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Posts Tagged ‘Twitter’

Sprechen Sie Thukydideisch? I don’t know why it hasn’t occurred to me before to check for Thucydides references in other languages on the Twitter – I did it back when I was playing around with Google ngrams – but it took an error this morning to push me in this direction, leaving off the ‘s’ at the end and suddenly finding a lot of French tweets. Nowhere near as many per day as you get in English, unsurprisingly, but a lot of references to la piège de Thucydide, a certain number of references to the Castoriadis book that I still need to get round to reading, and evidence that someone has gone to the trouble of translating “the society that separates its scholars from its warriors…” so that it can be misattributed in French as well. (more…)

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One assumes that it’s something to do with the imminence of Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Remortgage Wednesday and the rest of the run-up to Christmas, but in the last week or so a couple of very strange accounts have appeared on the Twitter. One (“Towoti Group”) has a profile picture of Ryan Gosling, the other (which has now disappeared completely ) had picture of Jake Gyllenhaal, and they tweet punctiliously every fifteen minutes, on a regular cycle of advert, advert, Thucydides quote, advert, advert, Thucydides quote. The quote is always “The secret of happiness is freedom… the secret of freedom is courage”; the adverts are mostly for women’s clothing, with the occasional LED illuminated bracelet, Christmas elf costume for your dog or cat, 90% human hair hairdressing training mannequin head, and so forth. I have questions… (more…)

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Last week I was at a fantastic conference in Newcastle on Authority and Contemporary Narratives about the Classics (details here), discussing different aspects of the image and appropriation of the ancient world in the public sphere; Rebecca Futo Kennedy gave the full version of the discussion of the history and problematic politics of ‘Western Civilization’ that she’s been trailing on the Twitter (@kataplexis if you don’t already follow her), and there were fascinating papers on topics like postgraduate blogging, the intersection of ideas on Roman imperialism and Realist international relations theory, concepts of myth in Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, and whether Livy was a good Wikpedian. As ever, the main problem was that we needed much more time for discussion – well, that, and the fact that I could carry only so many bottles of local craft beer home with me. (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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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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