Saturday, September 14, 2019

Another Misattributed Goebbels Quotation

A visitor to my site asks about this quotation, allegedly by Goebbels, which is cited often on the Internet:
There was no point in seeking to convert the intellectuals. For intellectuals would never be converted and would anyway always yield to the stronger, and this will always be “the man in the street.” Arguments must therefore be crude, clear and forcible, and appeal to emotions and instincts, not the intellect. Truth was unimportant and entirely subordinate to tactics and psychology."
Goebbels didn’t say it.  It is instead taken from Hugh Trevor-Roper’s introduction to  Final Entries 1945: The Diaries of Joseph Goebbels (New York, Putnam’s, 1978), p. xx.  It is a reasonable summary of Goebbels’s views— but he never would have put it in that way. As I’ve observed before, in public he always maintained that propaganda had to be truthful.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Tracking Report #12

It’s time to see how the viral (but fake) Goebbels quotation is doing on the Internet.  As always, I search for the phrase “truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”

On 20 August 2019, a Google search finds 44,000 hits for the phrase.  About 50 have been added in the past month.

Google however, doesn’t list all hits any longer.  Microsoft’s Bing still does.  It finds 3,500,000 hits.

A Google search for the phrase in German (“somit wird die Wahrheit durch die Ausbreitung der größte Feind des Staates”) finds 57 hits.  Bing, on the other hands, finds 11,900 results.

A small consolation is that our page debunking the quotation is the #1 hit on Google.  

Friday, August 9, 2019

NewsMax Goes for Fake Quotation

Marc Rudov has an article on NewsMax titled Trump's Real 2020 Opponent Is the Accusation of Racism.” Rudov, who claims to be a “branding advisor to CEOs,” uses the quotation to support his argument that unless Trump can dispel the racist argument, he will lose the election.

This is an interesting use of the quotation.  For one thing, Trump has control of the state at this point (assuming one doesn't accept the “deep state” claims). Given the context, Trump would be the one destroying truth.... And one would hope that a consultant to CEOs would use reliable evidence.

As is so often the case, the quotation sounds so plausible that people don’t bother to check their facts.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

The Heartland Institute

The Heartland Institute is a decidedly right-wing organization that claims to provide “somewhat reasonable thoughts on life and liberty.”  Today its website carries an essay by one Seton Motley, asserted to be:
One of America's leading authorities on technology and telecom policy, Motley is a writer, television and radio commentator, political and policy strategist, lecturer, debater, activist, and policy advisor to The Heartland Institute.
 Seton’s article is titled: One Year Later, The Left’s Net Neutrality Lies Look Even Dumber.” He asserts that an apparently monolithic “Left” lies about everything, and notes that its arguments for net neutrality are an example of Joseph Goebbels’s big lie strategy.  Entertainingly, he uses the Goebbels quotation this site tracks, supported by a link to a dubious quotation web site that I have dealt with elsewhere.

Seton seens to have no notion of reliable sources. If it’s on the Internet it must be true (but only if it agrees with his prejudices).

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Sharyl Attkisson Uses Dubious Quotations

Sharyl Attkisson is an investigative journalist who “tries to give you information others don’t want you to have.”  Unfortunately, some of her information isn't accurate.

Her recent book The Smear: How Shady Political Operatives and Fake News Control What You See, What You Think, and How You Vote (Harper, 2017) includes a variety of quotations attributed to Goebbels, some of which are dubious.  Here is a section from the book, taken from amazon:

Let’s take a look at them.  

The first one is found on a variety of dubious Internet quotation sites (always check your quotations in a good published collection).   I can’t find anyone who provides a reliable source.

The second one is accurate, taken from the Lochner edition of Goebbels’s diaries (entry of 14 March 1943).  

The third is part of the fabricated quotation being followed on this page.  Enough said.

The fourth is probably accurate.  I can find a 1933 Time magazine citation, but I haven’t checked the actual issue to be sure. 

The fifth is consistent with what Goebbels said — however, it is not a quotation from him.  Instead, it is a summary of what he said taken from a classic article by Leonard Doob (“Goebbels’ Principles of Propaganda,” Public Opinion Quarterly, 14 [1950],  p. 440). 

In short, of five quotations, two are accurate, two are dubious, and one is attributed to Goebbels (in quotation marks), but is actually a summary of his views. Additionally, only one of the quotations is actually from Goebbels’s diaries.

As best I can tell, Attkisson has depended on the Internet for her quotations, not bothering to check their accuracy.  I’m surprised, since the publisher is a good one, and good publishers usually make some effort at fact-checking.

Thanks to Gary N. Curtis, whose blog Fallacy Files brought this to my attention.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Andover High School Turmoil over Fake Goebbels Quotation

The New York Times of 16 June 2018 has an article about Andover High School in Massachusetts that was distressed to discover a Nazi quote in its yearbook.  The relevant passage:

The quote, which reads “Make the lie big, keep it simple, keep saying it and eventually they will believe it,” is widely associated with Hitler and Goebbels’s use of propaganda to build the Nazi empire. The quote is not attributed in the yearbook, and appears in black text underneath the photo of the student, who has not been identified.
Now, the quotation is a reasonable summary of the principles of Nazi propaganda (or, indeed, of much advertising and political discourse), but it is not a direct quotation from either Hitler or Goebbels.  Part of it is based on Hitler’s widely misquoted discussion of the “big lie” in Mein Kampf.  Although Hitler was entirely willing to lie, he is accusing the “Jewish press” of Vienna of the tactic.  As I’ve noted elsewhere, it would be a poor sort of propagandist who publicly proclaimed that he lied.

There are lots of fabricated quotations out there (Lincoln, Churchill, etc.), but fake Nazi quotations are the pit bulls of political controversy.  As Godwin’s Law has it, they stop conversation.  The worst one could charge an enemy with in the past was being a tool of the Devil.  Since belief in him has diminished, the Nazis have taken his place.  During the Bush years, thousands of Internet posts proclaimed that he was following Goebbels’s principles, often using the quotation this blog follows. Then it was Obama’s turn to be the new Goebbels.  Now Trump…. Actually, after Singapore I think the better historical reference for Trump may be Neville Chamberlain (“Peace for our time”), but that’s another matter.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Speech on Fake News Uses Fake Quotation

Jen Senko put out a film in 2016 titled The Brainwashing of My Dad, describing the effect of Fox News, etc., on her father.  She gave a speech based on the film to the New York Society for Ethical Culture in 2017 — and cites the dubious Goebbels quotation.  So a speech on fake news uses a fake quotation.  If you’re curious, the reference is at about the 5-minute mark on this YouTube video.