Whoops: Tragic Photo of Orphaned 'Syrian' Boy is Fake

Syrian opposition leader Ahmed Jarba tweeted a disturbing photo Friday morning that purportedly depicts an orphaned Syrian boy sleeping between the graves of parents. Lest anyone get the wrong idea, he made sure to finger Assad as the culprit behind the pictured boy's sad fate, tweeting:

The photo has been making the rounds on Twitter, where it has stirred up fresh outrage about the human toll of the conflict in Syria.

Too bad it's totally fake.

Far from being a chronicle of war, the photo was actually part of an art project by Saudi Arabian photographer, Abdul Aziz Al-Otaibi. Journalist Harald Doornbos was perhaps the first to point out the gaffe. He reached out to a "pretty annoyed"  Otaibi, who said, "Look, it's not true at all that my picture has anything to do with Syria... I am really shocked how people have twisted my picture."

Otaibi noted that the graves are not actually graves, and the boy is his nephew -- and a very good sport:

Jarba deleted the photo about 30 minutes after posting it but, as we all must learn the hard way, nothing on the internet is ever really dead.

Was the unvetted photo an ill-advised attempt to turn public opinion against Assad ahead of Wednesday's Geneva talks? It's no secret that some members of the opposition coalition believe Assad's willingness to relinquish his chemical weapons cache has undeservedly helped him rebuild credibility in the eyes of the international community. Reminding the world of his victims might have taken him down a notch or two. Unfortunately, the whole fiasco sends a rather different message: The opposition is getting a little desperate and its P.R. apparatus needs some work.   


Everything Is Terrible: Kristen Stewart Will Star in a Romantic Take on '1984'

Unless you've been living under a rock, you've probably noticed that kids these days are obsessed with dark, dystopian novels, especially their film adaptations. There's the Hunger Games franchise, Divergent, The Bone Season, and Ender's Game. No more wands, brooms, and potions. Instead, it's all about an all-powerful ruling elite, a militarized and repressed society and, usually, a pair of young and innocent star-crossed lovers.

A new movie starring Kristen Stewart, she of Twilight fame, and Nicholas Hoult, mostly known as the boyfriend of Hunger Games star Jennifer Lawrence, plays into this new craze. But the movie's storyline is far from new. The film, Equals, will be based on the classic George Orwell novel 1984 (or, more precisely, its 1956 film adaptation) that gave us terms like "doublespeak" (derived from the book's "doublethink" and "newspeak") and an underlying fear that "Big Brother" is always watching. "It's a love story of epic, epic, epic proportion," Stewart said in an interview. But why 1984 has to be neutralized as a romance is something of a mystery. Sure, a romance with Stewart in a leading role will bring in hefty ticket sales, but 1984 and its depiction of a surveillance state run amok has gained new relevance in the aftermath of revelations of aggressive American intelligence gathering practices. 

But instead of a thoughtful adaptation of a book that has become universally recognized as a masterpiece of the genre, we get this. Vampire-girlfriend-turned-vampire Bella Swan will portray the rebellious Winston Smith's illicit lover Julia, turning a book that has explained the mechanisms of totalitarianism for generations of readers into a mushy romance. "I'm terrified of it," Stewart said. "Though it's a movie with a really basic concept, it's overtly ambitious." Stewart isn't particularly confidence inspiring, is she?

News of the film has sparked what can only be described as outright dismay among fans of the novel. Writing about the literary Twittersphere's reaction to the news of Equals, The Guardian's Allison Flood put it this way: "It's silly but fun, and might help lift us -- just a little -- out of the pit of despair into which anyone with any sense will have sunk at the news of Equals." If there's is one good thing that comes out of this announcement -- although watching a cage of rats strapped to Nicholas Hoult's pretty face is something to look forward to -- it's Twitter snark at its best.

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