I hope I can write this post without sounding too terribly self-righteous.
I also hope these keyboard indentations on my forehead start to fade soon.
Please, please, please, people. I beg you, whoever you are, wherever you live, whatever you believe, whatever stance on whatever major social or political issue you feel compelled to promote . . . please, take the five or ten minutes it takes to check a fact or quote on the Internet before passing it along.
Twice in the past two days, I’ve seen memes on Facebook with quotes attributed to famous historical figures that were erroneous. Major quotes. Words that fuel fires. Statements that perpetuate ideas, notions, ideologies. Stuff that matters.
A Google search is all it takes. Really. Please, just take five or six words of the quote and enter it into Google. Then look through the sites – more than one, maybe six or seven, depending on how credible the sites are – and make sure that the quote is 1) actually a real quote, and 2) attributed to the right person. Try to find the original source of the quote, if possible. There will be sites that have the quote as written and attributed, but that doesn’t mean it’s true. Dig a little. If it’s wrong, someone out there will have set the record straight and provided the original sources.
In case you’re curious, here are the memes I’m referring to from this week:
The tactlessness of connecting the president with a mass murderer aside, Hitler never said this. The first sentence is accurately attributed to Hitler. It’s from Mein Kampf, but it’s in a section talking about eugenics, not mental control:
The folkish state must make up for what everyone else today has neglected in this field. It must set race in the center of all life. It must take care to keep it pure. It must declare the child to be the most precious treasure of the people. It must see to it that only the healthy beget children; that there is only one disgrace: despite one’s own sickness and deficiencies to bring children into the world, and one highest honor: to renounce doing so.
– from Mein Kampf, Chapter 2
The rest of the quote is not from Hitler, but from a satirical parody of Hitler speaking from the afterlife, published by the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons here:
And the other meme:
Again, the first part of this quote is correct, but I couldn’t find a credible source for the rest of it. The actual quote that includes the first part is from George Washington’s first address to Congress:
I could be wrong, but it sounds much more like Washington is referring to the military, as opposed to the fake quote in the meme, which makes it sound like he advocated stockpiling guns and ammo and waiting for the government to come take away your rights.
For the record, I’m not purposefully singling out pro-gun memes here. Those just happened to be the two that I took note of this week. There’s plenty of this kind of garbage floating around on every side.
I really don’t have a problem with people expressing their opinions on gun control or any other issue. I actually enjoy an intelligent discussion about such things, and I’ve come across some well-stated arguments that, while I may not agree with them, I can respect. But I can’t take it when people spread misinformation that they think supports their position. It makes me batty.
Misquoting powerful historical figures in order to make a point just makes you seem ignorant. And not checking such things is inexcusable in the information age. Does it take some extra effort? Yes. Is it always easy to find the truth? No. But it’s there. It really is. Don’t assume that just because someone you know passed it along that it’s accurate.
Please. I’m begging. My forehead can’t take anymore keyboard pounding this week.