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Monday March 4th

OPINION: Fake viral Thanksgiving Day parade float video highlights importance of media literacy

(Photo courtesy of Liam Simonelli / Editorial Cartoonist).
(Photo courtesy of Liam Simonelli / Editorial Cartoonist).

By Tristan Weisenbach
Arts & Entertainment Editor

In today’s ever-changing era of technology, social media has grown from what was once simply connecting with friends online to now providing an avenue for seemingly anyone to create anything and share it under any name — whether it’s real or not. 

While these state-of-the-art developments have garnered many creative and once-unimaginable creations, they have also given an outlet to share information online that is false. 

Last week during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York, many well-known balloons of fan-favorite characters flew down city streets for millions of onlookers.

One TikTok video posted on Thanksgiving Day by Madeline Salazar (@Immadsal), however, appeared to show a balloon of Universal’s Minion floating away from the parade off into the sky. The video, which now has over 4 million views, shows the balloon being walked down the street when the crowd around Salazar gasps, causing her to drop her phone. The end of the video shows a few photos of the Minion floating up past the city skyline.

The catch? The video is completely fake. While Salazar did attend the parade, most of what occurred in the video was created using Photoshop. 

“I filmed [the Minion] marching down, and then once it got in front of me, I kind of wobbled the camera and dropped it to my knees,” said Salazar in an interview with The Signal. “And then when I got home, I edited the photos, I took the video and I sped up the wobble and dropping part, and I felt like I didn't have enough of a drop so I filmed a little more footage of me fumbling with my phone, and then added in some crowd noises of crowds screaming.”

Salazar, who works as a producer, said she has experience working with photo and video editing programs. She said it did not take much effort for her to create the video that now has over 200,000 likes on TikTok. 

“My intention was not to dupe the world. I just kind of thought it would be funny if a Minion balloon got loose,” she said.

Comments on the video are mixed, ranging from people sharing their frustration at Salazar for not capturing the initial moment of the balloon escaping on video to those voicing their skepticism of the Minion’s New York flight. 

While many people in the comments seemed to recognize the falsity and humor of the video, some seemed to believe it. 

“I think people ingest news and media so passively these days because of social media…that it's so easy to acknowledge, like, ‘oh, that happened because I saw a picture of it’ and take it as true,” Salazar said.  

Today, it does not take much “proof” for someone to consider something they see on social media as true. While Salazar does not consider her Minion story as being “newsworthy,” an article was recently published by Disney Dining that highlights the video. 

However, the article’s headline — “SHOCKING: Video Surfaces of Universal’s ‘Minions’ Balloon Floating Away at Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade — does not state that the video in question is false. In fact, it isn’t until the sixth paragraph of the article that the reader learns the video is fabricated. 

The Disney Dining article seems to be the only news article currently published that addresses the Minion balloon video specifically. 

Journalists cannot investigate the legitimacy of every social media video that exists in the world. While many that do go viral end up being covered by media outlets to some capacity, it is impossible to include every single one.

This is why it is so important for social media users to be skeptical of the information they find on platforms like TikTok. Salazar’s ability to use photo and video editing programs to create a video of a fabricated event is not a brand new phenomenon, and it is likely that some of the other content we see online is at least partially false in some capacity.

Salazar posted a follow-up video a few days after her original Minion video where she explained her entire process of creating the fake video. She included screen recordings of how she easily photoshopped a cutout of the Minion balloon into the sky and how she added in crowd noises that did not actually occur. 

“I didn't think it even looked that real, but I think that when you're so engaged in your work, you're overly criticizing it,” Salazar said.

The content of Salazar’s video was lighthearted and intended to be humorous — and it was. Her video is not causing harm in any way. However, the ease in which she was able to create it highlights the possibility for individuals to carry out something similar involving content that is much more serious. Media literacy in today’s society could not be more important, and we ourselves are the only ones who can do something to improve it.


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