Fake Twain, MLK quotes spread, spark meme

When the news broke that Osama Bin Laden had been killed, two quotes — one credited to Mark Twain (“I’ve never wished a man dead, but I have read some obituaries with great pleasure”), the other credited to Dr. Martin Luther King (“I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy”) — spread rapidly across just about every social media platform known to man. The Twain quote in particular was popping up so often in my Twitter feed that it prompted me to backlash angrily against it. I’m even more annoyed now after learning that both quotes are fake.

Reports the Atlantic, about the MLK quote:

A quick Google search turns up lots of tweets, all of them from today. Searching Martin Luther King Jr. quote pages for the word “enemy” does not turn up this quote, only things that probably wouldn’t go over nearly so well, like “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy to a friend.” I’m pretty sure that this quote, too, is fake.

What’s fascinating is the speed of it. Someone made up a quote, attributed it to MLK, Jr., and disseminated it widely, all within 24 hours. Why? What do you get out of saying something pithy, and getting no credit for it?

Perhaps they only wanted to say this thing, and knew that no one would pay attention unless it came from someone else. Or, perhaps they are getting a gargantuan kick out of seeing people repeat their lie ad infinitum. Either way, it seems strange to me.

Reports Good, about the Twain quote:

As with that MLK Jr. quote from earlier, in which a woman on Facebook’s words were inaccurately latched onto a real King passage, a saying falsely attributed to author Mark Twain has been burning across Twitter feeds around the country in an attempt to give context to Sunday’s Osama bin Laden killing. The quote, “I’ve never wished a man dead, but I have read some obituaries with great pleasure,” actually belongs to the late civil rights lawyer Clarence Darrow.

The only good thing to come out of all of this is that some of my favorite internet funny people, particularly those named Matt, have taken this memeball and run with it…

“Swag me the f*ck out” – MLK, Jr. (Matt Taylor)

“Face down, ass up — that’s the way we like to f*ck.” -Rap supergroup comprised of Mark Twain, MLK, and Winston Churchill. (Matt Ufford)

“I’ve never read a MLK Jr quote about Mark Twain that I didn’t like.” – Abraham Lincoln, quoting Godzilla. (Matt Hickey)

“The quotes attributed to me on Twitter about death have been greatly exaggerated.” — Mark Twain. (Me)

Seriously people, just take a couple of minutes to Google a quote next time before you all retweet the hell out of it. Please.

UPDATE: The faux MLK quote apparently originated on Facebook.