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Saturday, 3 May 2014

George Carlin Never Said That

I was intrigued, as you can sometimes be, by a quote on Twitter,  attributed to George Carlin. I'd never heard of George Carlin, I'll be honest, and I'm aware of Mark Twain's famous dictum that 85% of quotes on the Internet are mis-attributed. This is what the quote says:


In case this blog lasts longer than that tweet, or you have limited vision, let me quote that in full for you:

"Governments don't want well informed, well educated people capable of critical thinking. That is against their interests. They want obedient workers, people who are just smart enough to run the machines and do the paperwork. And just dumb enough to passively accept it."

But I didn't like the look of it. So I did some googling, as you do. And I find this on the George Carlin page, amongst things George Carlin (an American comedian who is now no longer with us, since you ask) either didn't say or didn't quite say. Or, in this case, were filleted, twisted, and quoted out of context.
"Even if we try to match up this quotation with the bogus one, using an ellipsis here and there to fill in the blocks of skipped words, then at best we'd get the following. Note the differences in boldface. "The owners of this country ... don't want well-informed, well-educated people capable of critical thinking ... That's against their interest ... They want obedient workers ... people who are just smart enough to run the machines and do the paperwork, and just dumb enough to passively accept all these increasingly shittier jobs" 
Some people may see this and say, "Well then the quotation is off by a few words. So what?" The problem is that changing the subject from "the owners of this country" to "governments" effectively changes the whole context of the quotation. Carlin was NOT talking about governments. As he even explicitly says here, "Forget the politicians. The politicians are put there to give you the idea that you have freedom of choice." No, Carlin was referring to people in positions of power (not necessarily through government) who make decisions that can potentially affect your life. It's a concept that he's brought up in a few of his other HBO specials and books. The people who share the quotation on the left obviously do so because, rightly or wrongly, they have a distrust of their wgovernment and the politicians who make up that government. But again, it's not "governments", let alone the US government, that Carlin was referring to, so the misquote is misleading."
So what is happening is that the person who mangled up this quote was using the name of a dead comic to give credence to an anti-government sentiment that Carlin wasn't espousing. To be fair, Carlin was being, if anything, even more radical than the quote (and the person who subverted his subversion Bowdlerised it in the process) - but he was subtler and yet more far-reaching with it.

But that wasn't the reason I didn't like the quote. They've not dealt with what i didn't like about it. Here is part of the real quote, according to the George Carlin page:
"People who are just smart enough to run the machines and do the paperwork and just dumb enough to passively accept all these increasingly shittier jobs with the lower pay, the longer hours, the reduced benefits."
Being the kind of bloke he was, George Carlin may not have cared. And fair dos, it's not such a crime as some people make out. Hnaef, normally a liberal soul, wants to reintroduce the death penalty for it, after all. But please, when I die, if you find a quote of mine you like - if you don't want my scattered ashes to rotate on the gentle waters of the River Ouse - just remember this.

Please don't use the quote if it's got a split infinitive. I'd never live it down. And the afterlife is a long time not to live things down. Ta.

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