Thursday, 3 February 2011

Bring me Solo and the Wookiee. They will all suffer for this outrage.

Floating around the net earlier today I found this little gem on ITN’s website.

Oh come on now.

OK let’s take all this in for a moment. What we have here is two videos reportedly showing the same event on January 28 2011. The setting for this scenario is above the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, the sight where it is believed the prophet Mohammed (Gee Note: Picture not found) ascended to heaven to kick back and have a good old pray with Jesus, Abraham and Moses before returning to Earth.

The cliff notes are, a glowing orb appears in the skyline and slowly descends towards the holy landmark. Eventually it settles and hovers for a bit, before a huge flash of light erupts and it zooms off in to the upper atmosphere. One of the videos shows a series of red dots appearing in the night sky like Christmas lights after the object has disappeared from view.

Now almost immediately this should be a flashing alert on anyone’s hoax radar. Largely due to two things, the heavily religious background and the UFO moving like a goddam firework. Except a lot of people appear to be taking it seriously. Including the above report from ITN, one of the UK’s largest news outlets.

The problem is I don’t buy it. Any of it. Largely because the first video is obviously a load of old bobbins.

You see the thing is (Gee Note: And bear with me on this) I’m a massive Star Wars fan. I always have been. Ever since I was a little kid sitting in my parents front room watching a plucky Luke Skywalker defeat the odds by besting a giant slavering alien monster, I’ve been hooked. When I was about ten years old Return of The Jedi was probably my favourite film ever. Now that I’m older it’s still ranks in my top ten of all time but has been leap frogged by the darker and edgier Empire Strikes Back. And that’s part of the reason I love them. There’s something for everyone in there. Ten year old me loved them for one reason, adult me loves them for completely different reasons.

But when the The Phantom Menace arrived I was disappointed. And for all the talk of midi-chlorians, Jar Jar Binks, and Jake Lloyd one thing stood out to me above all else as to the reason why. It didn’t feel real. The universe it was set in wasn’t convincing. And for me it was to do with the over reliance of CGI (Gee Notes: Or, depending on the era in which you first saw a motion picture, special effects. Or trick photography. Or witchcraft.).

So, with that in mind, here’s that first video by itself:

The first time I saw it there was something that bothered me and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. In fact it took another three viewings before it finally clicked. From about the 0:58 second mark a wall comes in to view in the foreground. The problem is the foreground images and the background images are ever so slightly out of sync with each other, meaning that one was superimposed on the other. The video is of such poor quality though that it’s difficult to pick up and identify on the initial viewing even if in the back of your mind it’s niggling away.

Of course I would love to demonstrate this by making an additional video to prove the point. But I’m about as technically minded as Genghis Kahn staring at a fridge. Thankfully here’s one someone else made earlier.

I mean even if you ignore the bleedingly obvious questions such as “Hang on a minute. If there was a bloody great big light in the sky how come nobody reported it to the police? How come if there was a sacred site supposedly with an unknown aircraft hovering over it rather ominously, why weren’t there any fighter jets scrambled?” then you can’t really argue with the fact that, if the video was on the level, the perspective of the wall and the horizon should change in unison.

Now in addition to these two videos we also have almost identical scenes allegedly recorded on January 15 2011 in Moscow. Of course these videos may have absolutely nothing to do with each other but they’re similar enough to raise eyebrows. Could it be that we’re under threat of invasion from little green men?

Well, no. Not really. When something like this happens it’s usually a sure sign of some kind of viral marketing campaign rather than anything else. Especially when all three Youtube accounts used to host these videos have nothing else posted on them. Remember those ”news” reports about a giant skeleton that had been washed up on the shores of India by a tsunami a couple of years back? Well a ton of people got excited by that, until it was revealed to be an advert for a video game. I wouldn’t be surprised if this turns out to be something like that.

Which is fine I guess. I mean hoaxers will always be hoaxers. And for some reason marketing men and women are still convinced that getting people excited with one idea only to deliver something completely different will entice folks rather than piss them off. Despite both of these practices being a bit dubious, neither are the real problem.

No the real problem is that this made the national news in the UK without anyone actually looking at the video and, you know, possibly thinking that it might be dubious enough not to include on a serious news website. When it takes all of ten minutes to cast doubt over its content, less time than it would have taken to edit the video and record the voiceover, it begs the question “Does anyone in the media these days actually do their jobs properly anymore?”.

But then I guess the tale of a strange UFO hovering in the skies over Jerusalem is a better story than hoax dupes serious news organisation. Even if it isn’t true.

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