What do we learn from conservatives’ fake quotes?

Summary:  Today both Left and Right in America are dysfunctional, but they are neither equivalent nor equal in power. Today we look at the Right’s revealing love of fake quotes. {2nd of 2 posts today}

“Falsehood flies, and the Truth comes limping after it.”
Jonathan Swift, The Examiner (1710).

Obama: "American brought down"
An exceptionally dumb fake, but popular.



One astonishing aspect of today’s America is our credulity, our willingness to believe whatever matches our tribal prejudices — without the slightest evidence, no matter how improbable.

The bogus obsessions of the Right highlight this — Obama was not born in the USA, Obama is Muslim, and Benghazi Benghazi BENGHAZI!  But a more common mode of propaganda is the fake quote, preferably with a nice picture attached. These memes are launched daily, spread by gullible conservatives by email and social media.

It makes these people easy to manipulate (lousy citizens, but good followers). The Right talks big about responsibility, but apparently it does not apply when passing on information — no matter how slanderous. Or, as you’ll see from many of these quotes, idiotic.


  1. The Right’s Library of Fake Quotes: Putting words in dead people’s mouths“, Steve Rendall, FAIR.
  2. Did Jefferson really say that? Why bogus quotations matter in gun debate“, Nicole Saidi, CNN.
  3. Right-Wing Bloggers Use Fake Quotes To Criticize Occupy Wall Street“, Jillian Rayfield, TPM.
  4. Top Ten Fake Thomas Jefferson Quotes“, Steve Straub, The Federalist Papers Project.
  5. Right-wing smear machine falls for fake Obama quote labeled as ‘satire’“, Matt Gertz, Media Matters.
  6. Tea Party Whacko Allen West Publishes Book Full Of Fake Founding Father Quotes To Explain His Political Views“, Randa Morris.
  7. Fabricated quote used to discredit climate scientist“, The Independent.
Fake but good quote by Plato
Fake but good quote!

Examples from the Left

People on the Left use fake quotes — just less often (the two sides of the political spectrum are not identical, but neither are they opposites). For example see these fake quotes attributed to Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh.

The Left has its own favorite modes of credulity: exaggerated or outright fake stories. Like the “North Pole is a lake, you idiot” story. Sometimes even contradicting scientists.

Fighting the lies

Crowd-sourcing lies creates a flow that stimulates the Right into a frenzy and buries the Left. It’s easier to create fiction than research and debunk them. It’s asymmetrical political conflict. To see the difficulty read “How Lies Spread Faster Than Truth: A Study of Viral Content” by Craig Silverman at PBS, and “Curse of the Internet age: lies spread faster than truth, says Rowan Williams” at The Telegraph — “Former Archbishop of Canterbury warns that instant communications making misunderstanding more common not less.”

For a bold example of political lies see this tale about ObamaCare: “How an Astounding New Right-Wing Lie About the Economy Was Born” by Joshua Holland at AlterNet, 14 December 2012.

For More Information

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.  You might enjoy other posts about Information and Disinformation, plus these posts about false quotes about gun rights: But Hitler confiscated guns, leaving Germans helpless! and The Founders talk to us about guns for a well-regulated militia. Also see this famous quote about the fall of democracies,



5 thoughts on “What do we learn from conservatives’ fake quotes?”

  1. I’ve heard this kind of talk all my life. That lies, personal attacks, scandal-mongering and partisanship are a modern dysfunction or plague that must be cured. Implying that politics in America’s glorious past was a reasoned debate not unlike Plato’s dialogs recorded with precision by a neutral press.

    Then I studied American history and found that there were no such times and that all our favorite political heroes endured scathing attacks from a very partisan press from the moment we became independent.

    If you’re taking a stand on an issue somebody’s not going to like it, and a lot of heat is gonna come your way…as Harry Truman warned. You’ve got to expect lies, distortions, and attacks, it’s a good sign that you’re exposing some dark truths. If they bother you, you’re in the wrong business.

    1. Gloucon,

      I would prefer that you reply with quotes. Most of your comments bear little or no resemblance to the post, or indeed give any evidence that you have read anything but the title. Or in this case, that you even read the title.

      1. Gloucon,

        Follow-up note: I have mentioned this repeatedly about your comment. You make stuff up, then write a rebuttal to your imaginary friend. It gives your comments the air of “Winnie the Pooh reads the NY Times”.

  2. “Today we look at the Right’s revealing love of fake quotes.”

    So what was the Right’s fake quote count? We could ask the Right to come up with a fake quote count of the Left and see who is the winner.

    “In the early years of the republic, newspaper publishing became politicized as Americans debated the form and structure of their new government, and by the 1790s, political partisanship had become more explicit, as publishers allied themselves with either the Federalists or the Jeffersonian Democrats and printed scathing attacks on their opponents policies and political leaders.”

    -Early Republic and Antebellum America, Christopher G. Bates

    1. Goucon,

      As with your previous comments, this is a silly misrepresentation of what I said. Partisanship does not equal manufacturing lies. Scathing attacks do not equal lies.

      The level of partisan conflict was often brutal in America’s past; the mud slinging often personal. “Ma, ma, where’s my Pa? Gone to the White House. Ha! Ha! Ha!” But Grover Cleveland did have an illegitimate child. Jefferson did have a slave mistress. Jackson’s marriage was, technically, bigamy. Lincoln was ugly. Passionate people in the past often resorted to physical violence over political issues, even in the halls of Congress. None of these are like the flood of lies sweeping the Right, especially odd since today they can be checked and disproven in seconds.

      But with your eyes tightly closed (as usual) I suspect there is no point to discussing this with you. Your pattern is to write some nonsense, disappear when called on it — until you reappear again with different nonsense.

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