When I started following the popular We Survived Bush, You Will Survive Obama page I did so because I liked the sentiment it seemed to project of telling the doomsayers to breathe into a bag, pull on their big-girl panties and stop saying that the world was ending because of Obama's election. I was never naïve enough to think that I was getting unbiased information from the feed, but it was often a handy place to find interesting articles that sometimes stood up to proper vetting. I can still visit the page, but I'm no longer allowed to comment on anything on it, and here's how that happened.
Among the many infographics that get shared on the site was the following one containing an alleged quote by Abraham Lincoln that warned of corporations destroying America:
The money power preys upon the nation in time of peace and conspires against it in times of adversity. It is more despotic than monarchy, more insolent than autocracy, more selfish than bureaucracy.
I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me, and causes me to tremble for the safety of our country.
Corporations have been enthroned, an era of corruption will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people, until the wealth is aggregated in a few hands, and the republic is destroyed.
I have a knack for recognizing bullshit quotes stuck into the mouths of revered dead politicians, so I went digging around to authenticate it. Rather than doing the easy thing, checking Snopes, I backtracked the quote until I reached a debunking of it in the October 3, 1898 edition of The New York Times from John G. Nicolay, Lincoln's private secretary and official biographer. He said the quote was a "bald, unblushing forgery. The great president never said it or wrote it, and never said or wrote anything that by the utmost license could be distorted to resemble it."
To WSBYWSO's credit, the quote has appeared in several noted historical works, including the Lincoln Encyclopedia by Archer H. Shaw. Nonetheless the whole thing was a hoax used during late 19th-century debates about the gold standard, and never appears in any of the collected writings of the 16th president.
Having satisfied myself that the quote was in error I decided to comment and let the main moderator, Lou Colagiovanni, know that he'd posted an error so that it could be taken down. He responded by somewhat condescendingly asking for links, which I then provided.
"See, how hard was that?" was the reply. "Don't just say you know something -- prove it."
Now, it seemed to me that a page that boasts almost 80,000 fans and allegedly receives over 50 million views a month should bear the burden of the vetting the information that they share, not little old me. I started to say so, when I noticed I no longer had the ability to enter comments. What's more, all my links had been deleted, as had the links that anyone else has posted pointing out the false origins of the quote.
One brave soul, Pamela Taylor, lasted almost 24 hours with her reply of, "Stop it. Just stop it. He didn't say it. It does not help the cause. It's such a right wing kind of thing to do. Honestly, it is not OK to lie, even on the correct side of the issue," before her words too were removed. That the page is one-sided is to be expected, but such behavior keeps cropping up there in between the usual fare and the daily plugs for AnyCoins.com and a contest for moderator Sydney L. to win a Mary Kay makeover (With special mention made of the fact that you can game the site with fake e-mails to vote multiple times).
The timeline is full of venomous posts by Colagiovanni gleefully mentioning all the people he's banned because they apparently wrote him hate mail. Shortly before my run-in with him he posted...
"In reviewing the last few days, I have been spending too much time on personal vendettas. I will be making a point to get back on task. Thanks for your patience.
I may also be erasing our ban list this weekend. We'll see how the next couple of days go."
As I pointed out a while back on Hair Balls when I clarified that no, George Washington did not want people to take up arms and overthrow the United States government, when you use bogus quotes, misrepresentations or information from disreputable sources, all you're doing is making your position look like one that is held by idiots and liars. "Research before repost" should be your motto. If it's important enough to put on your timeline, it's important enough to Google.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
Whether the sentiment rings true for you or not isn't this issue. What's important is if you're the kind of person so interested in appearing better than your opposition that you'll falsify data and co-opt the glorious dead for your purposes. Apparently Colagiovanni is despite his own words from June 6.
"I encourage all who read this to disagree freely, and I invite them to try to change public opinion based on the merits of the evidence... Turning tail and running at the site of opposition is nothing to be proud of."
The post still appears on WSBYWSO's timeline, and no comments expressing dissent for its authenticity appear. E-mails to Colagiovanni for comment went unanswered.