Have you seen that Mark Twain quote about fools who believe lies? The quote has gone viral on Twitter, but Twain never actually said it. And that’s kind of funny, when you consider Twitter CEO Elon Musk liked the tweet on Friday.
“The truth has no defense against a fool determined to believe a lie,” the quote, attributed to Mark Twain, reads.
The quote doesn’t show up in a search of Google Books and the newspaper archive database Newspapers.com doesn’t have any record of the quote. There’s simply no evidence Mark Twain ever said it. In fact, there’s no evidence of the quote showing up before just a few years ago.
As Snopes points out, the quote seems to first appear on the internet on Twitter in August 2020. And although the Twitter user put the words in quotes, they didn’t attribute it to the writer Mark Twain, the pseudonym of Samuel Clemens.
By March 2021, it appears people on Twitter started to spread the quote as something said by Twain. When other users questioned the authenticity of the quote, the user directed them to Google, though it’s not clear what kind of proof that was supposed to show.
Elon Musk, CEO of Twitter who recently announced NBCUniversal’s Linda Yaccarino would soon be taking over the top job, appears to have liked the fake Mark Twain quote on Friday. Musk has previously gotten flak for being too credulous on Twitter and stretching the truth when it suits his purposes, which makes Musk’s approval of this quote rather ironic.
Musk has also been criticized for getting cozy with far-right elements on Twitter, something that has spooked advertisers. And while the Tesla and SpaceX CEO insists advertisers have returned to the platform, it’s not clear to what extent that might really be the case. Making Yaccarino the new CEO will likely go a long way in assuring advertisers that someone who knows the business is in charge.
Many people on the internet love to misattribute quotes to famous people, perhaps because it adds some gravitas to whatever message is being conveyed. Fake quotes from Albert Einstein, Walt Disney, and Ghandi, are incredibly popular. But take everything you read on the internet with a gigantic pinch of salt. I’m pretty sure George Washington said that.