fake martin luther king, jr. quote demonstrates how we got the apocrypha

MLK said what?There is a beautiful quote going around the internet. It reads:

“I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. 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.” –Martin Luther King, Jr.

There is only one problem with this quote: Martin Luther King, Jr. never said it. As Megan McArdle and Erik Haugsjaa point out, the second part of the quote is from Dr. King’s 1963 Strength to Love, but the first sentence isn’t part of the original quote. It’s fake. Someone added it to the King quote to make it relevant to Osama bin Laden’s death.

MLK 'Strength to Love' on Google Books

The actual quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s 'Strength to Love' as demonstrated in Google Books. Note the first part of the quotation was not written by Dr. King.

The viral nature of this quote demonstrates how people will believe whatever they read if it fits their preconceived notions, especially when it is attributed to a well-respected authority or personality. This is precisely how we got the Apocrypha (the books that didn’t make it into the Bible), and a number of the books that actually did make it into the biblical canon. Someone writes something, it sounds like something someone authoritative would say, the quote or book is attributed to said authority, people read it, believe it, and pass it on. (Recommended reading: Forged by Bart Ehrman.)

It’s how we got the fake Bin Laden death photos, it’s how we got the MLK quote, and it’s how we got many of the books of the Bible (i.e., some letters attributed to Paul, all 4 Gospels, many of the pastoral letters, the Apocrypha, etc.).

What’s a shame in the modern age is that it’s actually quite easy to fact check. Unfortunately, people don’t. They just parrot misinformation without citations because they like the way it sounds. It reiterates the need for readers to check their facts, and for authors to cite their sources.

In the words of Al Gore, “This is not why I invented the internet.”1

1Al Gore did not make this statement.


UPDATE: See the Salon.com article by Drew Grant, who attributes the quote to a tweet from Penn Jillette, who got it on Facebook from someone named Jessica Dovey. A screenshot of Dovey’s Facebook message shows that she did, in fact, offset MLK’s quote from her own comments. So Penn (apparently) mis-attributed the first portion to Dr. King. Penn acknowledged his mistake, but not before it went viral.

This demonstrates that there are usually two attributions needed for a saying to become ‘authoritative’: attribution to a recognized respected authority, and the propagation by another respected/beloved figure. It also demonstrates a point that Bart Ehrman and his teacher, Bruce Metzger, both make: not all edits and changes are intentional. Like Penn in this case, it was an honest mistake, which, to his credit, he immediately corrected.

Excellent work Drew!!

In the words of Desi Arnaz, “Pakistan, you got some ‘splanin’ to do!”

Bin-Laden's Abottabad, Pakistan compound.

Bin-Laden's Abottabad, Pakistan compound.

In the words of Desi Arnaz, “Pakistan, you got some ‘splanin’ to do!”

The heat is now on Pakistan.

Far from the mountainous region separating Pakistan from Afghanistan, our “partners” in the fight against terrorism apparently didn’t know that Osama Bin-Laden was hiding in a heavily fortified, specially built, digitally dark (lacked all digital communications like internet access, phones, etc.) compound next to the main Pakistani military academy (the Pakistani equivalent of West Point) in Abbottabad, Pakistan, only 60 miles north of Pakistan’s capitol, Islamabad.

It will be interesting to watch how Pakistan attempts to explain this, or whether they will simply admit that members of their own powerful intelligence agency, the ISI, were aiding and abetting Bin-Laden, and fall in line with every demand the U.S. makes from this point forward. Remember, we give Pakistan billions of dollars in foreign aid each year, and there is presently a plan to give Pakistan, $7.5 billion more over the next 5 years. However, this plan has been foundering in recent weeks due to the vast amount of waste stemming from internal Pakistani bureaucracy and corruption. How much less likely will the U.S. want to continue to fund Pakistan if it is revealed that Pakistan was harboring Bin-Laden for the past 6 years?

of course hamas condemns the killing of bin laden

Ismail Haniyeh

Ismail Haniyeh, head of the Hamas administration in the Gaza Strip

Of course Hamas condemns the killing of Bin Laden: birds of a feather.

According to Reuters:

Ismail Haniyeh, head of the Hamas administration in the Gaza Strip, called bin Laden a martyr.

“We condemn the assassination and the killing of an Arab holy warrior,” Haniyeh told reporters. “We regard this as a continuation of the American policy based on oppression and the shedding of Muslim and Arab blood.”

I shake my head.

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