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May 03, 2011

After Bin Laden's Demise, Bogus MLK Quote Arises

In the wake of the killing of Osama Bin Laden and subsequent celebrations in American cities, a quote attributed to Martin Luther King Jr. has been circulating on the Internet, and appeared in a piece by Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Annette John-Hall:

"I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. . . . Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that."

But as Megan Mcardle wrote in the Atlantic, the quote is apparently bogus:

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.

This would not be the first bogus quote attributed to King.

May 8 Update: Philadelphia Inquirer Corrects

Posted by TS at May 3, 2011 05:56 AM


Just an FYI: The first Dr. King quote isn't entirely his. The quote was falsely attributed to MLKJr in it’s entirety because somewhere someone omitted a quotation mark from the original posting:

As soon as I found out I started stalking the internet to find it requoted so I could help give credit where credit is due.

Posted by: karen at May 3, 2011 06:33 AM

I got this quote from a site on MLK...

"The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral,

begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy.

Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it.

Through violence you may murder the liar,

but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth.

Through violence you may murder the hater,

but you do not murder hate.

In fact, violence merely increases hate.

So it goes.

Returning violence for violence multiplies violence,

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."

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Posted by: Tracy Lippel at May 3, 2011 11:41 AM

Indeed, the really relevant King quote is quite the opposite from the one discussed: "[i]f your opponent has a conscience, then follow Gandhi. But if your enemy has no conscience, like Hitler, then follow Bonhoeffer."

Posted by: Ariel Kronman at May 3, 2011 11:59 AM

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