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Bert is Evil is a photoshopping trend that involves superimposing an image of Sesame Street character Bert into scenes of disasters like JFK’s assassination and Oklahoma City bombings in similar vein to Disaster Girl. The “Bert is Evil” phenomenon reached its peak in October 2001, when Reuters news agency published a photograph of a pro-bin Laden protester rallying in Bangladesh with a large image poster of Osama bin Laden and Bert posing next to each other.
The phenomenon originally began as a website founded by Dino Ignacio in 1998, featuring short, humorous backstories for each “Bert is Evil” image posted on the site. As the website continued to gain a cult-like status throughout the year, it became too costly for Ignacio to continue with the site operations. Rather than shutting his site down, he instead offered anyone to mirror-host his original website. As a result, dozens of mirror sites appeared online, further boosting the meme’s popularity and visibility on the web.
In 1998, Dino Ignacio, Wout J Reinders and Jasper Hulshoff Pol accepted the Webby Award and the People’s Voice Award for Best Weird Website at the Palace of Fine Arts auditorium in San Francisco.
By the summer of 1998, the original website’s bandwidth costs became too expensive for Ignacio to keep the website running. Instead of taking it down, he offered anyone who was willing to mirror his the website permission to host it.
It has been mirrored on BertisEvil.tv, and AngelFire amongst others. The original site has been also filed on Archive.org. Since anyone was free to mirror the content, new variations and updates began appearing on the various Bert mirrors. The entire website itself has had several derivatives; deviating just slightly with each iteraton.
Google Insights only provides search query data after 2004, and “bert is evil” keyword searches have been in steady decline ever since.
September 11th, 2001
Immediately following the September 11th terrorist attacks in the United States, a news photograph of a Bangladesh protester holding a poster of Bert and Osama bin Laden began appearing on the Internet. According to BBC News, they were printed and sold by the local Dhaka shop Azad Products, who used the same image from Ignacio’s “Bert is Evil” website. The company appearent sold almost 2,000 copies of the posters during the street demonstration over the US military strikes in Afghanistan.
In response, Sesame Workshops released an official statement condemning the unauthorized use and mischaracterization of Bert:
“Sesame Street has always stood for mutual respect and understanding. We’re outraged that our characters would be used in this unfortunate and distasteful manner.”