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That Viral Justin Bieber Burrito Photo Was An Elaborate Prank

The photo was a hoax featuring a Justin Bieber lookalike from Cambridge, Ont.

Here are some things we know for sure about Justin Bieber: he was once forced to pay about CA$105,000 to a neighbour after egging their house. He had a pet monkey who was confiscated by authorities during a tour stop in Germany. He once dropped in on a museum exhibit dedicated to his path to stardom in his hometown of Stratford, Ont., and the exhibit broke so many attendance records that its run was recently extended.

Here's something we can't report on with certainty: how Bieber eats burritos.

Last week the internet was briefly fixated on a photo circulating on Twitter and Reddit that appeared to show the Biebs holding a burrito like a corn on the cob. He was eating it from the middle out, in the style of someone who had never once held a burrito and didn't choose to approach the new challenge with logic or reason.

It certainly hits a lot of the right notes for a viral story: a celebrity known for his wackiness doing something we could all feel indignant about. (Some of the headlines: WTF Is Justin Bieber Doing to This Burrito?", "Justin Bieber Goes Against Laws of God and Man.")

But on Sunday, a group of L.A.-based video producers known as Yes Theory posted a detailed 12-minute video to YouTube claiming responsibility for the photo, which was in fact a hoax. They hired Cambridge, Ont.-based Bieber lookalike Brad Sousa, flew him out to L.A., fitted him in a Bieber wig and clothes, and set about trying to make themselves famous. Burrito-gate was actually one of two fake Bieber ideas that they hoped would take off — the other involved "Justin" helping a "grandma" (also hired) cross the street.

So why did a group of prankster bros put this much money, time and effort into faking a photo of Justin Bieber eating a burrito oddly? Unclear. They wanted to go viral, as stated in the video. "We wanted to prove a point, that staging a story as goofy as it was can be done much more easily than most people can imagine," Thomas Brag says.

Were they trying to prove a point about how quickly a hoax can spread online? That would be a worthwhile cause to take up now, as misinformation and conspiracy theories abound online. But attributing nobility to their goal seems a little hasty — these dudes appear much more gleefully self-satisfied than they do reflective. And if that is their purpose, they undermine their point by lying to reporters from Vanity Fair and Access Hollywood who got in touch with them to verify the photos.


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Although the four members of Yes Theory originate from different countries — the U.S., Egypt, France and Turkey — they met in Montreal in 2015.

"We travel the world setting challenges for ourselves and for strangers and getting out of our comfort zones along the way, all in order to grow," they say on their website. ("Growth" here refers to viral burrito-related feats, apparently.)

Regardless of intention, it is a reminder that a) we should all be critical of our sources before jumping to conclusions, and b) following Justin Bieber news will usually lead you to a vague feeling of irritation and disappointment.

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