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Fake quotations

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Anatomy of a Fake Quotation. Yesterday, I saw a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. fly across my Twitter feed: "I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy.

Anatomy of a Fake Quotation

" - Martin Luther King, Jr". I was about to retweet it, but I hesitated. It didn't sound right. After some Googling, I determined that it was probably fake, which I wrote about last night. Here's the story of how that quote was created. It turns out I was far too uncharitable in my search for a motive behind the fake quote. Had I seen the quote on Facebook, rather than Twitter, I might have guessed at the truth. I will mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy.

Everything except the first sentence is found in King's book, Strength to Love, and seems to have been said originally in a 1957 sermon he gave on loving your enemies. So how did they get mixed together? Thanks to Jessica Dovey, a Facebook user, that's how. Ms. Arrêtez avec le « je me battrai pour vous » de Voltaire ! Deux fois en quelques heures !

Arrêtez avec le « je me battrai pour vous » de Voltaire !

D’abord, un éditeur qui invoque son esprit « voltairien » pour justifier la publication d’un livre d’Eric Zemmour. Ensuite, un faux Carl Lang (ex-Front national) qui flatte Pierre Haski sur Twitter pour obtenir la publication d’une tribune sur Rue89 : « On vous dit voltairien », sous-entendu « vous connaissez comme moi la fameuse phrase ». Mais Voltaire n’a jamais écrit « je ne suis pas d’accord avec ce que vous dites, mais je me battrai jusqu’au bout pour que vous puissiez le dire » ! Il ne l’a même jamais dit. A l’origine de cette formule, une Britannique, Evelyn Beatrice Hall qui, dans un ouvrage consacré à Voltaire en 1906, lui attribue le célèbre « I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it ». « Je ne suis pas d’accord avec vous [...] est ma propre expression et n’aurait pas dû être mise entre guillemets. » (Voir la vidéo) Dans ce contexte, la phrase prêtée à Voltaire ne paraît pas dépasser sa pensée.

Notable Quotables. Letters appended.

Notable Quotables

Sherlock Holmes never said “Elementary, my dear Watson.” Neither Ingrid Bergman nor anyone else in “Casablanca” says “Play it again, Sam”; Leo Durocher did not say “Nice guys finish last”; Vince Lombardi did say “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing” quite often, but he got the line from someone else. Patrick Henry almost certainly did not say “Give me liberty, or give me death!” ; William Tecumseh Sherman never wrote the words “War is hell”; and there is no evidence that Horace Greeley said “Go west, young man.” Marie Antoinette did not say “Let them eat cake”; Hermann Göring did not say “When I hear the word ‘culture,’ I reach for my gun”; and Muhammad Ali did not say “No Vietcong ever called me nigger.” So what? “For lack of a better word” spoils a nice quotation—the speech is about calling a spade a spade, so there is no better word—and “Play it again, Sam” is somehow more affecting than “Play it, Sam.”

The adaptive mechanism benefits both parties.