The Atlantic’s Megan McArdle tracked the “anatomy of a fake quotation” attributed to Martin Luther King Jr. this week.
The fake quotes — “I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy.” — made the rounds of Twitter and Facebook in the past few days following the announcement of Osama bin Laden’s death.
According to McArdle, a 24-year-old named Jessica Dovey posted on Facebook the “mourn the loss” comment (her own) and then added a real MLK quote —
“Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” MLK Jr
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Penn Jillette, of Penn and Teller fame, tweeted the misquote to 1.6 million followers of his Facebook page and the now distorted words went viral.
McArdle noted that Twitter’s character limitations seemed to have cut down the meshed Dovey comment-MLK quote and then Dovey’s statement became linked to King.
McArdle commented that Jillette “admirably” posted an update when he found out the quote wasn’t King’s. See Dovey’s original Facebook comment here.
CNN noted that a misquote attributed to Mark Twain has circulated social media also. The quote”I’ve never wished a man dead, but I have read some obituaries with great pleasure.” is similar to a quote from lawyer Clarence Darrow, who said “I have never killed any one, but I have read some obituary notices with great satisfaction.”