Over the past couple of weeks, this photo of Trump advisor Steve Bannon has been popping up on social media. Anthony Bourdain even tweeted that he thought Bannon might have syphilis. And whether Bourdain is joking or not, plenty of people think the photo is real. But it’s totally fake.
Bannon, the former editor of Breitbart who has quickly risen to power in Washington, has come under fire for being the architect of many of the Trump regime’s most heinous policies. And with the criticism of Bannon has come plenty of unflattering photoshops. But sometimes it’s hard to tell which ones are photoshopped and which ones are real.
As you can see from the photos below, the photo on the left has been altered. The original is on the right, and was taken by photographer Jonathan Ernst in the Oval Office on January 28, 2017 for Reuters.
It’s easy to tell that it was photoshopped when you see the images side by side. But the image has spread far enough that it’s safe to say plenty of people think it might be real. When I first saw the photo I definitely did a double take. [Update, 11:18am: The original creator of the photoshop was Vic Berger IV on Twitter. His followers probably got the joke. But it quickly spread everywhere without context.]
Making fun of someone’s appearance is, of course, not very nice. But the internet’s fascination with Bannon’s mug has a lot to do with Bannon’s worldview, which is undeniably racist. Bannon, as editor of Breitbart, oversaw a website that had a “Black Crime” section, and told his ex-wife that he didn’t want his children going to school with Jews.
Bannon’s “boss,” Mr. Donald J. Trump has his own obsession with genetics and being born with certain superior genes, often comparing humans to racehorses in the past to explain his theories.
“I’m a gene believer... hey when you connect two race horses you get usually end up with a fast horse,” Trump told an interviewer on CNN in 2010. “I had a good gene pool from the stand point of that so I was pretty much driven.”
Photos of Bannon have inspired plenty of memes and counter-memes. For instance, one meme that was started by comedy writer Bryan Donaldson shows the fake image of Bannon next to actor Idris Elba with the caption, “Just a reminder that the guy on the left believes he is genetically superior to the guy on the right.”
It’s unclear if Donaldson knows that the image is photoshopped, but it set off plenty of spin-off memes, like this one featuring Sonic the Hedgehog:
Another photo of Bannon that’s commonly used to poke fun at his “genetic superiority” is this one that shows him looking rather slovenly on a couch.
Comedian Johnny McNulty started his own insult comic stream on Twitter that definitely took Bannon’s appearance to task in some very real photos.
“Insulting Bannon’s bloated visage may not be what stops this but y’know what? It’s fun,” McNulty tweeted. “He looks like a rash fucked an even bigger rash.”
This prompted other Twitter comedians to chime in with their own zingers like, “He looks like if Bukowski wrote a short story about a full vacuum cleaner bag” and that he looks like, “your divorced dad’s friend who showers at his apartment then hangs around in front of you in a towel.”
Again, not very nice stuff to say. Not very nice at all. But then again, he is the guy helping dismantle everything good about the United States at the moment. So it’s hard to feel too sorry for him.