New quotes from beyond the grave

There was huge excitement on the weekend, what with the royal wedding and the capture and death of Osama bin Laden. I’m not going to go all political on this blog, but I’ll just say that I don’t agree with the people who were vehemently happy about the death. One of the quotes that caught my eye on Facebook (it was posted by about half a dozen people within minutes of each other) was this:

‎”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.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Admittedly, I didn’t take too much notice of this quote. I did wonder briefly what issue Dr King could have been talking about that involved the loss of so many lives, but I liked the sentiment. Soon after, the quote was cut down for Twitter – and only the first sentence remained. It was this that led Atlantic writer Megan McArdle to question the validity of the quote. It turns out that the quote was wrongly attributed to Dr King through the simple act of relocating punctuation.

The majority of the above quote was, in fact, said by Dr King. It was just the first sentence that wasn’t (and the first sentence was what was propagated on Twitter, notably by Penn Jillette, of magician duo Penn and Teller). The first sentence was a well-written comment by Facebooker Jessica Dovey, attached to  the beginning of the quote, as so:

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.” MLK jr

So simply placing the quotation marks around four sentences instead of the correct three has attributed more beautiful words to Martin Luther King, Jr, even though he didn’t write or say them himself.

For the full article, visit the Atlantic. For an interesting piece on quotable misquotes, visit the New Yorker.

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