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Sunday, April 11, 2021

In Market: ‘Not everything on the internet is true’ – Ben Franklin (or not!)

The first week of August, our governor got caught. He sent out a tweet with a grim black and white photo of leader of men Sir Winston Churchill. Next to the photo, beneath a line saying: “Churchill on the left wing,” was a quote: “The fascists of the future will call themselves anti-fascists.” Above all that were some comments from Gov. Greg Abbott saying, “Some insights are timeless.”

Maybe, but Churchill never said any such thing.

But hey, we live in a post-truth era, so that kind of fact/non-fact is pretty irrelevant. Abbott did what any modern politician does, he basically doubled down.

From the Texas Tribune: “Listen, what I tweeted was a sentiment that I have, and that is antifa is dangerous to society and antifa is the antithesis of safety and security, and they are antagonists to law enforcement as well as to other people,” Abbott said, during an announcement about bail system reforms. “It was irrelevant to me who may or may not have said that in the past. I didn’t want to be accused of plagiarism for saying it. If no one else said it, attribute the quote to me because it’s what I believe in.”

Antifa has been defined as autonomous, self-styled anti-fascist militant groups that show up at rallies of neo-Nazis and white supremacists and such and confront them, sometimes violently. According to some people and news organizations that want keep you pinned in your home watching TV and fearing for your life instead of going out and living your life, they are as dangerous and as scary as people who think they can sing but can’t. In other words, they can bring down America.

According to Snopes.com, the quote became associated with Churchill sometime in the 2010s, about 40 years after the great statesman and wartime leader departed this mortal coil, cigar in hand.

Back in 2015, the folks at the U.S. Post Office got caught with their Zip Codes down when they unveiled one of those great stamps with a famous person on it, in this case the poet Maya Angelou. Up on stage for the unveiling was Oprah and then-First Lady Michelle Obama (Oprah comes first because she’s more powerful). Guess what, the quote on the stamp – “A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song” – wasn’t dear ol’ Maya’s.

Angelou, writer of the book, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, loved the quote, but didn’t write it. Not sure why the Postal Service didn’t check with Maya, other than the fact that she died in 2014. Said quote was actually written by Joan Walsh Anglund, according to my research, a children’s author with no Post Office stamp.

The best thing about Abbott’s mistake is that it allowed the internet to do something it’s actually good at: provide comedy. People who have too much time on their hands got busy and provided their own fake quotes using the tried and true stoic photo of a “great person” followed by fake quote.

Here are a few:

“My biggest fear is that people will attribute fake quotes to me and millions of morons on the internet will believe it.” Next to a photo of Albert Einstein.

“These are not the droids you’re looking for.” Next to a painting of the author of the Declaration of Independence and our third president, Thomas Jefferson.

Continuing in the Star Wars vein:

“Now witness the power of this fully-operational battle station.” On a stamp with, you guessed it, Ms. Angelou again, being wronged.

Next to a photo of President Lincoln, looking grim-faced and determined: “Don’t believe everything on the internet just because there’s a picture with a quote next to it. – Abraham Lincoln.

Even if Honest Abe didn’t say it, I’ll be like Abbott, I’ll say it because I believe it.

Robert Francis is editor of the Fort Worth Business Press. Edited to remove, what else, an incorrectly attributed quote. 

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Robert Francis
Robert is a Fort Worth native and longtime editor of the Fort Worth Business Press. He is a former president of the local Society of Professional Journalists and was a freelancer for a variety of newspapers, weeklies and magazines, including American Way, BrandWeek and InformatonWeek. A graduate of TCU, Robert has held a variety of writing and editing positions at publications such as the Grand Prairie Daily News and InfoWorld. He is also a musician and playwright.

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