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Falser Words Were Never Spoken – NYTimes.com The artifice of misquotation

This article reminds me of the old Simon and Garfunkel line “the words of the prophets are written on the subway wall, tenament halls…”.  But, that was an ode to authenticity, and the mis-quotes that are being disparaged here are ones that reduce the complexity (and the audacity) of the originals.  And they are then often verified by being quoted all over the internet.

Thoreau, Gandhi, Mandela — it’s easy to see why their words and ideas have been massaged into gauzy slogans. They were inspirational figures, dreamers of beautiful dreams. But what goes missing in the slogans is that they were also sober, steely men. Each of them knew that thoroughgoing change, whether personal or social, involves humility and sacrifice, and that the effort to change oneself or the world always exacts a price.

But ours is an era in which it’s believed that we can reinvent ourselves whenever we choose. So we recast the wisdom of the great thinkers in the shape of our illusions. Shorn of their complexities, their politics, their grasp of the sheer arduousness of change, they stand before us now. They are shiny from their makeovers, they are fabulous and gorgeous, and they want us to know that we can have it all.

via Falser Words Were Never Spoken – NYTimes.com.

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