Reposts and Attribution: the “White Aurora” or “The Hem of His Garment”

Edit 2020-10-13 – I noticed traffic to my site has increased recently. Thanks for stopping by! I originally posted this in 2016, and since then there have been a few more fact-checks that confirm what I wrote below. 

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One of the things that bugs me about Facebook is the picture re-posting, frequently without attribution. Pictures can be really cool photos, pieces of art, “memes” (whatever the hell that means), or worse, picture of famous person with some inspirational quote. Not only can the picture and/or attribution be bogus, but the account posting the picture that is subsequently reposted can also be a bogus account, meant to gather followers and shares. This issue isn’t limited to just reposts of photos, as that I’ve seen recipes without attribution also “shared.” I’m sticking with photos/pictures for this post.

The one I notice the most are supposedly radio stations, obviously reposting something they found from somewhere else. Then there are the multi-level marketing (MLM) representatives that when you click through, you see their account is all about promoting their business. And if MLM’s weren’t bad enough, you have the pseudoscience quackery of types like David Avocado Wolfe.

That being said, the reason I got all bothered about this one is that I don’t have a habit of making friends with white supremacists.

screenshot of fake aurora from Facebook
Screenshot of Misattributed Photo

The person who posted this, who has a “Keep Calm and Proud to be White” picture on her profile, originally posted to a group of specifically descendents of white colonialists that were pretty much exiled from the African country they once lived in, in part, because they were white colonialist. (There is much more to be said about this, it’s complicated, like geopolitical history often is, but that’s not the topic of this post.)

Anyhow, as I’ve said, I’m always curious about more than just “original” posters that raise eyebrows (this one caught me because of reference to a former name of an African nation whose former, colonialist flag was among those that Dylann Roof was seen sporting in a photograph.) I’m also curious about dubious scientific claims, such as an aurora being discovered and named, “The Hem of His Garment,” a specific Christian allusion, and a “white aurora.” I took a multi-step, multi-minute trip down a Google rabbit hole to find where this photo originated, and finally arrived to a post, in Russian, from July 16, 2010.

Google Translate to English from Russian - Fluorescent Light and Electromagnetic Field by NeverSmile
Google Translate to English from Russian – Fluorescent Light and Electromagnetic Field by NeverSmile

Not “The Hem of His Garment” (which I could find one attribute easily on Google from an Evangelical site, years after the original post), not a “white aurora in Finland,” which also seems to be a common attribution. Instead, it is light art done deliberately by a photographer.

For a piece of art with more than 100,000 shares, I think this deserves better.