Sam & I chilling out on a bench yesterday in Forte dei Marmi, Italy. The fans started lining up to take pictures with us. pic.twitter.com/uzXx698PiN— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) August 16, 2017
In the United States, you will be hard-pressed to find many people who do not recognize critically acclaimed actor Samuel L. Jackson and legendary retired NBA star Magic Johnson.
However, abroad, these men can fly under the radar and even be mistaken for lazy migrants.
While the two high-profile black celebrities vacationed in Tuscany, Italy, a photo of them relaxing on a bench surrounded by shopping bags from Louis Vuitton and Prada went viral for all the wrong reasons.
Johnson initially shared the photo on Twitter with the caption, “Sam and I chilling out on a bench yesterday in Forte dei Marmi, Italy. The fans started lining up to take pictures with us.”
However, the context of the image was totally transformed by comedic actor and satirical writer Luca Bottura, who took the picture and made a meme out of it for the sake of a social experiment, The Independent reports.
He shared the meme with a caption that read, "Boldrini's resources in Forte dei Marmi shop at Prada with our €35. Share this picture if you are outraged.”
According to The Independent, Bottura was referencing the President of the Chamber of Deputies of Italy Laura Boldrini, who has received stark criticism for her progressive open migration policies.
Several Italian social media users who failed to recognize Jackson and Johnson believed the men pictured in the meme were migrants enjoying a shopping spree on the taxpayers’ dime.
Commenters expressed sentiments of disgust, shame, and outrage that the €35 a day paid by citizens to accommodate refugees were going toward frivolous, luxury purchases.
"The meme has been shared thousands of times and 40 per cent of people understood the provocation, 30 per cent were outraged and 20 per cent thought it was a racist meme and that I had failed to recognise Samuel Jackson and Earvin 'Magic' Johnson, (I will not reveal the 10 per cent),” Bottura reportedly said on Facebook of the experiment’s findings.
Apparently, Nina Moric, a Croatian model living in Italy, decided to get in on the action with a satirical post of her own using the same image. She expressed anger about the photo, declaring that seeing migrants wasting “our 35 Euros” was “too much.”
It didn’t take long for people to agree with her and cosign her perspective.
“Nina Moric is right and this is shameful ... I am not racist, but I know there are people who really do not have money, while these wear branded clothes and relax,” one commenter reportedly said.
Moric — despite recently expressing support for a far-right political movement known as the new face of fascism in Italy — eventually revealed that her post was also part of a social experiment to prove that people use social media to “confirm their prejudices, regardless of what the truth is” and “none of us are immune to this phenomenon.”
“If you think migrants come here to [encamp] for €35 a day, that post will confirm it. If you think Nina Moric is a right-wing extremist, her post will confirm it,” she added.
In both scenarios, social media users took the bait and ran with it, proving Moric’s theory about how social media is used to affirm biases rather than to actually inform.
Not only did this experiment expose the racism behind peoples' anti-immigrant attitudes, but it also served as a prime example of how social media has helped the spread of fake news become prominent.
Banner/Thumbnail Photo Credit: Reuters, Danny Moloshok