the image. A new symbol needs to be developed to caption an image to indicate that it has not been altered. If the image cannot be authenticated I think we have every right to assume it’s been altered.

    The Photoshop production tool set used by news publishing organizations/blogs should be limited to Curves/Crop for the purpose of making the image more legible to support the news content. Similar to dodge and burn from the darkroom days.

    News organizations/providers have an ethical responsibility to uphold the highest standards of journalism. There should be stiff penalties for violating this responsibility. This is much worst than using a favorite George Carlin word on the radio and having the FCC all over your back.

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