Okay, forget our spoiler of a headline for a minute. Try to forget everything you know about human naivete and marine biology and Photoshop, and just stare at this … oh, let’s call it a photo for a few peaceful seconds.

Look at the seal hug the beluga whale, like tens of thousands of others have done.

Look at it and have some feelings, like they did.


I hope you are having nice feelings. In case lingering skepticism is distracting you, suggestions on the image’s source page include “love” and “togetherness.”

Alternatively, Discovery Channel UK came up with “warm hugs in cold water” when it posted the “stunning shot” on Twitter.

And on Reddit this week, people were inspired to metaphors for racial harmony and even sexual liberation as they upvoted the whale-hugging-seal by the tens of thousands.

Okay, done?

Yes, obviously it’s a fake photo.

So fake that beluga whales and fur seals don’t even live in the same hemisphere, and wouldn’t hug if they did, as a marine biologist explained to Science Alert after the image went viral.

So fake that the digital artist, Elena Vizerskaya, explicitly labels her creations as fake — and her business partner clarified for Snopes that “the seal and beluga whale didn’t really hug each other in real life, but they did that in Elena’s heart and imagination.”

Damned hearts, always snuggling up to cold reality, like whales and seals do not.

Remember when you saw a raccoon riding an alligator, whether it was back in 2015 or just now, and it made you smile. And then you found out it was created by an artist who likes to fake people out?

This story is pretty much the same as that one. Raccoon and alligators, whales and seals — in the end it’s always about humans trying to believe in something nice.

So, yeah, maybe Discovery Channel UK could have mentioned, when it tweeted the image back in March, where it came from. The network didn’t immediately get back to us about what happened there, though it did take the tweet down after we asked.

And maybe Getty Images, which will sell you “embrace of seal and white whale” for $175, could make its one-word disclaimer — “creative” — a tiny bit larger to avoid confusion with all the not-fake photos of whales listed on the same page.

But would any of that have really stopped this week’s Reddit surge of “The incredible shot showing the rare embrace between a seal and a beluga whale?”

As is typical on Reddit, some commenters spotted the picture as fake almost instantly, and 50,000 other people voted for it anyway.

“Rare? I like to think that happens all the time,” wrote mechapoitier.

“If their love is wrong, I don’t want to be right,” said thenewjerk.

Seal-hugs-whale was celebrated as “the yin and the yang” and “Ebony and Ivory” — swimming together in “perfect harmony” in some ocean, somewhere.

Someone claiming expertise in the subject of seals and whales opined that “it’s a bit anthropomorphic to assume they’re ‘hugging’ each other,” but “definitely within the realm of possibilities that they are playing.”

And thus flowed the feelings, even as doubts surfaced in the same comment thread.

Or as fuzzyshorts put it: “That look fake as f—.”

It took only a few hours for someone to track down the artist’s explicitly fake Web page and her other beluga-themed pictures — in some of which whales fly.

“This photo is nothing to me now,” a Redditor wrote after the reveal.

But as of Wednesday morning, the “rare embrace” was still gaining thousands of endorsements with each passing hour.

Vizerskaya couldn’t be reached by The Post, so we don’t know what she thinks of her picture’s confusion-fueled popularity, or what that fake hug in the ocean means to her.

Last year, The Post’s Abby Ohlheiser went to meet the performance artist Zardulu, who once took a dead, stuffed raccoon and a dead, stuffed alligator, sprayed them with waterproofer and put them in a pond to inspire fake news stories that united Bill O’Reilly and Bill Maher in a moment of bipartisan captivation.

Zardulu was also behind the popularly dubbed “Pizza Rat,” and she embraced all these deceptions.

“Why wake the world from a beautiful dream when the waking world is all so drab?” she asked Olheiser.

I don’t know. Human nature, maybe?

When ScienceAlert asked Robert Harcourt of Macquarie University if a seal could ever share a hug with a whale on Wednesday, the marine biologist did his best to leave feelings out of it.

“The fur seal looks like an Arctocephalus species — they are exclusively Southern Hemisphere,” Harcourt wrote.

Beluga whales live in the Arctic, he explained. And while other kinds of seals live nearby, the only thing they’d conceivably share with a whale might be their prey’s gutted carcass.

Picture that. How do you feel now?

This story has been updated to note that Discovery Channel deleted its tweet.

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