Think back to September: Mitt Romney was still a constant in the news cycle and for a brief moment we were enthralled with a video of a pig rescuing a baby goat. But that video—like too much of what works its way into the online news cycle—was a fake. Dave Itzkoff at The New York Times now has the true story behind the viral video that made us think about the nature of kindness: it was all staged for a Comedy Central show.
Yes, animals really aren't that nice. Itzkoff writes:
It was created for a new Comedy Central series, “Nathan for You,” with the help of some 20 crew members, including animal trainers, scuba divers and humane officers, and required the fabrication of a plastic track to guide the pig to the goat (which was never in jeopardy).
The show, which premieres this week, follows Nathan Fielder who attempts to help businesses via ridiculous marketing schemes. It's described as a "docu-reality show." The pig video was made for a petting farm in Oak Glen, Calif. with the intention of turning the animal into a celebrity. Fielder uploaded the video to YouTube under a pseudonym, and says there was no excess promotion that led it to the wave of publicity it received ending up on a number of news programs and websites (including ours). The crew signed nondisclosure agreements.
Of course there were suspicions. Shortly after the video appeared on YouTube, another video declared it fake, but didn't do a great job of disproving it:
In fact getting the shot was quite difficult according to Itzkoff:
However, his plan to record an adorable scene of cross-species gallantry hit several snags: his chosen pig would not go in the pond and had to be replaced with a trained animal, and a track had to be built to guide it to the goat. (Meanwhile, the goat became so comfortable in the water that anguished bleats had to be dubbed in later.)
Despite the widespread assumption on the Internet and television news programs that the video was in fact a real-life incident, Fielder told Itzkoff that he felt no ethical qualms about the incident: "I definitely don’t think I have the same ethical responsibility as the news," he said. "And I definitely don’t see anything wrong, ethically, with posting a video on YouTube that is presented as something it’s not."
It's not like this hasn't happened before. That baby-snatching eagle video was also a prank.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.