The origins of a fake Martin Luther King Quote

Nathan Campbell —  May 3, 2011

One day post the demise of OBL and the social media streams are still flooding with reactions. It’s pretty amazing to sit back and watch. My own contributions to the discussion was to question the merits of the “burial at sea” and to suggest that I would be using the responses of my friends to place them on some sort of political spectrum.

Oh. And. I posted this clip from Four Lions.

 

The “Christian” response to the death of the globe’s most infamous terrorist has been pretty startling and interesting, and probably more to do with one’s political persuasions than convictions about human life. A concern for human life, and its dignity, is what drives the fight against terrorism (or the “war against an abstract noun”) – so it is not necessarily anti-life to celebrate the demise of one committed to ending other lives.

I’ve enjoyed some of the more moderate responses too – Kevin De Young and Doug Wilson’s in particular…

I do sometimes yearn for more crazy friends with crazy conspiracy theories. I have a couple. Hey guys. Thanks. If you’re reading. But on the whole my newsfeed was leaning conservative on Facebook and lefty on Twitter. Odd. There’s not a huge overlap between who I follow on each. Anyway. One of the quotes that started springing up from my less gung-ho friends was this quote attributed to 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.” – Martin Luther King, Jr”

That’s the abridged version. The full version is here…

“I 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.”

Now, the excerpt is completely bogus. It’s not anything MLK ever said. See this story from The Atlantic. The second half is legit. It’s an actual quote. So how did the first bit get tacked on? It seems it was a case of Facebook Whispers. Here is the thread that apparently started the viral ball going (according to Reddit).

Here’s the legit bit:

“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” – MLK Jr, Where Do We Go from Here : Chaos or Community?

Somebody missed the quotation marks in the middle when transmitting the quote, and the rest, as they say, is fake history.

“The problem with quotes on the internet is that you never know if they’re attributed correctly.” – Abraham Lincoln

Let the social media fun continue, slightly abated…

Nathan Campbell

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Nathan runs St Eutychus. He loves Jesus. His wife. His Daughter. Coffee. And the Internet. He is currently a student at the Queensland Theological College and a mercenary PR Consultant.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. Obama’s ‘birthers’, a MLK mis-quote & Jesus Myth: blame the internet | Things Findo Thinks - May 5, 2011

    [...] but inadvertently added to because of some misplaced or missing quotation marks. (see here and here). While there are people pointing out the error, there are still many who continue to pass on the [...]