Cyclops Gives Pro-Mutant Senate Testimony: Neuharth asks "Who moved my blur tool?" Hacks have fun with P-Shop

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The blog From the Pen catches USA Today pulling a Daniel Lee with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. During her Senate testimony on Wednesday, America's top shoe aficionada gave the Senators this stern look:

But when McPaper got through with her, the secretary of state was flashing insane, feline, demonic, disturbingly sanpaku glares at an innocent nation:

USA Today has swapped out the altered pic, with the following explanation:

Editor's note: The photo of Condoleezza Rice that originally accompanied this story was altered in a manner that did not meet USA TODAY's editorial standards. The photo has been replaced by a properly adjusted copy. Photos published online are routinely cropped for size and adjusted for brightness and sharpness to optimize their appearance. In this case, after sharpening the photo for clarity, the editor brightened a portion of Rice's face, giving her eyes an unnatural appearance. This resulted in a distortion of the original not in keeping with our editorial standards.

Plausible? Maybe. As an editor, I consider it a matter of principle to run the most absurd and unflattering pics of public figures I can possibly find. Thus I believe the the Photoshop sharpen tool (the clear culprit here) does not make politicians ugly; it merely reveals the ugliness of their souls. A close look at the altered Rice photo indicates that not only her eyes but her entire head was sharpened—though there appears to have been a particular concentration on the eyes. Here's what the original photo above looks like if you sharpen the whole head once, and the eye area one additional time:

Not an exact match, but pretty close, and considering I was working from the published version of the image and not the one USA Today used in the first place—which presumably was of a different size and thus would have yielded different results when they were Photoshopping it—I'd say there's sufficient room for doubt. We can't say with certainty that USA Today was acting with malice aforethought. When somebody recuts store security camera footage of Condi trying on her Ferragamo shoes into a clip of an impromptu victory jig, I'll really be impressed.

Update: Robert A. George critiques another photo, this one posted by rageaholic Steve Gilliard. Close examination of the photo in question indicates it may in fact have been altered.

NEXT: Judging This Book by its Cover

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  1. [going to hell]

    Is she really that splotchy?

    I had no idea there was such a thing as facial herpes.

    [/going to hell]

  2. Most pointless H+R post ever.

  3. She look like the last shot from the Thriller video.

  4. Would this post even exist if conservatives hadn’t spent the past three decade “working the ref” (in Irving Kristol’s phrase) by whining about being victimized by the media?

  5. At least they made her look brighter.

  6. I dunno, the insane feline thing looks kinda hot in a replicant sort of way. Almost makes me want to see her as president.

  7. I don’t Joe, would U.S. Today ever gone out of its way to make a Democrat look that bad? I doubt it, but if you know of any examples please give them. The fact that they did, kind of proves Kristols point. Granted, this is not exactly the “How the Gingrich Stole Christmas” Newsweek cover or the rediculous Time cover on Guns a couple of years ago, but its pretty typical nonetheless.

  8. I have the scoop on the photosphopping job on my site by a techie who knows his stuff.

    It’s worth checking out.

  9. I _knew_ that she was a Goa’ld.

    It explains a lot about Dubya’s administration.

  10. So when Dick Cheney disappears to a “secure location” he’s actually taking regeneration treatments in a sarcophagus?

  11. Thus I believe the the Photoshop sharpen tool (the clear culprit here) does not make politiicans ugly; it merely reveals the ugliness of their souls.

    one of the few clear convergences of technology and morality, mr cavanaugh. 🙂

  12. So when Dick Cheney disappears to a “secure location” he’s actually taking regeneration treatments in a sarcophagus?

    I thought everybody already knew that.

  13. you’re assuming your conclusion

    Yes, joe, he is. But then, so are you. Very few comments here, or anywhere, are fully developed arguments.

  14. She broke out in pixels. It’s horrible to see. I hope there is a cream …

  15. That said, joe’s interpretation better satisfies Occam’s Razor.

  16. John:
    http://img.timeinc.net/time/magazine/archive/covers/1989/1101890206_400.jpg

    Is that the Time cover you speak of? What a crock of shit.

    “More Massacres” eh? I suppose if “Armed America” is referring to ATF goons that might be correct.

  17. Most pointless H+R post ever.

    Won’t stop us from having a pointless discussion thread! Or shall I make that, a heated yet pointless discussion thread…

    But it’s all for love!

    Ha-ha.

  18. fyodor,

    How is it “assuming my conclusion” to find the evidence in the post – that the paper’s explanation of its process is, in fact, consistent with how a graphics program works – convincing?

  19. No. Al Gore is the only Goaul’d – so far – in US politics. And so far he’s never allowed anyone to photograph him with the Goaul’d host dominant. But one day he’ll slip…

  20. I don’t know – the original picture looks just fine to me. I wouldn’t give it a second thought just glancing at it in a… ah… “newspaper”. Why mess with it? Note that I’m not suggesting some underhanded plot here. Just “what’s wrong with the original picture?”. I guess if there were oozing puss sores or hundreds of tiny vaginas sprouting out, I could understand touching it up. But why the fascination with modifying photos?
    -K

  21. Karl,

    What looks clear and sharp on your monitor could be a mess when it’s slapped onto newsprint by a printing press.

  22. When somebody recuts store security camera footage of Condi trying on her Ferragamo shoes into a clip of an impromptu victory jig, I’ll really be impressed.

    I gave up on tryin’ to impress Tim Cavanaugh a long time ago, but if I had the time and patience, I think I’d give this one a try. …but riggin’ the camera in the store would be a problem.

    …I’d just put jiggy Condi in the Rose Garden, right after she said something serious about Iran or Syria. …of course, once the music started, I’d have Flatley jig his way in from camera left.

    I’d have a jiggy Scott McClellan too… Just imagine someone asking him about the Davis-Bacon Act and McClellan answers, jolly as could be. …but the next question is about the ongoing Rove trial–boom!–the music starts, McClellan gets the weird eyes and just goes jiggy! …Flatley jigs in from camera right…you get the idea.

    …We have the technology for this, right?

  23. I don’t know – the original picture looks just fine to me. I wouldn’t give it a second thought just glancing at it in a… ah… “newspaper”. Why mess with it? Note that I’m not suggesting some underhanded plot here. Just “what’s wrong with the original picture?”

    When you have to resize pics, it’s usually a good idea to use blur, sharpen, and a variety of other tricks to make sure the pic doesn’t pixelate, lose too much information, get too blurry, etc. You’d need photoshop skills even worse than mine to produce a monstrosity like that evil-eyes pic, but it is conceivable that under the crunch of time constraints and inattention somebody might have done so without ill intent. I’m not saying that’s what happened, just that there’s a reasonable doubt.

  24. Looks to me like they only worked on the eyes, the rest of her face doesn’t look changed at all.

    Maybe they should get Dan Rather to investigate this.

  25. joe,

    How is it “assuming my conclusion” to find the evidence in the post – that the paper’s explanation of its process is, in fact, consistent with how a graphics program works – convincing?

    The same way John finds the counter-argument, that editors like making conservatives look bad, “convincing.” He says he’s seen it many times and that’s the conclusion he reaches, from the evidence. We can all look at the same evidence and draw different interpretations. When you say “assuming your conclusion” I’m assuming you mean there’s no developed argument, no A=B and B=C therefore A=C. If that’s what you mean, you’re correct. Of course, that’s only a meaningful protest when someone claims to be doing that but is really stuck on A. I see no evidence John did that. (Maybe that’s the point I should have made to begine with.) He merely construed a different interpretation from the same evidence. There’s no way of knowing for sure what really happened, so have have to interpret from the available evidence.

    Read my subsequent post and you’ll see I’ve provided you with a much better defense of your position than claiming John committed a fallacy that he really didn’t make (the point I should have made), unless everyone makes it almost every time we open our mouths (the point I did make).

  26. No amount of sharpen will shrink and Damien-ize her irises, regardless of the original image’s resolution, or its color differences from the “normal” pic above (unless her eyeballs aren’t lighter than her irises in real life).

    Even in the simulated sharpening up there, you can see that the effect enlarges her irises and darkens the neighboring eyeball; it’s inherent in the algorithm. The more you sharpen, the more her eyes look unlike the disputed pic.

    Any and all “sharpen” talk is bullshit. You have to draw in a triangle-pupiled demon stare to get triangle-pupiled demon stare. Call it plain lazy inartistic incompetence, vile lefty childishness, or both — but it’s not anything else.

  27. “Most pointless H+R post ever.”

    And you thought Tim’s little post was bad? I saw that Samantha Burns comment above, so I linked on over to her blog. Yikes. She must have spent hours on this shit…she’s got a full-on case study, I shit you not. Complete with expert testimony. What? Go out and play. Do something. Jesus, a picture in the junk-paper USA Today gets p-shopped, and people spend hours on end “investigating” the “conspiracy”. Come the hell ON!

  28. Hmmm.

  29. Boring Crap,

    In the version I sharpened the whites of the eyes clearly became lighter. That’s without doing anything except hitting sharpen twice around the eye area. And again, that’s working with the 180×142 version of the pic from the site, not the version USA Today originally used, which was almost certainly much larger and could have yielded any number of different results from the one I got. (They may even have airbrushed a little more white into the eyes, thinking the eyes would come out too blurry and dull once the picture was reduced in size, but again, that’s not evidence of malicious intent.)

    Bottom line: I don’t believe anybody who says his photoshop skillz are so phat that he can say for sure how this happened. That includes that maniacally long Samantha Burns study of this pic-though it’s worth noting that even that one doesn’t conclude there was malice aforethought.

  30. She looks like something out of a grade B SciFi flick.

  31. In other news, sales of our Photoshop CS2 software have increased 200%. We are now offering a volume discount to pundits for all their “cafepress.com” needs ….

  32. Oh Condi, Condi I’m talkin’ to you girl
    What’s it gonna hurt come on give me a whirl
    Shake your body now let me see you go
    One time for me Oh Condi I love you so
    Skank for me Condi show me what you got
    They say you’re too uptight I say you’re not
    Dance around me spinnin’ like a top
    Oh Condi Condi Condi don’t ever stop

  33. “Looks to me like they only worked on the eyes, the rest of her face doesn’t look changed at all.”

    Maybe they screwed up: they meant to use the magic wand to select her skin, but instead clicked on a white area, which selected the whites of her eyes. When the filter was then run, instead of doing something to her face, it applied the filter to her eyes.

    I seem to recall that, last year when I was working on an image processing project for a comp. sci graduate class, the median filter (a blurring/averaging filter) would sometimes morph round areas into diamond-ish areas like her pupils, when applied a number of times in succession to the same area.

    Perhaps they meant to median her face, to smooth it out and reduce graininess, but wound up doing it to her eyes, because of a magic wand mishap.

    I’d suspect they use a certain amount of automation, which could make such an error more likely to slip through.

    Now for a tangent, regarding Robert George’s post. If it’s racist for a black man to call a black man a ‘sambo’/uncle tom, etc, is it racist when a white man calls a white man a Quisling? Is it merely anti-Norwegian?

  34. Heck if I know what USA Today intended to do in its Photoshopping zeal, but I must say that it looks to me like someone replaced Ms. Rice’s eyes with reptile eyes. I’ve seen creepy reptile contacts before, and they kinda look like that. Last time I saw a woman with those eyes was on V.

    Although I think joe is discounting the possibility of left-wing shenanigans a little too much (by an individual, not by a department, I hasten to add), I think he made a good point questioning how much the image on our screens resembles the image as seen on newsprint. Still, it’s telling that USA Today went to the trouble of apologizing for the editing of the photo, not that that’s proof of anything. Heck, maybe Condi is a lizard woman and just forgot to wear her human eye contacts.

  35. I’m pretty skeptical that this was a mere accident. I used to dink around a lot with a freeware image/painting software somewhat similar to PhotoShop, albeit less complex and capable. Alas, goddammit, the name of it escapes me right now.

    I mainly used it to stick people’s heads on other people’s bodies, replace backgrounds, or cobble together parts of different animals to create photo-like images of mythical or extinct beasts. And I got pretty skilled at it, if I say so myself.

    I am doubtful this was mere sharpening. In Tim Cavanaugh’s test picture at the bottom, the eyes are still not as zombied-out as the USA Today version, yet the rest of her skin is more sharpened — see how the red blotches on her cheeks stand out in sharper relief?

    I’m about 98% sure that someone deliberately gave Rice’s eyes special attention. My most charitable guess is that they selected her eyes, boosted up the “contrast,” and then did an overall “sharpen.” My less charitable guess is that somebody zoomed up the magnificaiton, then actually painted the color white over the whites of her eyes, possibly resulting in smeary borders between the white and black parts of her eyes, then did a “sharpen” to correct this.

    And since the top photo doesn’t really exhibit a crying need to have the eyes enhanced, I’m about 10% willing to believe this was a clumsy, incompetent but innocent mistake, and 90% willing to think someone deliberately wanted Rice to look like the Queen of the Damned, but weren’t as subtle as they thought they were.

  36. Stevo, perhaps you speak of Paint Shop Pro?

  37. The original photo isn’t very flattering either. Condi’s expression looks like Nicole Kidman’s when she lost that Oscar to Halle Berry.

  38. I thought the original photograph was scary enough.

  39. Take a look at the man in the background in both pics. His appearance does not change at all between the pics. I don’t have Photoshop, just some Micky Mouse photo editor that came with my digital camera. When I fiddle around the picture properties (sharpness, hue, contrast, etc.) both the looks of Condi and the background dude change. Hmmm.

  40. Bottom line: I don’t believe anybody who says his photoshop skillz are so phat that he can say for sure how this happened. That includes that maniacally long Samantha Burns study of this pic?though it’s worth noting that even that one doesn’t conclude there was malice aforethought.

    Even though science can’t prove it, there’s no way you can prove that some sort of intelligent force wasn’t behind this alteration.

  41. Stevo, perhaps you speak of Paint Shop Pro?

    Maybe. That sounds really familiar. The thing I used has pretty many features, but not the “layers” feature of PhotoShop (which I found more frustrating than useful when I later tried the real PhotoShop).

  42. Stevo,

    Have you ever put heads and bodies together to create the likeness of a liger?

  43. Ok, downloaded the pics and dropped them into PhotoShop to mess with.

    It’s obvious that the devil eye pic has been run through a couple of filters; possibly unsharp mask, or sharpen edges, and was probably output using Imageready. JPEG artifacting* is much more prominent in the DE pic than in the original.
    Now, when doing color correction, there are a couple of different options. Some of the tools are applied universally, while others can be applied with a brush. Figuring that if this was a mistake, it was the result of a universally applied filter, I tried a couple of those first.

    Auto Contrast or Auto Levels. Tried those, and didn’t get anything like that.

    Using the Sharpen Edges filter twice got me a result with freaky bright eyes, but also popped some of the other edges as well, though leaving the color values of non-edge areas more or less the same.

    Applying Unsharp Mask got me closer, but still popped some of the other features, as well. (In all honesty, it would probably be possible to tweak the Unsharp Mask settings to get a closer result.)

    So then I decided to try what Tim did, using a couple of the brush tools.

    The Dodge brush didn’t get me very good results.

    Tried the Sharpen brush, and by clicking on the eyes twice, got a result similar to the USA Today DE pic, as well as what Tim tried.

    Out of sheer curiosity, I decided to compare RGB values using the color sampler tool. This tool lets you precisely indicate a pixel in the image, and then displays the pixel’s RGB values in the Info pallette.

    I placed three locators:
    The first on the yellowish wall over Condi’s shoulder on the right side of the image.

    The second I placed on the forehead of Out-of-Focus Man to her left.

    The third I placed on the pupil of her eye.

    I re-scaled the images so that they were both close to the same dimensions. (The DE pic had been blown up slightly.)

    Then, by turning the DE layer on and off, I could watch the RGB values for each of the three points change in the Info Palette.

    The RGB values* for markers 1 and 2 vary by 3 or 4 steps in each.
    The RGB values for the marker on her eye vary by over 50 for each.

    To me this says that her eyes were deliberately brushed, most likely just as Tim said. Whether this was done to purposely make her look bad, or simply a graphic designer who was on a deadline and out of Mountain Dew is probably up for debate. But having known my fair share of graphic designers (and being one myself) I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to find out that it was done deliberately.

    Incidentally, if anyone would like to see my PhotoShop file with the various layers and tools applied, I’d be more than happy to email it to you.

    *Each pixel’s color in an image is determined by combining Red, Green, and Blue. Each color has a variation of 0-255, or from none at all to full on saturation.

  44. One more thing:

    1)Ignore the first asterisk in my previous post.

  45. Thus I believe the the Photoshop sharpen tool (the clear culprit here) does not make politiicans ugly; it merely reveals the ugliness of their souls.

    Pointless hell. These pictures crack me up.

  46. Stevo, Have you ever put heads and bodies together to create the likeness of a liger?

    No need 🙂 — some really great photos of a liger (product of a male lion X female tiger) are available

  47. I wonder what we’d see if we looked through those cool sunglasses that Roddy Piper got to wear in “They Live.” How many sharpen effects are necessary before she’d look like the aliens in THAT movie?

  48. The fact that amanda huginkiss felt obgligated to respong makes this thread have leet powars.

  49. I can’t wait to see McPaper’s colorful pie chart showing how many readers give a shit.

  50. Without reading the comment thread, I thought I’d mention… my fellow is an art student and Photoshop expert (I’m not), and he said it was sharpened, which softened the eye area too much, and then someone really inept tried to fix the eyes by editing with the wrong tool. And then he said, “But if I wanted to make her look evil on purpose, that’s basically the way I’d have done it.”

  51. Rosemary Woodhouse: What have you done to her? What have you done to hes eyes, you maniacs!

    Roman Castevet: She her his father’s eyes.

    Rosemary Woodhouse: What do you mean? Guy’s eyes are normal

    Roman Castevet: SATAN is her father, Rosemary!

  52. The glowing eyes reveal the real secrect to Bush’s election wins: his advisors are dominated by the alien Gua’uld (Stargate SG-1 reference)!

    The question becomes, how many of the top positions are really controled by these parisites and is Bush also possessed or is Cheney really in charge.

  53. James:

    I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick some ass.

    and I’m all out of bubblegum.

    Rowdy Roddy Piper

  54. They should have put her in a burkha like the boys at MEMRI did a few weeks ago. Now that would be hot!

  55. Really, USA Today’s editorial page is much more balanced (and crappier) than something like the NYT. Having read the paper most every day for a year (hey, it was the one in my bar), I would have a hard time believing that this photo shows “teh liberal bias111”. If it was intentional, it was most likely the work of an overzealous employee and nothing more.

  56. I wonder what we’d see if we looked through those cool sunglasses that Roddy Piper got to wear in “They Live.” How many sharpen effects are necessary before she’d look like the aliens in THAT movie?

    What’s the matter, baby?

  57. Sorry, Tim, but you got it wrong?way wrong, in fact. The ?altered? picture is in fact the original! Condi?s cloaking device failed momentarily, revealing her Romulan death stare. The photographer who took that picture paid for it with his genitals. Never look Condi directly in the face. And don?t try looking at her in a mirror. She casts no reflection.

  58. The original, unaltered photo makes her look like she’s been hittin’ the chronic. Not that there’s anything wrong with that…

  59. If it’s racist for a black man to call a black man a ‘sambo’/uncle tom, etc, is it racist when a white man calls a white man a Quisling?

    More accurately, is it racist or offensive for a white man to call another white man something like “race-traitor” or, pardon the expression, “nigger-lover”? I’d say so.

  60. The guy to blame at USA Today is named Ducky. At lease, that’s the name in the .jpg file header. 🙂

  61. joe’s interpretation better satisfies Occam’s Razor

    No, the interpretation that best satisfies Occam’s Razor is “this got posted because Reason staffers like mocking other news outlets for their screw-ups”. Not “this got posted as the end result of an elaborate conspiracy of conservatives that joe was clever enough to discover”.

  62. ALL HAIL HYPNO TOAD!!!!

  63. Why did MTV choose this picture of David Lee Roth? He looks about 70…

    Cocaine will do that to you…

  64. Cocaine’s a hell of a drug.

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