The Fake Quotes Phenomenon


The myriad ways internet has influenced commerce or enhanced ways for common people to access information could be labeled revolutionary. But, like any inanimate thing, this greatest invention’s use is based upon the individuals using it. Persons with nefarious motives could use it to wreak havoc upon others. When considering the list of evil misdeeds concocting on internet, the creation and dissemination of fake quotes may not seem like a worthy enough subject to pay attention. Nevertheless, I think that the phenomenon of fake quotations should be explored to understand modern human behavior in the virtual world.

I have shared a good number of quotes misattributed to famous personalities. To be more honest, I have come to know about some famous people through misattributed quotes, floating on the internet. And, whenever you express your shock about a fake quote to someone, the reply most often would be ‘why’s it a big deal? If the quote is positive or holds some truth or initiates a thought process, why should we care about it being misattributed?’ May be, yes. It is not that big a deal. But, still what troubles me is the posthumous idolatry these fake quotes generate for few known personalities. Sometimes, a renowned individuals’ ideologies itself were shattered by spreading fake quotes.


Those who create such quotes may be well meaning, and may think that the authoritative assistance of known, ingenious person could boost the arguments they wanted to have. So, the idea can’t be good in itself? It has to be fiercely attributed to a notable individual to get some recognition? Or is the person who attributes his quote to Einstein or Schopenhauer or Nietzsche, enjoys wrapping their idea or argument by using the mantle of some authority? And most of those who share the fake, contextually misplaced quotes never spend time in learning about the history involved or read the primary source.   We can add a contextually correct, real quotes from renowned persons to flourish our arguments, but by attributing one’s own thought to some other famous one, he/she is just being dishonest and only intent on winning over arguments. Let’s also remember that even the historical or philosophical giants could themselves been wrong over few things.

Political thinker Edmund Burke is credited with “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing”. It is very good quote and I had it as my desktop wallpaper, but unfortunately it wasn’t said by him. It’s just a simple example and if u google for famous quotes, a majority of ones attributed to the face of known personality is fake. Einstein obviously didn’t say “Everybody is a genius. But, if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid”. The pictures of Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Edgar Allan Poe, Nietzsche, Oscar Wilde, W.B. Yeats, Gandhi, Confucius and even Buddha are placed alongside the words that never uttered by them.


At times, the people who share a tweet or fb post create misattributed quotes too. For example, a young American graduate after the death of Osama Bin Laden posted a timely Facebook status and followed it up with a Martin Luther King Jr. — I will mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. “Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” Unfortunately, while sharing the quote, the quotation marks were removed and the status update became part of Martin Luther King’s words. Wallpapers were created solely with those words, millions of shares went around the internet, and even debates were held in media questioning, what did Martin Luther King Jr. meant by “I will mourn the loss of……..” Did he mean the Vietnam War or is it about the civil rights movement?

Of course, one can’t be called ‘stupid’ for propagating fake quotes. We all might have shared more fake quotes than the real ones. We often get invested with quotes since they are not only concise, but also convey something about our own emotions and behaviors. But, we need to employ a healthy level of skepticism while consuming the quotes, especially when some eloquent words are attributed to Hitler. The technological support to identify such misinformation is also on the rise.

And, of course i think you all know the truth about shared picture quotes in this post!

Here’s a good article about preventing the spread of online misinformation:

How to Avoid Spreading Myths and Misinformation Online —

You may also like...

  • It’s always better to use quotes that you find in a book although it is tempting to take the short cut. LOVE the memes.

  • Very valid points. People should quote only those authors they are familiar with.