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Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014

Misattribution

Posted Tuesday, May 3, 2011, at 12:50 PM

Two somewhat-opposing quotes have been circulated quite a bit on Facebook since Sunday night.

One, supposedly from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., cautions against rejoicing in the death of anyone, even an enemy.

The other, supposedly from Mark Twain, says that while the speaker wouldn't wish for anyone's death, he reads some obituaries with great pleasure.

I have friends who've shared the MLK quote, and other friends who've shared the Twain quote.

The trouble is, neither quote was said by the man to whom it was attributed, according to this great post from Kottke.org guest blogger Tim Carmody. The Twain quote is a paraphrase of something actually said by Clarence Darrow; the MLK quote may have come from comedy magician and professional skeptic Penn Jillette, although the record isn't quite clear, and Jillette isn't making the search any easier.

It just goes to show the dangers of passing things along on the Internet. And, as much as I harp about this issue, I'm not immune; I was sent a hoax e-mail the other day by the founder of the group with which I take my foreign mission trips. The e-mail claimed that many 6-volt lantern cells actually contain (and are therefore a discount source of) AA batteries. I reposted it without checking it out, and got egg on my face as a result. It's not true.

Go to Snopes.com before you repost.


Comments
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Out of curiosity, how do we know Snopes is correct?

I have used them also, but the thought has crossed my mind several times. What makes them the source for accuracy?

-- Posted by stevemills on Tue, May 3, 2011, at 2:58 PM

This is not meant as a smart a.... question. I am truly curious how Snopes verifies and how they became the trusted source they seem to be.

-- Posted by stevemills on Tue, May 3, 2011, at 7:57 PM

I didn't mean to ignore your question. There was a great profile of the couple that operates Snopes.com a year or two ago, and I've been meaning to look it up and just haven't got the chance yet.

-- Posted by Jicarney on Thu, May 5, 2011, at 6:45 AM

http://www.theroot.com/buzz/fake-mlk-quo...

An English teacher in Japan is responsible for the quote attributed to MLK, but it was not intentional. She wrote the phrase in question before a real quote from King and in the process of being reposted and Tweeted, the quotes around the King part got dropped.

Here's the original. http://i.imgur.com/cqtjw.jpg

-- Posted by MotherMayhem on Thu, May 5, 2011, at 8:04 AM

I think this is the profile I was thinking of, from the New York Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/05/techno...

They started out simply trying to archive and categorize urban legends, and the site sort of evolved from there.

-- Posted by Jicarney on Thu, May 5, 2011, at 11:33 AM

Steve, even snopes is aware that it shouldn't be relied on 100 percent. They've been known to slip some fake reports in there before.

http://www.snopes.com/lost/mistered.asp

http://www.snopes.com/lost/false.asp

-- Posted by MotherMayhem on Thu, May 5, 2011, at 11:50 AM

Here's a quote from Unique Lies:

"King Obama sent special agents in to kill Osama Bin Laden. He received a Treasure Trove of Valuable Information at the mere cost of leaving behind Top Secret Defense Information with Sample."

Will Pakistan sell it back to us or sell it to China making China the new Super Power?

-- Posted by Unique-Lies on Thu, May 5, 2011, at 11:56 AM


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John I. Carney is city editor of the Times-Gazette.
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