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Mangled To Meme In Less Than Two Days: The Fake Quotation That Went Viral

Mangled To Meme In Less Than Two Days: The Fake Quotation That Went Viral
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A woman's Facebook status gets mixed up with a Martin Luther King Jr. quote and is shared by thousands on social networks.

Emma Hutchings
  • 5 may 2011

After the death of Osama bin Laden, a large number of quotes have been making their way across social networking sites, expressing the feelings of people around the world. However, one quote was accidentally attributed to Martin Luther King Jr. when actually it came from a young English teacher working in Japan, Jessica Dovey. Dovey updated her Facebook status with a personal thought followed by a MLK quotation:

I will 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.” MLK Jr.

However, like an online game of Chinese whispers, the quotation marks got removed, the paragraph was shortened, and the first sentence was distributed across Facebook and Twitter as a timely and relevant quote from one of the most famous and respected men in history. The Magician Penn Jillette, of Penn and Teller, even tweeted it to his 1.6 million followers (and has since apologised for the mistake). Megan McArdle traced the story of the fake quote and concluded, “The speed of dissemination is breathtaking: mangled to meme in less than two days.”

The Atlantic: “Anatomy of a Fake Quotation”

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