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.