Monday 27 February 2017

unquote or falsehood flies and the truth comes limping after

Recalling that fake news is not just any objective fact that challenges one’s world view and how the retraction is never as wide-spread as the misreporting, we are reminded of probably the most popular bits of folksy wisdom that war-time Prime Minister Winston Churchill never said:
“A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.” While the sentiment might be in the right place, there’s no evidence of Churchill having ever uttered the like and he was definitely not the first to whom this phrase or variation was attributed—heroes and luminaries of days past credited with authorship of this quip from Mark Twain, to Thomas Jefferson, to a fortune cookie proverb, to Jonathan Swift. I think indulging in this sort of generational modishness is akin to using props and publicity stunts to forward one’s agenda, and besides there are plenty of very fine things that public figures did without a doubt say.  Its origins, so far as anyone can tell, are rooted in a 1787 homily by Rector Thomas Francklin: “Falsehood will fly, as it were, on the wings of the wind, and carry its tales to every corner of the Earth; whilst truth lags behind; her steps, though sure, are slow and solemn, and she has neither vigour nor activity enough to pursue and overtake her enemy.”