Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Sighting Report #11

It’s both entertaining, and alarming, to see what nonsense is believed on the Internet.  Today’s sighting comes from thepeoplesvoice.org and is titled “Promoting Confrontation with Russia.” It concludes that Putin is an innocent victim of Western propaganda.

Typical of the care the writer takes in electing evidence: Not only is our false Goebbels quotation cited to demonstrate the iniquities of Western media, but he also quotes Winston Churchill as saying:
(a) lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.”
That quotation goes back at least to Charles Spurgeon.  A check of a source like Richard Langworth’s Churchill by Himself: The Definite Collection of Quotations would have easily demonstrated that the quotation does not originate with Churchill.  

The familiar quotation that one can use statistics like a drunkard uses a lamppost (“for support rather than illumination”) seems to go back to A. E. Housman.  After looking at a large number of occurrences of the quotation, I’ve concluded that its appearance is an almost sure sign of shoddy argumentation.  Those who use it select whatever bits and pieces of support they can find to buttress their conclusions, seldom being critical, seldom considering evidence that does not agree with their established opinion.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Sighting Report #10

The MWC News is a site claiming all sorts of noble virtues, including:
“Our aim is to offer a clear-cut distinction between fact and opinion...”
This post, dated 9 August 2014, is on the conflict between Israel and Hamas.  It quotes the fabricated Goebbels quotation to support the claim that the media are complicit in supporting guilty Israel against innocent Hamas.

Their ability to separate fact from fabrication does not seem well-developed.  As is so often the case, they use the quotation without bothering to check its accuracy because it says what they want to say. Like most who use the quotation, they also select the evidence they think supports their case, ignoring what doesn’t agree with their positions.


Monday, July 7, 2014

Tracking Report #9

Well, the news isn’t good.  A Google search on 8 July 2014 returns nearly 2,000,000 hits, six times the number the last time we checked.  As always, Google’s numbers vary remarkably over time.  Bing is at 39,000, only 2,000 above the last time we checked.

The good news is that our page on the matter is still #1 on Google and #3 on Bing, so anyone search the phrase will likely see our page.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Tracking Report #8

Time to see how the fake quotation “truth is the greatest enemy of the State” is doing.   

A Google search on 15 December 2013 produces 308,000 hits, down from 348,000 the last time we checked.  Our two sites are still #1 and #2, so who knows?  We may be having a modest effect. A Bing search gets 37,300, much more reasonable than the 17,000,000 that mysteriously showed up back in September 2013.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A Good Site on Bad Quotations

While reading an article on dubious quotations by Corey Robin in the 20 September 2013 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education, I learned of a blog devoted to what he calls WAS — Wrongly Attributed Statements.  It’s a blog worth following.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Sighting Report #10

It’s bad enough having hundreds of thousands of web pages spreading the false Goebbels quotation, but people can even proclaim their gullibility by wearing a t-shirt with the phrase.

A t-shirt company offers Sarah Palin against a Nazi backdrop with the quotation “Truth is the greatest enemy of the state.”

And you can also get the quotation on a bumper sticker, courtesy of e-Bay.

Tracking Report #7

A Google search on 11 September 2013 finds 379,000 hits for the phrase truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”  Bing, which last time returned only 8,500 hits, now claims 17,000,000.  That can’t be right, so I'll check again in a few days.  The Google total is almost exactly the same as it was back in May 2013.