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Posts Tagged ‘Twitter’

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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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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As regular readers may faintly recall, one of my minor projects for March was to monitor all the occasions when that stupid William F. Butler quote about “A society that separates its scholars from its warriors…” was attributed on the Twitter to Thucydides, if only to work out precisely how much of a waste of time it is for the Thucydiocy Bot (@Thucydiocy) to keep correcting it. The results are now in, and the conclusion is: lots. (more…)

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“Don’t confuse meaning with truth: Thucydides.” I think I speak for everyone when I say: huh? It’s not just that it’s fake, it’s the fact that it seems, insofar as I have any idea what it’s on about, utterly un-Thucydidean. His basic assumption – even if you interpret this as a neurotic response to trauma, as I’ve suggested in the paper I finished writing on Tuesday – is that establishing the truth about past events is the only road to understanding them, and to understanding the present. I suppose that, if you squint hard enough, you could fit this line to his sense that the significance of e.g. Athenian stories about the Tyrannicides for their sense of identity has no necessary connection to the veracity of such stories, i.e. the fact something is meaningful doesn’t make it true, but that’s definitely a stretch. (more…)

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I have a piece up on Eidolon this week: Why Thucydides? As tends to happen, the moment it’s posted I immediately think of other things I might have said, and ways I might have said them better (and I don’t just mean the fact that every other sentence seems to begin with “But…”). I stand by the three main suggestions as to why Thucydides should be the go-to ancient authority for commenting on current politics and international affairs – his work invites such identification and comparison, there are long traditions of citing him as an authority, and we really want to believe that someone understands what the hell’s going on – but I can’t help feeling that there’s more going on. Herewith some further thoughts… (more…)

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Clickbait?

Even now, with just ten days to go, I’m still hoping that my viewing stats for this blog in 2015 will match or exceed those of previous years. After all, I feel that I’ve been writing some decent material in the last year, even if the number of posts (and possibly the quality) has fallen off over the last couple of months under the pressure of the regular job (the suggestion in my recent staff review that I should consider becoming a ‘public intellectual’ – which I’m not sure is achievable simply by blogging and spending time on Twitter in any case – rather ignores the fact that this all has to be done in my spare time, which is in ever shorter supply). At last count, the number of views had just topped the figure from 2013, but the number of visitors is still substantially lower.

Clearly I need to write something that will quickly catch a whole new audience, even if they look at only one post. (more…)

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Self Control

Just a short post, as I am still trying and failing to finish revising a conference paper for publication (am now in the phase of, “well, the final revised extended deadline was actually Friday, but no one works at the weekend, probably, and with a bit of luck they’ll have other emails to deal with first thing tomorrow so maybe I have until lunchtime” – cf. http://phdcomics.com/comics/archive.php?comicid=1815), but I just wanted to comment on a few points raised by the ongoing adventures of the Thucydiocy Bot, dedicated to the never-ending and entirely pointless task of correcting misquotations of Thucydides on Twitter. One is the tenacity with which some people stick to the idea that Thucydides came up with their favourite quotation, even when the real author has been firmly identified. “Jevons aside, give me an alternative source,” demanded one, after the Bot had noted that Colin Powell’s favourite “Of all manifestations of power…” line wasn’t attributed to Thucydides until the 1940s, but was used half a century earlier by a classicist writing about historiographical style. Huh? Give you an alternative source for the quote that isn’t the man who actually wrote it? Failure to do so clearly means that it must be Thucydides… Even sadder was someone else’s reluctance to credit George Santayana with the “Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it” aphorism; true, it is a bit like Thucydides’ “events tend to repeat themselves which is why history is useful” – but the message is quite different, and poor old Santayana doesn’t get credit for anything much these days (apart from the guitar solo on Black Magic Woman) so why begrudge him this? (more…)

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