Hoaxes & Rumors

Classic Fake Photo: Tupac and Osama

Classic Fake Photo: Tupac and Osama

Today we examine a photo which has circulated on social media for years that seems to show Tupac Shakur and Osama Bin Laden shaking hands.

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It’s Fake

It is widely considered to be a Photoshop job, although its origins are still somewhat elusive. It is sometimes posted symbolically to point out conspiracy theorist arguments that Tupac and Osama are still alive. Others have posted it simply wondering if the photo is real or not. Below we offer our observations on the image.

Tupac & Osama

The deaths of Tupac Shakur and Osama bin Laden were believed by some to be under unusual or mysterious circumstances. This has led to conspiracy theories that each of these men could still be alive. Therefore, a photo of the two men shaking hands lends itself to such conspiracy theories.

Tupac Shakur died in Las Vegas in September 1996. What some have called mysterious circumstances surrounding his murder has led to speculation over the years by conspiracy theorists that Tupac could still be alive.

Osama bin Laden was killed in Pakistan in May 2011 by U.S. special forces. It has been suggested that the lack of video evidence and the quick burial at sea are reasons to question the official story.

The photo discussed here is not the only time these two men have been paired together online. Take, for example, this 2011 article entitled “The Tupac-ification of Osama bin Laden,” which draws comparisons to the lack of convincing information surrounding their deaths.

The Photo

The photo at first glance does seem to show Tupac and Osama shaking hands. It began circulating online as early as 2005. Over the next 5 years, the photo was occasionally posted to a blog or photo sharing site, typically understood to be the work of Photoshop by commenters in the forums in which it was posted.

DeSean Jackson

NFL wide receiver DeSean Jackson posted the image to his Instagram and Twitter accounts in May 2012, to the displeasure of many fans and writers. The posts were immediately removed, but it further popularized the ubiquitous photo.

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It is widely accepted that the Tupac-Osama photo is fake. It isn’t clear if it was created as a joke or with the intent to fool those viewing it, and its origin is yet unknown. There are, however, two possible explanations for the photo itself.

  • The men in the photo are lookalikes, perhaps on their way to a party.
  • One or both of the faces have been Photoshopped

In looking at the image for clues, we believe the information below points to this being a real photo of Tupac, with Osama’s head digitally inserted:

  • The tattoo on Tupac’s arm is consistent with his tattoo which read “NOTORIOUS.” While not conclusive (an imitator could get a similar tattoo or place a temporary one), it seems to indicate that we are probably seeing Tupac in the photo.
  • The photo appears to be a scan of a printed photograph. The wall in the background displays a moire pattern, a common byproduct of scanning a printed photograph. This, too, would lend itself to the fact that digital photography was not popular during Tupac’s life, and that the image was likely taken in the 1990s.
  • Osama bin Laden was never photographed wearing the type of clothing depicted in this photo. The person next to Tupac is wearing jeans and an I-94 T-shirt, which is highly unlikely to have been donned by the terrorist leader.
  • Closer inspection of Bin Laden’s beard yields clues that it was Photoshopped. The beard has unnatural edges, and when blown up, you can see an unusual straight line which should not exist in an unedited image (see below). The picture frame to the left of Osama’s head also looks unnaturally jagged near the ear.
  • Some conspiracy theorists have said that this photo is proof that both men are still alive, but – even if it were real – it has been established that the image was already in circulation prior to bin Laden’s death.
  • Height. Keen observation by commenter below noted that the height differences between the two men is also not the same as Tupac and Osama. Shakur is listed as having been 5’9″ while bin Laden’s height has been stated to be around 6’4″ to 6’6″ – which clearly isn’t the case in the photo above.

fake osama beard

Google Trends

The chart below shows search popularity for Tupac and Osama. As you can see, there was an initial spike in interest in early 2011, followed by a steady stream of interest after that. There is no significant search history before the photo prior to 2011, although it is known to have existed as early as 2005.

Bottom Line

The photo of Tupac and Osama bin Laden shaking hands is generally regarded as a fake. It would appear that Tupac portion of the photo is likely real, but Osama’s head was inserted in the image, perhaps placed over that of a friend or a fan who posed with the artist in the 1990s.

Do you have any information on this image? Please drop us a comment below.

Updated June 20, 2016
Originally published April 2015

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