A video entitled “Golden Eagle Snatches Kid” — which showed just that — quickly went viral after it appeared on YouTube on December 18. From the start, viewers wondered if it was authentic. In the New Statesman, Alex Hern cited some careful analyses of the video: At one point, the eagle’s right wing became transparent and, after it lets go of the toddler, “not only does it carry on going up – which would just be momentum – but its ascent actually speeds up a bit before falling.”
Others who actually know something about eagles pointed out that the bird in the video was a juvenile eastern imperial eagle, which is not native to Montreal parks, the video’s purported location.
By December 19, the day after the video was uploaded by someone who had just joined YouTube on December 18, “Golden Eagle Snatches Kid” was revealed to be a hoax, the creation of three students from the Montreal animation school Centre NAD, as a project for a production simulation workshop class. Noting that the video had received over 1,200,000 views (as of this posting, it has over, 38 million), the school’s website stated that the production simulation workshop class
… aims to produce creative projects according to industry production and quality standards while developing team work skills. Hoaxes produced in this class have already garnered attention, amongst others a video of a penguin having escaped the Montreal Biodôme.
The Centre also noted that the video had attracted quite a bit of attention in the media, in Canada and elsewhere. Those media reports generally asked if “Golden Eagle Snatches Kid” was real. After all, as Horn says, golden eagles have been “filmed hunting reindeer calves and adult deer.”
… This kind of publicity does so much damage to birds and we hope that if you see the video posted that you will inform people that it is not real. Here’s what Kenn Kaufman had to say about the video:
“A golden eagle tries to snatch a baby in Montreal,” and the video goes viral. But it’s faked. Golden Eagle is a scarce visitor in the Montreal area, but the bird in the video is not a Golden Eagle, nor anything else that occurs in the wild in North America. This was clearly a setup: using a falconer’s bird, and probably a fake toddler for the distant scene. With all the ignorance about nature that’s out there already, the last thing we need is this kind of stupid garbage.
Perhaps it is all much ado, a big flap-up, about a video. But the video’s creators knew they were unleashing a hoax video and one that seemed to portray a bird attacking a toddler. Do the creators bear some responsibility for perpetuating a negative image of eagles and of nature and all the more in light of another recent well-publicized hoax, the prank phone call by two Australian radio hosts to the British hospital where Kate Middleton was staying due to morning sickness? The nurse who took the call committed suicide shortly afterwards and the radio show of the two hosts has been cancelled.
A Video About Something “Deep and Archetypal” In Us?
On KCET, Chris Clarke writes that “Golden Eagle Snatches Kid” went viral because it showed us nature in all its terrifying, untamed power, something it rarely does these days when technology (um, guns and other weapons) has made us masters of the planet. Today, we pose the main threats to ourselves and our children, says Clarke:
We’ve spent the last week grappling with just how close to us the Newtown shooter was. We bandy phrases like “mentally ill,” “deranged,” “evil,” to reinforce the separation between those of us who are “normal” and the predator who did such a horrible thing. It’s hard to accept the fact that not so long ago the Newtown shooter was one of those kids; that one of his victims likely wanted to protect him every bit as much as the fallen teachers wanted to protect their students.
I wonder whether part of the eagle video’s astonishing popularity lies in the fact that this week of all weeks we really needed to hear the older version of the story again. The version where the child is threatened by something wholly unlike us, that we need not empathize with.
The eagle-snatching-child video evokes, Clarke writes, something “dark and archetypal” in us – a fear of unseen predators in the dark night emerging from a mysterious forest (as in a Brothers Grimm fairy tale) and snatching up little children.
Videos of animals doing all manner of things are everywhere on the Internet. Many are enjoyable to watch precisely because they are, or we think they are, real and show us the amazing things animals can do. Others (a sheep born with an upside-down head? a dolphin pod?) should give us pause. How do we determine the real from the fake?
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