Spot the bonehead…


by Unity    
1:37 pm - January 22nd 2009

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There are some things in life that just don’t mix. Cats and Dogs. Chalk and Cheese. Stephen Green and the Mental Health Act. Politicians and Photoshop…

In fact, can someone please explain just exactly why it is that its impossible for any politician and/or one of their bag carriers to go anywhere within about six feet of a copy of Photoshop without making a complete and utter fool of themselves.

Credit, where it due, it looks like Iain Dale made the spot, even if he’s a likely to more than a little off beam with the how…

Take a look at this “endorsement” from The One [Dawn Butler] on her website, but then think about how she got it.

[I'll show you the image and how it appears to have come about in a moment - U.]

Assuming the President doesn’t have a stash of House of Commons paper secreted in his office, and assuming the signature is genuine (she did in fact meet him some months ago), one has to question whether Dawn Butler had a hand in the drafting of the note, which she then presumably stuck under his nose for him to sign. Surely Barack Obama wouldn’t have written such a trite and self serving paragraph himself? Would he?

Now here comes the image, to which I’ve added two blown-up sections in order to illustrate what appears to have gone on…

Now, I’ve got to say that, on this occasion, I agree with Iain, here.

The text of the ‘endorsement’ just doesn’t sound like Obama at all and, in any case, I really can’t see Obama doling out personal endorsements of this to any MP and certainly not on the understanding that it could be used in public as what seems, implicitly, to be a ‘campaigning’ message.

It looks just that bit too good to be true, and that makes me more than a bit suspicious.

So, if this is a fake, how could it have been done?

Did Dawn, as Iain suggests, thrust a pre-prepared endorsement under Obama’s nose and ask him to sign on the dotted line?

Could she even have got him to plonk his autograph on a blank parliamentary letterhead and then added the effusive missive a little later on?

No, neither sound plausible, not unless you think that Obama has, almost literally, just got off the last boat.

To understand what’s gone on here you need to look very carefully and closely and the two blown up portions of the image.

On the left, we have a small section of the letterhead’s portcullis device, an although there looks to be a slightly paler halo (anti-aliasing) effect around the printed portion of the image (the green bit), which you invariably get when you scan a image that was printed onto coloured paper (in this case, the high quality paper that parliament uses for its letterheads) the pixels that make up the halo are only slightly paler that the overall image background. This is precise what you expect to see when you blow up such an image, the text surrounded by a halo which is slightly paler shade of the original background colour.

On the right we have a small portion of Obama’s signature, and if you looked closely, again, you see the halo effect, only this time, when you look at the colour of palest pixels using Photoshop, what you find is that they are pure white, an effect that you don’t get if you scan an original signature off coloured paper but which you do get if the signature has been scanned from a white piece of paper or extracted from an image of the signature in which it appeared on white background and pasted onto the original image using Photoshop.

No matter how carefully you extract the signature, you always get a small element of the original background from which it was taken, bleeding through onto the new image when you paste the signature on, and tonal inconsistencies here are what you’d expect to see from a cut and paste job

Now, although the image appeared on Dawn Butler’s website until a little earlier today, when it was hastily removed after Iain spotted it and called attention to it, that doesn’t mean that she’s personally responsible for it. It could just as easily, and maybe even more plausibly, be the handiwork of an over enthusiastic bag carrier, a bag carrier who, if I’ve called this right, is likely to be looking at the bollocking of a lifetime when the boss gets back into the office. So we should jump to too many conclusions and should, if we’re being honest, leave a bit of wiggle room for giving Dawn, personally, the benefit of the doubt.

So, the question here is a somewhat more general one – what it is about politicians and/or their employees that gives them the impression that they can pull off boneheaded stunts using Photoshop without someone spotting what they’re up to and calling them on it?

THE PLOT THICKENS

Paul Waugh’s caught up with Dawn Butler, who’s giving this version of how she came by the endorsement.

I’ve just asked Dawn to explain how the letter came about and she says that her Commons team had agreed the wording with the Obama team beforehand. She then took it into Number 10 and at the end of their meeting she personally handed it for him to sign. Another letter without the ‘audacity of hope’ line was also signed by Mr Obama.

“Even if it was my office that came up with the words, he knew what he was signing. My team had asked if it was OK to have this as a quote from him. I did not arrive with a blank piece of paper and then get him to sign it,” she says.

“I only found out at 7 in the morning that I was going to meet him, it was a real surprise. We probably spoke for about 10 minutes, He was very, very nice to me, asking me how what I did before I became an MP and what drove me. I was so pleased that he was encouraging me and my position. Nobody is going to take that moment from me.”

So, we’re expected to believe that Obama dished out a personal endorsement to someone he’d never met before and spent only 10 minutes with on the back of her bag carriers blagging him for comments.

I’m thinking Healey’s First Law of Holes here – stop digging!

You see, what Dawn Butler appears to be completely and utterly unaware of is that the publication of any kind of personal endorsement on House of Commons headed stationary amounts to the misuse of the parliamentary device for campaigning purposes. It’s one of points on which Nadine Dorries was required to offer an apology to the Commissioner for Parliamentary Standards over the design and content of here website

You cannot, as an MP, call on the official imprimatur of Parliament for either campaign purposes or for naked self-promotion.

As I doubt very much whether President Obama will make any kind of comment on this story, at all – in fact I doubt very much that anyone will get anything but a ‘we don’t comment on things like this’ from the White House press operation, we left with her word against the implausibility of the whole scenario.

Update:
Tom Miller responds to this article on LabourList.

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About the author
'Unity' is a regular contributor to Liberal Conspiracy. He also blogs at Ministry of Truth.
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Reader comments


1. Alexis Kennedy

>what it is about politicians and/or their employees that gives them the impression that they can pull off boneheaded stunts using Photoshop

The hypothesis that first comes to mind is that there are a great many other stunts that *aren’t* spotted; and that it’s possible to cloud the issue either way with enough noise (cf the nutters who claimed that Obama’s birth certificate was shopped).

2. Alisdair Cameron

Anyone else think that “I can see why she is one of only two black women in parliament” is a very clumsy phrase (and inaccurate, as Parliament includes the Lords too, so that brings in other black women), and unlikely to be Obama.
It could be read as meaning that the ineptitude of Dawn is part of the reason why there are only two…

3. Green Socialist

Very silly of her, some politicians are so desperate!

“You respond yes we can.” Is this a prediction? Observation? Suggestion? Presidential order?

Heh. Good work Unity.

*can’t stop laughing*

I wonder if anyone can find the original signature on white paper. LGF managed to reconstruct a forged letter about Bush’s war record using Microsoft word and that was enough to bury Dan Rather a while ago.

Although this is an obvious fake I have seen proof that Obama did indeed meet Spider-man.

Hmmm… Looks like an amended version of the image is back on her site….

Still looks as if the signature was tipped in, though.

I can’t believe they’re still trying to pass it off as his signature.

The best bit in this is that even if you swallow her ‘it was all set up by a bag carrier’ line, it still completely devalues the whole thing…

Unity,

No matter how carefully you extract the signature, you always get a small element of the original background from which it was taken, bleeding through onto the new image when you paste the signature on, and tonal inconsistencies here are what you’d expect to see from a cut and paste job.

If I may be a pedant here, if one is good with Photoshop, you will not “always get a small element of the original background from which it was taken”; compositing can be absolutely seamless.

If you are good with Photoshop.

I don’t imagine, however, that advanced Photoshop compositing is a general skill amongst Parliamentary bag-carriers (who are, generally speaking, only marginally more able to use Word than most MPs) and so I am happy to accept your general point.

I hate bad compositing. It irritates me. So good work, O Unity: good work indeed…

DK

Absolutely unbelievably hopeful audacity from Dawn Butler.

The phrase “I can see why she is one of only two black women in parliament” is not only clumsy, it seems to be damning all black women by faintly praising Butler. It’s impossible to believe that Obama could have written or knowingly endorsed such a phrase.

Laughable example of self-promotion, a valid point about the portcullis, and some unanswered questions in the air, but Iain’s readers are getting terribly over-excited about it.

Best theory I have is that the original (and excruciating) “collaborative effort” was printed onto white paper and signed by Barack Obama. That endorsement was then reprinted onto House of Commons notepaper (and the signature transplanted for web display purposes) in the same spirit of self-importance.

The alternative is to have Dawn Butler waving her self-penned endorsement around on House of Commons headed notepaper during Obama’s visit, surely with all sorts of senior/knowledgeable Westminster bods in attendance, and *none* of them noticing its inappropriate use.

It should also be noted for the record that Iain Dale will often be introduced or referred to in print or on the telly with a description he has penned himself (e.g. “one of Britain’s leading political commentators”, or “a widely respected journalist”). When it is pointed out that this description is not in keeping with reality or his own statements elsewhere, Iain will typically claim that he has no control over what the BBC call him etc. when he bloody well does and he knows it. He is in no position to hoot and holler over Butler penning a “trite and self serving paragraph” and then getting someone else to endorse it, as he’s guilty of the same damn thing, often to an equally excruciating degree.

15. Jonathan Cook

Excellent work Unity – I await Dawn Butler’s response to your analysis!

Dear god what a rookie mistake!

Can’t help feel Dawn just damaged her chances of re-election with this. The LibDems will be all over it and with Sarah Teather, a tenacious MP, fighting for the same seat as Dawn it’s not looking good.

This is just… ugh. *shudders* Embarrassing.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Paul Parkinson

    Ohh nice try Dawn Butler MP http://tinyurl.com/chka4p If I had done that it would be fraud wouldn’t it?

  2. Paul Parkinson

    Ohh nice try Dawn Butler MP http://tinyurl.com/chka4p If I had done that it would be fraud wouldn’t it?

  3. Joan Lockwood

    wondering if this is a true endorsement by President Obama when he visited London? http://bit.ly/30ekIg

  4. Endorsed by Barack Obama?!? : The Widmann Blog

    [...] this! (It started here, but there are more details in the [...]





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