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.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Sighting Report #11

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.