Expect the Wurst
Authority confers credibility. Even in the golden age of lying, we grant veracity to images from especially qualified, authoritative sources.
Étienne Klein is an esteemed theoretical physicist. He is a research director at France’s Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (Commissariat à l'énergie atomique et aux énergies alternatives). On July 22, 2022, Klein tweeted the latest photo from the newly operational $10 billion James Webb Space Telescope: a fiery red and gold solar disc. “Picture of Proxima Centauri, the nearest star to the Sun, located 4.2 light years away from us. It was taken by the James Webb Space Telescope. This level of detail… A new world is unveiled everyday,” he told more than 91,000 followers. Thousands of users retweeted.
The photograph shows a slice of Spanish chorizo photographed against a black background. Klein apologized for the visual prank, “a scientist’s joke.” “Let’s learn to be wary of the arguments from positions of authority as much as the spontaneous eloquence of certain images.” His intention, he said, was “to urge caution regarding images that seem to speak for themselves.” “According to contemporary cosmology,” summarized Klein, “no object related to Spanish charcuterie exists anywhere else other than on Earth”