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Posts Tagged ‘quotations’

Der Wiki’ser

One of the things that I’ve meaning to do for ages, in the event that I had any spare time or energy, is to contribute something to Wikipedia. The basic principle of the collective creation of a gigantic repository of knowledge is inspiring, the overall quality of entries has improved so much over the years so that we academics need no longer discourage students from drawing on it (as a first step, and without citing it, of course, let along copying it…) – and it has been very helpful at times, when trying to correct Thucydides misquotations and misattributions on the Twitter, to be able to point people towards the small Misattribution section within the entry on Thucydides, which gives the correct source for the ubiquitous ‘Scholars and Warriors’ quote.

Don’t bother looking for it; it’s not there any more. (more…)

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One of my main aims, in monitoring references to Thucydides on the Twitter, is to keep a sense of proportion. Partly this is about relative scale: fifteen fake quotations in a day is a lot, relative to normal traffic in this area – but given that over 6,000 tweets get fired off every second, it’s thoroughly negligible in the greater scheme of things. Similarly, it’s about remembering that my view of this is very odd; for me, a tweet may be the sixth tedious repetition of the misattributed ‘Scholars and Warriors’ quote that afternoon, but for the person tweeting it this is generally the first time they’ve done it, having found a really neat quote that sums up the point they want to make perfectly. Even with that annoying Social Jukebox system I aim to stay civil unless it’s from a user whom I’ve attempted to correct many times and so I know they won’t pay any attention anyway, and if there’s the faintest possibility that I’m dealing with a real person tweeting in good faith, I do my best to interact in the spirit of truth, not snark. (more…)

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Increasingly, the most interesting aspect of investigating fake or dubious Thucydides quotes on the internet is not establishing their fakeness (Morley’s Law: the majority of quotations attributed to Thucydides on the internet fall into one of three categories: not quite what he said, not really what he meant, or not actually Thucydides at all) but exploring the processes by which anyone came to believe in them in the first place, and what this tells us about the cultural image of Thucydides. (more…)

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It’s been a bumper year for Thucydiocy: an assortment of new sightings (‘Don’t confuse meaning with truth’, ‘You shouldn’t feel sorry for the lifestyle you haven’t tasted, but for the one you are about to lose’, ‘Democracies are always at their best when things seem at their worst’, and ‘You should punish in the same manner those who commit crimes with those who accuse falsely’), and the results of my study of who exactly is responsible for the ‘Scholars and Warriors’ quote with the stupid graduation photo (answer: a deeply annoying Social Jukebox), which means I feel justified in responding to it with emojis rather than a properly considered response.

But this year’s William F. Butler Award for Egregious Misquotation of Thucydides can have only one winner: (more…)

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Fake News?

There are ‘Thucydides’ quotes that immediately raise suspicions, and generally they are easiest to eliminate as being fake – “A collision at sea can ruin your whole day” is so obviously a modern fiction that it’s scarcely worth worrying about, even before you notice that it was originally attributed to Book 9. Most, however, are at least plausible – and, given that Thucydides’ difficult Greek can almost always be translated in multiple ways, it can be extremely difficult to establish that a quote really isn’t genuine if you can’t track down the phrase in another source that is manifestly not Thucydides. I suppose one could argue that the burden of proof should be on those who propagate dubious quotations to justify the claim that they’re from Thucydides (more…)

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All too many of the quotations attributed to Thucydides on the internet fall into one of three categories: not quite what he said, not really what he meant, or not actually Thucydides at all. Or, more succinctly, sad, bad, or mad. Okay, as a would-be ‘Morley’s Law of Thucydides Quotes’ that is pretty thin and equivocating, but anything more assertive would be too easily falsified with reference to the numerous bland but basically innocuous citations of “the secret of happiness is freedom, the secret of freedom is courage”. Yes, I do understand that the Royal Road to a world-straddling media profile, enormous book sales and the adoration of thousands of beautiful women is to pick an intellectual gimmick and defend it to the death, but I’m just too much of a British academic for that. (more…)

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Democracies are always at their best when things seem at their worst. (Thucydides)

Alongside all the obviously false and/or completely unverifiable ‘Thucydides’ quotations to be encountered on the Twitter, there is a minor strand of what could be called ‘misleading paraphrases’, where someone quotes someone else’s summary of what Thucydides said as if it were Thucydides’ own words. I’ve previously discussed the Henry Kissinger version of 1.22.4 – “The present, while never repeating the past exactly, must inevitably resemble it. Hence, so must the future” – which Niall Ferguson and Graham Allison seem to have successfully launched as a genuine quotation. Yesterday I came across the quote above for the first time, a line which likewise looks not completely implausible but nevertheless wrong. And so it proved… (more…)

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