Why do people share falsely attributed quotes?

Sorry about this, but I’m about to rerun another rant. Several years ago, on my original blog, I created a small drama because I called out a Facebook friend for sharing an essay called “Paradox of Our Time”. That essay, often attributed to George Carlin, who had read it before he died and thought it was a “sappy load of shit”, has been making the rounds for years. My friend, who was mature enough to remain friends after I called him out, had responded to me with something along the lines of “it doesn’t matter who said it; it’s the thought that counts”.

As a writer, I really beg to differ with that attitude. Every dollar I’ve made since I finished graduate school has been made from writing. It’s what I do. I would not appreciate it if I wrote something really amazing and saw it falsely attributed to someone else. At the same time, I would not appreciate being falsely credited with writing something I didn’t write, especially if I didn’t agree with it or it made me look like an asshole. I can look like an asshole by myself just fine, thank you! I don’t need help from people putting words in my mouth or my keyboard.

A few years after the first incident, a now former Facebook friend shared another meme falsely attributed to George Carlin. He wrote, “Carlin pulled no punches.” He wasn’t the first to share that meme during that particular week. Carlin happens to be one of my personal heroes, so I politely responded that Carlin never said those words that were attributed to him on his meme.

No… Carlin didn’t say this…

Then I vented on my blog, because I don’t understand why people would want the wrong person taking credit for words they supposedly find wise enough to share with everyone. George Carlin is dead, and no longer cares what people attribute to him. But many of his admirers are still living, and we don’t want to see people putting words in his mouth. I mean, Dr. Bob Morehead wrote “Paradox of our Time” in 1998. It’s obviously resonated with a lot of people, since it’s been shared for years among millions of people. Why wouldn’t people want Dr. Morehead to get the credit he is due? At the same time, why attribute something to Carlin, obviously in an admiring way, when Carlin himself wrote that he thought “Paradox of our Time” was a “sappy load of shit”? Wouldn’t you want to show more respect to both men?

Why not share something like this? That way, no one is falsely attributed and no one’s likeness is used to promote an agenda with which they may not agree, but you’ve still shared that awesome quote.

Anyway, the guy who shared the false Carlin meme read my blog and got super pissed off at me. He left me another meme and a nastygram on my Overeducated Housewife Facebook page. Then, he blocked me.

Sorry man… I didn’t mean to ruffle your feathers. But you ruffle mine when you share stupid shit.

I was later informed that he was ranting about me on his personal Facebook page, but clearly lacked the integrity and courage to allow me to see and respond to his comments. He also sent a band of his friends to my blog. They stalked me for several days and probably bumped up my Google Adsense by a few pennies.

A mutual friend private messaged me to tell me what he was doing and let me know that she had parted ways with him over it, because she felt he was overreacting and being really immature. I agree that he overreacted. Everybody makes mistakes. Why not own up to them and gain some valuable experience? I don’t care that he vented about me, either, because we weren’t really friends. If we had been real friends, he would have known and cared that Carlin’s legacy is important to me. I also don’t like encouraging people to carelessly spread bullshit, and he obviously differs with me on that philosophy.

I do understand why he was upset with me. I’m sure he was embarrassed that I vented about that meme he shared. However, as I pointed out in the original post, he wasn’t the first or the only one to be guilty of that practice, nor will he be the last. I wasn’t even venting about him in particular. I was venting about the practice of sharing fake stuff, not the specific people who do it, and I did it on my blog instead of on Facebook itself. More people read my personal Facebook page than my blog or its Facebook page– especially now that I’ve moved it. He took things personally and went on a rampage. And boy, was it fun!

I can’t say I miss having him as a “friend”. We didn’t know each other very well, although we met on Epinions, a site where people wrote product reviews and were expected to maintain high standards of accuracy and writing quality. I never met him offline and almost never interacted with him on social media. I suspect we have very different political leanings, and he enjoys Trump enough that it would annoy me to see his stuff on my feed. So really, good riddance. Blocking me was a favor. I should be more selective about my “friends”, anyway… and people I choose to trust.

The funny thing is, this guy had originally posted under his fake meme that “Carlin pulled no punches,” although to my knowledge, Carlin never groused about “disrespectful kids” in his comedy routines. In fact, Carlin was himself originally a “disrespectful kid”, who famously got fired from a lot of jobs and had washed out of the Air Force by the time he was 20. He’d lasted just three years, having been court martialed three times!

My former Facebook friend seemed to admire that “pulling no punches” quality in the late comedian. But I guess he doesn’t admire it in uppity female bloggers like me. So why am I writing about him again, three years after that ugly incident passed? Because it’s happened again, this time from a different offender. Behold…

I was immediately suspicious that this was falsely attributed, and I was right…

No, Anthony Hopkins isn’t the originator of this quote. Nor are Keanu Reeves, Richard Gere, or Christopher Walken. Yeah, it sounds like good advice, and I guess someone originally decided to attribute these male celebrity worthies to the quote because maybe more people would take it seriously or be impressed by it. But really, all falsely attributing quotes does is irritate uptight people like me and make other people look ignorant. I know many people feel like this isn’t important, and maybe it isn’t in the grand scheme of things. I almost didn’t write about this again, given the shitstorm that erupted last time I ranted about it. I decided to go ahead and rant away when I read this comment from Nanea Hoffman of Sweatpants and Coffee, the woman who did write it:

She’s right. It’s not cool to “borrow” or “claim” other people’s words and pair them with a celebrity who never uttered them. It’s not fair to the celebrity. It’s not fair to the original author. It’s not fair to the masses who read this falsely attributed stuff and spread it to the masses, thus spreading more falsehoods.

Bill Cosby has also had a lot of stuff falsely attributed to him. I had originally included him in my first rants on this topic, but since he’s fallen from grace and now sits in a prison cell, I think I’ll just give him a brief “dishonorable mention”. There was a time when Cosby was still widely admired, and people were sharing and attributing to him an essay called “I’m 83 and I’m Tired” (and another version called “I’m 76 and I’m Tired”). Cosby, who at this writing is still not yet 83, wrote this in response:

DELETE is still good advice, even if it was given by a convicted felon. The actual author of the essay falsely attributed to Cosby is Robert A. Hall (the former Massachusetts state senator).

So, at the risk of annoying more people, yes, I’m ranting about this again. Frankly, I’d rather see people come up with their own wise quotes, anyway. I’m no more likely to accept “wise words” from George Carlin than I would Nanea Hoffman. If I think if it’s particularly profound and makes sense, maybe I’ll share it with other people. There’s a good chance I won’t, though, because I’m not big on quote sharing, anyway. I’d rather spread the shit manufactured by my own brain. So be a good sport and give credit where credit is due. People, like me, will thank you for it.