Is the “End of Serenity” Photo Fake? —
I think what follows is an example of the truism that "we are most gullible when we are most skeptical."
When United Airlines Flight 93 crashed in Somerset County, Pennsylvania on Sept. 11, 2001, a woman named Val McClatchey, who lived nearby the crash, managed to get a picture of the cloud of smoke from the crash
rising above the trees. Her photo, which she subsequently titled 'The End of Serenity,' became quite famous, but now conspiracy theorists are suggesting that it's a fake
Mrs. McClatchey's fame has recently taken a sour turn. The real estate agent has recently become a target of bloggers calling themselves "9-11 researchers," who are seeking to prove that the U.S. government was complicit in the attacks that brought down the Twin Towers, pierced the Pentagon and crashed United Airlines Flight 93. The smoke plume doesn't line up right, they say. It is too large in the frame. The smoke is characteristic of an ordnance blast, not a jet fuel fire, further evidence that the government shot down Flight 93. They analyze wind direction, debris patterns and camera trajectories, all in the service of the theory that the crash was faked. They have visited Mrs. McClatchey's office and called her at home, posting satellite maps of her property and accusing her of digitally altering her photo to insert a fake smoke plume. The bloggers have picked apart her story, highlighting inconsistencies in different news accounts and questioning her motives. Others have described her as "surly," "hostile," "irate" and "defensive." People have called her at home, accusing her of being anti-American and of "holding the photo hostage." On a simple Google search, Mrs. McClatchey's name now pops up in the same sentence as "total fraud."
Good grief. Why would the photo be a fake? The woman really did live near the crash, and she doesn't seem to have possessed the kind of skills needed to create a sophisticated photo forgery. Plus, the FBI examined the photo and vouches for its authenticity.
It's an interesting phenomenon when people became so suspicious that they start seeing evidence of fakery everywhere. It goes to show that doubting everything can be just as bad as believing everything.