Jenniver Vinyard via Midjourney.
People on social media are sharing pictures of what they think are Satanic-seeming displays from Hobby Lobby stores and vowing never to shop there again much like many people refuse to drink Bud Light or shop at Target for bigoted reasons. Aside from the fact that Americans are currently eager to boycott any company that feigns tolerance at marginalized people, there’s one big problem with these Hobby Lobby store pictures: They’re not real.
These pictures of Satanic merchandise on the shelves of Hobby Lobby were made by Jennifer Vinyard using the AI image generating tool Midjourney. That didn’t stop people from credulously sharing the photos on Facebook and TikTok as if they were real and expressing their shock and horror that Hobby Lobby, which bills itself as a Christian company, was selling giant statues of Baphomet.Vinyard, an Austin-area pharmacy tech, generated the pictures with Midjourney and posted them to her personal Facebook, Reddit, and an AI art group on Facebook on June 5. The public post in AI Art Universe went viral and, as of this writing, has been shared more than six thousand times. The post gained more than 100 comments before the page shut them down.Reactions ran the gamut. Some immediately realized it was AI, others joked about running to Hobby Lobby to pick up some demonic decor, and others expressed fear and disappointment that their beloved craft store would do something like this. “Well. I guess even ‘Christian owned’ companies can be bought for the right price,” one commenter said. “Severely disappointed.”
“Wow!! Now this is Crazy..did The Christian Owners Sale? Or are they just in Compromise ..and crossed the line and gone woke?!! This is absolutely insane..And a line Real Christians would never cross!!” another user said in reply to repost of the pictures on Facebook.
“Apparently Hobby Lobby has a crapton of Baphomet and demon-like statues just on the shelves right now,” TikToker woahthatisstrange said in a video showing off the AI generated images. “I zoomed in on some of the price tags though and they do have pound symbols next to them, so it’s gonna be somewhere in Europe. I don’t go to Hobby Lobby a lot, I don’t know if these are being sold in America as well.”
“I couldn't believe how many likes and shares the photos got,” Vinyard told Motherboard. “I've read so many comments that cracked me up, mostly from the people who thought they were real and were super angry. I even got some mean Messenger messages from them.”Vinyard said she plays with Midjourney occasionally and enjoys painting and drawing. “The prompt was actually very simple, it was something along the lines of ‘Hobby Lobby selling Satanic products. I also used photos of Hobby Lobby in the prompt,” she said. It took Midjourney around 10 minutes to generate the images. “I'm actually a little embarrassed that they weren't better...If I knew they were going to blow up the way they did, I would have spent more time on them.”Vinyard said she’s been a member of the Satanic Temple since 2021, but she does not yet belong to an official congregation. She got the idea for the Hobby Lobby pictures after similar photos showing off Satanic clothing on display at Target went viral at the end of May. “I just thought it would be funny to use the Satanic decor, since Hobby Lobby pretends to be a Christian store,” Vinyard said.
Hobby Lobby has been at the center of several Christian conservative controversies over the past few years. In 2014, it fought for the right to deny contraceptives to its employees on religious grounds. The case ended up before the Supreme Court, which ruled in its favor. It also paid to smuggle religious artifacts, some of them looted by the Islamic State, out of the Middle East. Vinyard’s prank played into conservative culture war issues. Target and other companies have faced increased scrutiny, protest campaigns, and harassment from U.S. conservatives over a perceived attack on their values. Target removed its various pride collection merchandise in May. On Monday, a union representing Starbucks workers accused the coffee giant of removing pro-LGBTQ signage and merchandise from the store. Starbucks denied it had done so.“Well look slike Hobby Lobby will be the next company that goes out of business,” one Facebook user said, replying to a post about the statues. “I hope it loses billions of dollars satanic statues really by no more hobby lobby.”“Screw Satanic people,” another user said in response. “Look all I’m saying is that satanic people are stupid and obviously you worse the damn devil and stuff like that and that’s disgusting I could never and satanic people can go work right really where they belong which is hell.”Hobby Lobby did not respond to Motherboard’s request for comment.