Representative Thomas Massie (R-KY) popped onto his Twitter account Sunday afternoon to share a meme that’s fairly popular, directing it at Dr. Anthony Fauci. Unfortunately, the quote in the meme doesn’t come from the source that’s cited in the text — and in fact, the image is problematic too.
Twitter users were, of course, quick to correct the legislator. Here’s the meme Massie posted. Like so many similar quotes, it sounds fairly reasonable without context: “To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize.”
You mustn’t question Fauci, for he is science. pic.twitter.com/KnqCcPXWSe
— Thomas Massie (@RepThomasMassie) January 30, 2022
However, context is key. (Do you remember the Bible Quote-A-Day calendar that got a lot of attention a few years ago, because one of the ‘inspirational’ quotes was “If thou wilt therefore worship me, all will be thine,” which sounds reasonable in context of the book until you know that it was Satan speaking?)
So, Massie’s Twitter audience was happy to give him context.
Congrats, you just quoted Kevin Alfred Strom, an American neo-Nazi, who first said those words in 1993.
— Pé (@4everNeverTrump) January 31, 2022
This quote is not Voltaire.
It is from Neo-nazi white separatist and anti semite Kevin Alfred Strom.
— Luke Russell (@LukeRussell1281) January 31, 2022
Can I question you for attributing a quote to Voltaire that actually came from white supremacist, and convicted sex offender (child pornography), Kevin Alfred Strom’s book though?
From ‘All America Must Know the Terror That is Upon Us’ by Kevin Alfred Strom: pic.twitter.com/dc8nliw0tl
— Jax Persists (@LadyJayPersists) January 31, 2022
Its definitely a very good idea to check attribution of quotes before sharing them — otherwise, you might accidentally quote a neo-Nazi who was convicted for child sex crimes. In fact, USA Today did a fact check on this last year, when the meme went viral, and shared the actual origins of the quote.
The original quote is worded slightly differently, according to etymologist Barry Popik, and it’s from a 1993 radio broadcast by Kevin Alfred Strom. Strom is an American white nationalist and Holocaust denier…
Sure enough, the SPLC has a file on Strom, including his criminal history — a 2008 conviction on child porn charges, and a 1987 arrest for assault on a police officer during a pro-apartheid rally, after which “detailed sketches of a downtown office building where Nelson Mandela was scheduled to speak” were said to be in his possession. The 1987 charges were eventually dropped.
Massie’s critics also pointed out that if there’s a search on to name the person who can’t be criticized, he’s pointing in the wrong direction:
Well, given that you are clearly allowed to criticize Fauci, but haven't found it within your capacity to criticize the former president…
— Bryan Fisher (@thefisherbee) January 31, 2022
It’s not likely that Massie had any idea the meme he was sharing used a misattributed quote — but he presumably knows how to open a search engine and fact-check before posting, and he definitely knows that Fauci has not been above criticism and even death threats, over the course of this pandemic.
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Steph Bazzle reports on social issues and religion for Hill Reporter. She focuses on stories that speak to everyone's right to practice what they believe in and receive the support of their communities and government officials. You can reach her at Steph@HillReporter.com