Back in 2017, during the gold age of #fakenews, Ivanka Trump tweeted a quote that she dedicated to Albert Einstein: “If the facts don’t fit the theory, change the facts.” Einstein never said such a thing but, as one user pointed it out in a tweet that went viral, the fact that he didn’t only made Trump’s tweet that much better.
The self-awareness of the joke would have bewildered us in the good old analog days, but not today, now the internet has turned into a fake quote factory.
The most recent high-profile fake internet quote incident involved no less personages than Frida Kahlo and whoever handles the Twitter account of New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). With the 1940 self portrait of Kahlo, which shows herself with cropped hair and wearing a suit, MoMA tweeted words that have been dedicated to the late Mexican artist for at least 10 years: “I used to think I was the strangest person in the world but then I thought there are so many people in the world, there must be someone just like me who feels bizarre and flawed in the same ways I do.” It turns out that this moving, utterly relatable reflection came not from Kahlo, but from a then 17-year-old Canadian girl, who had written it on a blog in 2008 in a flash of teenage angst.
The social media in the matter of fake news has built upon only something that has existed for as long as human beings have started talking. The person who likes to win arguments knows, nothing quite settles a debate like a well-placed (definitely fake) quote from an source.
It’s like Mark Twain, one of the internet’s favorite sources of fake quotes once said: “It is my belief that nearly any invented quotation, played with confidence, stands a good chance to deceive.”