A photo made the social-media rounds this week purporting to show windows at 401 N. Wabash cleverly lit so as to spell “No” above Trump International Hotel & Tower’s conspicuous and controversial "Trump” sign.
Trump Towers in Chicago… Employees turned on lights to say NO over Trump’s name. pic.twitter.com/UJJR67Af1T— Zach Beasley (@PeoplesVuePoint) February 22, 2016
Some versions claimed it was a prank pulled by employees; others said it was the work of enlightened residents. But since you are a sophisticated reader of Chicago, you already know they’re all wrong, because the “photo” is a fake.
By Monday, Snopes had performed the perfunctory debunking, even locating the original, unaltered image.
Patient zero of this particular outbreak was Chicago resident Ashley Szofer, who on Friday night taught herself enough Photoshop skills to create the hoax image while bored during a power outage. She then shared it on Facebook.
“I really just meant it as a silly joke to share with my friends more than some big political statement,” she told Chicago. “The truth is that I was sort of bothered by the fact that Trump’s name has impeded my favorite view of my city’s beautiful skyline long before he was running for president.”
Before long copies of the photo had bounced across Twitter, Reddit, and elsewhere, receiving thousands of credulous shares and likes along the way. “I’m kind of shocked by how much it took on a life of its own,” Szofer says. (For the record, Szofer says she hasn’t picked her favorite candidate for president, but as a former teacher she hopes it is someone who prioritizes education.)
What may have helped the image’s spread is its hint of truthiness. In December, after all, the Tribune reported that many residents were embarrassed to be even remotely associated with Trump and his outlandish and abusive rhetoric—rhetoric that has since then only grown in intensity.
But are they embarrassed enough to coordinate such a massive political statement? Don’t believe it until you see it—and maybe not even then.