US Government Uses Theme Park Photo on Disaster Website

April 3, 2020, 6:17 PM · News in the year 2020 seems to be a global contest of "hold my beer," as each new absurdity outdoes the last.

For theme park fans, behold the latest. The U.S. Small Business Administration has opened applications for a new Payroll Protection Program, the details of which are not relevant to this story. What is relevant is that when you go to the SBA's website and scroll down a bit, you see this.

Universal Studios on the SBA website

There, above "Home & business disaster loans," you see that photo? Does it look familiar?

Perhaps if you've taken the Studio Tour at Universal Studios Hollywood, it might. Because that's not a real disaster scene on the SBA website. It's the "War of the Worlds" set on the Universal backlot.

Huge hat tip to Theme Park Shark for first discovering this.

If you'd like to see it for yourself, visit sba.gov, then compare it to this photo on thestudiotour.com. It's not a perfect match on the perspective, but you can see same two buildings in both photos.

And to be fair, Google Images thinks that this photo is "hurricane florida house damage" if you do a reverse image search on it, which suggests how this particular photo might have been found by whoever put together the SBA website.

A few readers have suggested that the federal government should not be using a photo of someone's actual destroyed home on its websites. And they would be right. As a newspaper columnist and former university journalism instructor, I agree with that suggestion 100 percent. That's why the smarter choice would have been a photo of rebuilding a destroyed home or business after an actual disaster. The imagery for a disaster assistance loan program should express hope that you can rebuild, not something exploitative.

But it should be real. Using an image of a fictional scene to illustrate what should be a very real government assistance program is pretty much the definition of "fake news." (Unfortunately, in my experience, it seems that the people who complain about "fake news" the loudest are the ones who produce and endorse it the most.) And searching Google for images when you are running a US federal government website is just lazy.

Anyway, with all that's happening right now, this little example of sloppy laziness ultimately doesn't matter a bit. Except that it just goes to illustrate that 2020 will defy every instance of anyone saying, "it can't possibly get any crazier than this."

Take care and stay safe.

Replies (3)

April 4, 2020 at 2:45 AM

That is so stupid, funny and sad all at once.

April 4, 2020 at 3:54 PM

A reference to "War of the Worlds" is appropriate - a mighty superpower brought down by a tiny microbe.

April 6, 2020 at 9:55 PM

Visiting the SBA site today reveals they have changed that photo, switching it with an image of a flooded road and no buildings. Its possible though the site may have several photos on 'carousel' mode so each visit displays a different image.

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