These days, does anyone care if a quote is taken out of context?
Not really, it seems. Certainly not the media that this week ran with the headline “Gwyneth Paltrow thinks water has feelings!” when the actress/lifestyle guru attempted to paraphrase the work of a Japanese author she admires.
Other, more damaging examples: Barack Obama’s “You didn’t build that” and Hillary Clinton’s “What difference, at this point, does it make?” FOX “News” had a field day making both quotes sound downright evil. (In context, they were anything but.)
Another example: Visitors to the recently-opened 9/11 memorial will come face-to-face with a 60-foot inscription – made from the steel of the fallen towers themselves – from Virgil’s Aeneid. Far from lamenting the deaths of thousands of innocent people, however, the quote (in context) decries the deaths of two Trojan soldiers/lovers killed in retribution for their own bloody, warlike behavior. (Classics professors have called the quote “more applicable to the aggressors in the 9/11 tragedy” and “shockingly inappropriate.”)
But, as they say, Meh.
So we weren’t surprised to learn this week that an Alabama church group has erected a billboard trumpeting the importance of educating our kids using a quote from that master wordsmith… Adolf Hitler.
Really! Next to a group of smiling children is the quote “He alone, who owns the youth, gains the future.” The speech it comes from was meant to encourage German children to join the paramilitary Hitler Youth brigade!
Here, of course, it’s not just context that’s completely out of whack. It’s also unbelievable that anyone would use a quote from Hitler in the first place. And, in an incredible twist, the church billboard attributed the quote correctly to that insane brain-washer of youth and mass murder. So it’s not as if they didn’t realize who they were quoting.
“We are pulling the billboard and certainly never intended to cause confusion,” said the church group founder, adding that he wished they’d gone with a quote from Herbert Hoover instead.
Just about any choice would be an improvement over Hitler, but … Hoover? And the quote he wishes they’d gone with — “Children are our most valuable resource” — is so innocuous it hardly seems worth the ink. Maybe they should have misquoted the only president with a Depression named after him and gone with “A child in every pot.”
Or they could’ve just stuck with the Hitler quote and attributed it to someone else. Why not? These days, who would notice? Misattribution has increased exponentially ever since Al Gore invented the Internet. It’s practically a social-media parlor game.
What do you think? Are we right? Does anyone know who said what any more? Or are we so over-saturated with sound bites that we can’t tell?
Hmm. We’ve assembled a bunch of famous quotes and we’re wondering if you can identify the speakers correctly! Take the quiz and let us know!
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