Out of Osama’s Death, A Fake Quotation is Born

This quote has been making the rounds:

“I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy.” – Martin Luther King, Jr

But it appears to be made up:

A quick google search turns up lots of tweets, all of them from today. Searching Martin Luther King Jr. quote pages for the word “enemy” does not turn up this quote, only things that probably wouldn’t go over nearly so well, like “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy to a friend.” I’m pretty sure that this quote, too, is fake.

What’s fascinating is the speed of it. Someone made up a quote, attributed it to MLK jr, and disseminated it widely, all within 24 hours. Why? What do you get out of saying something pithy, and getting no credit for it?


  1. here’s thequote in it’s entirety, from A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr.

    “Are we seeking power for power’s sake? Or are we seeking to make the world and our nation better places to live. If w…e seek the latter, violence can never provide the answer. The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. So it goes. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”See More
    about an hour ago

    1. Call me blind, call me a fool, hell, call me a cab if you must – but I can’t see that quote in yours anywhere. (And yes, we know MLK was gung-ho for nonviolent action thanks. Which is what that quote is about.)

      1. I’ll call you “someone who can read”. It’s a fancy title, but fitting. The comments on the linked Atlantic article suggest that your kind might be far less common than previously thought.

      2. The quote given is the first part of a longer fake quote and that version includes the line about ‘adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars’, which is in the REAL quote. That’s the connection.

  2. One Jessica Dovey in the article’s comment section claims to be the author of the fake quote. But she says it isn’t her fault:

    […] I wrote the original wall post on my facebook yesterday, with the MLK quote properly annotated after my own sentence. From there, the two got meshed together from my friends reposting, and apparently I’m now the author of a brand new MLK quote!
    Just wanted to help clear up the subject. Here is a screenshot of the original post: http://i.imgur.com/cqtjw.jpg

  3. It’s a shame that someone would have to fabricate a quote about the killing of a man who’s obituaries have the words ‘allegedly’ and ‘thought to have’ more often than Screamin Jay Hawkins’s.

    A story where his body was immediately thrown in the sea beyond international scrutiny and verification and as a side-show a helecopter just broke as they do for no specific reason, it just did.

    For shame!

  4. According to the comments at the Atlantic article, he actually did write all that, but in two different books. Whoever first posted this quote put two quotes from two different books together. So he actually did say all this, just not in one place.

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