9/11 Tourist Guy

9/11 Tourist Guy

Part of a series on September 11th, 2001 Attacks. [View Related Entries]

Updated Apr 15, 2014 at 03:21PM EDT by Brad.  

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About

9/11 Tourist Guy (also known as “WTC Guy” or “Tourist of Death”) is an exploitable photoshop meme and an internet hoax based on a photograph of a man standing on the observation deck of a building overlooking Manhattan with an airplane flying towards the vantage point. The image, which was manipulated to appear as if it was taken during the World Trade Center attack of September 11th, 2001, spread across a wide range of discussion forums and online news sites shortly after the tragic events and ignited a series of photoshopped derivatives as well as conspiracy theories surrounding the man’s identity.

Origin

Following the events of September 11th, 2001, an image surfaced on the Internet supposedly found in a camera recovered from the debris of the World Trade Center. The image depicted a man dressed in a wool cap, heavy jacket and backpack, standing on the observation deck of the World Trade Center while a jet plane can be seen flying towards the building that seems certain to collide with the tower due to its proximity. The image was sent en masse via e-mail with a message claiming that the photo was authentic:



“We’ve seen thousands of pictures concerning the attack. However, this one will make you cringe. A simple tourist getting himself photographed on the top of the WTC just seconds before the tragedy … the camera was found in the rubble!!”

Spread

On September 26th, 2001, a thread titled “Help me debunk this photo… ppl think it’s real”[8] was posted to the Something Awful forums. The thread ignited a series of photoshopped images showing the tourist present in other famous photographs of historical and fictional tragedies, from the sinking of the RMS Titanic, the John F. Kennedy assassination and the Hindenburg disaster to the destruction of the White House in Independence Day or the bomb-rigged bus in Speed. The “Tourist Guy” image has been remixed with other famous exploitable memes as well, such as the Evil Bert or the man holding the giant cat.




On October 5th, 2001, The domain name TouristofDeath.com[1] was registered to a website dedicated to explaining the story of the doctored photograph. According to the site’s administrator Paul Bruno, the site drew approximately 20,000 pageviews a day during its peak. In November 2011, a Snopes[2] page was created titled “The Accidental Tourist” which debunks the image as a hoax.

Notable Examples



Identity

According to Museum of Hoaxes[3], the first person rumored to be the tourist was the Brazilian businessman José Roberto Penteado, who came forward in November 2011 and asserted that his friends photoshopped his face into the image. Having already turned into a full-fledged photoshop meme on the Internet, Penteado quickly drew attention from the local news media, making appearances on Brazilian chat shows and newspaper interviews, while it was even rumored that he was contacted by Volkswagen for a TV commercial. However, when he finally revealed the photograph of himself in question, his claim was largely dismissed as a case of look-a-like. Shortly after the debunkery, a 25-year old-Hungarian man named Péter Guzli stepped forward to claim responsibility for the manipulated image, asserting that he is the real tourist depicted in the infamous photograph.



According to various interviews, Guzli’s photo was taken while visiting New York City on November 28th, 1997 and forgotten for many years until he watched the collapse of the World Trade Center towers on September 11th, 2001. Guzli then remembered the photographs of himself on the observational deck and edited an airplane into the image as a joke for a few friends, without realizing it would spread so quickly across the Internet. He provided the original undoctored photo, and several other photos from the same series, as proof to a Hungarian newspaper.[4] Wired magazine[5] and the Guardian[12] also examined the evidence and confirmed that Guzli was the real tourist guy.

Guzli’s Public Apology

The Croation Times[6] and Orange News[7] reported that Peter Guzli publicly apologized for editing the image 3 days prior to the 10 year anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks on September 8th, 2011.

“It was a private matter – I assumed my friends would recognise me and call me to see if I was alright, but they didn’t, they posted it on to other friends and suddenly it was all over the world.

“I am ashamed that even now the police still get calls about it, I never did it for money and I never intended to cause any harm to the real victims or their families.

“I didn’t really stop to consider the consequences and never thought it would go outside of my small circle of friends.”

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