2011-05-02

Is the MLK quote fake? "I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives..."

(or, "On not rejoicing in Osama bin Laden's death"...)

The following quote spread all over the Internet in the last 24 hours:

"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.


Megan McCardle, editor for The Atlantic, posted a blog entry saying that MLK "probably" didn't say this.  However, MLK said everything but the first sentence.



The original source of the mis-quote was finally tracked down.


This was just a copy/paste error: somebody made the statement in the first sentence -- which was their own assessment of the situation -- and then pasted MLK's quote below it.  Then somebody else copied the whole thing, and posted it to facebook, joining the two quotes together so it looked like it was all attributed to MLK. Then it spread all over the Internet, and then the followup spread all over the Internet to say that it was fake.  Which it is not -- it should just be split into two pieces like this:

"I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy."
— Jessica Dovey
"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. [source, Google Books]

Even though MLK didn't say the first part, Jessica's comments are eloquent and I completely agree with them.

While I'm on the subject, here are a couple of other related quotes:

"No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. . . any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind" —John Donne, Meditation XVII


"Always forgive your enemies. Nothing annoys them more." --Oscar Wilde


4 comments:

  1. The first *tweet* of the "Some random Internet user" part of this is in fact from @NinjoWilson: https://twitter.com/#!/NinjoWilson/status/65051821227515904

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  2. Great lead. Looks like it spread through fb before Twitter though: https://twitter.com/#!/NinjoWilson/status/65477910949142528

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  3. "— Some random Internet user [unknown source]" appears to be a Jessica Dovey, so says The Atlantic
    http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2011/05/anatomy-of-a-fake-quotation/238257/

    And if it is her, she should be credited; the words are eloquent.

    At least I thinks so (I - a random internet user :)

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  4. Yup -- see the link update I already posted at the top. I should just update the original article below it too. Anyway I love her words.

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