Thursday, August 6, 2015

Friday, May 22, 2015

The Dubious Goebbels Quotation on Academic Sites

Although there are tens of thousands of citations of the dubious quotation on the web, there are far fewer on academic sites (.edu).  Still, there are some.

Professor Chris H. Lewis at the University of Colorado teaches a course titled “America, the Environment, & the Global Economy.”  Among other things it promotes critical thinking, for which he gives twelve characteristics, one of which is “use credible sources.”   He cites the fake Goebbels translation.  He provides a source for his previous quotation from Hitler. He doesn’t source the Goebbels quotation.  He likes Colbert’s concept of “truthiness.” In a way, his citation is an example of “truthiness.”  People’s “gut feeling” is that it is something that Goebbels would say, so obvious that examining its accuracy is unnecessary.

A second is in a 2004 article by Peter McLaren and Gregory Martin at UCLA titled “The Legend of the Bush Gang: Imperialism, War, and Propaganda.”  It has the Goebbels quotation at the beginning of the article, with no source provided.   The article begins by noting that “fascism and war” have become the United States’s preferred methods to starve off economic collapse and relieve “the agonizing tension of its underlying contradictions.” Since in their view the United States is following fascist policies, it only makes sense to cite a leading fascist to support their point.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

German Tracking Report #2

A Google search currently finds 259 hits for the German version of the dubious Goebbels quotation: “da die Wahrheit der tödliche Feind der Lüge ist, und somit wird die Wahrheit durch die Ausbreitung der größte Feind des Staates.”  This is down slightly from the last time we checked in 2012.  A search for new pages in the last month gets no results, a good sign.  

As noted in an earlier post, none of these pages cites a German source.  The quotation  has been translated from English into German.  As noted last time, there may be more pages with slightly different wording, not surprising since there are usually a variety of alternatives when translating.

Tracking Report #10

Well, Google is providing fewer hits for the phrase “truth is the greatest enemy of the State”˘  It’s down to 45,400 hits today.  I’m not sure if the absolute number of usages is declining or if Google is simply reporting fewer cases —probably the latter.

The #1 hit on a Google search is from a site that takes the quotation from one of those unreliable Internet quotation sites, but hits #2 and #3 are from our pages.  At least anyone who has doubts about the quotation will be able to easily find our discussion of it.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The State of the Dubious Goebbels Quotation

It’s been some time since we last updated this blog, so this will be more comprehensive than usual.

First, a Google search on 4 February 2015 provides 56,900 results.  Now, the last time we checked on 7 August 2014, the total was nearly 2,000,000.  A Bing search provides 37,600 results.  It’s unlikely that there has been such a dramatic reduction in pages citing the quotation (although it would be nice to think so).  Google is always tinkering with its algorithms, so the likeliest reason is that.

Limiting the search results to the last week, there are eighteen new pages. There is the usual wacky variety of arguments. Communities Digital News uses the quotation to argue that George Soros is to blame for the Ferguson riots.  A comment to a post on NumbersUSA uses it to support claims that President Obama is lying about his immigration policies. has a long video purporting to prove that NASA faked evidence for the moon landings.  It sites the quotation as support for that claim.

The entertaining thing about the video is that it is on a site with this disclaimer:
The views/facts portrayed in the videos and/or advertisements on the website: are not those of the site owners and operators or anyone connected with them. The "facts" may not actually be facts, but may be the ideas and or views of the owners or producers of the videos and advertisements. accepts no responsibility for any loss of any kind caused by anything on or omitted from this website. The content of this website is presented to entertain. Strongly recommends that everyone get advice from a competent, qualified professional in the area before taking action that may cause loss or damage to themselves or others, no matter how remote that possibility is.
Rather amusing.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

A Bumper Sticker with the Dubious Quotation

Ebay has a listing for a bumper sticker with the fabricated Goebbels quotation.

At least it’s cheap: $2.50 including postage.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Sighting Report #12

It’s both entertaining, and alarming, to see what nonsense is believed on the Internet.  Today’s sighting comes from 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.