American billionaire Elon Musk, the owner of Twitter, was criticized after he published, on Saturday, May 27, 2023, a tweet containing a saying mistakenly attributed to Voltaire, while its owner was in fact a neo-Nazi, and Twitter users were quick to correct the origin from which the saying was quoted. According to the British newspaper, The Independent .
Elon Musk posted a joking tweet; A meme featuring an image showing a large hand crushing miserable people underneath, with a supposed wisdom written on it saying: “If you want to know who rules you, just know who you are not allowed to criticize. Voltaire.” At the bottom of the photo, a joking caption reads: “So we have to rise up against children with leukemia.”
However, this quote, attributed to Voltaire and published by Elon Musk, was previously the subject of a fact-checking article by The Associated Press last year, after Thomas Massie, the Kentucky Republican congressman, posted it in a tweet criticizing Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the American Institute of Infectious Diseases, also attributed it to the French philosopher.
In the article, the American agency stated that “Voltaire, the French writer and one of the pioneers of the Age of Enlightenment, did not say these words,” and that “the quote – which has been paraphrased – is taken from a radio episode dating back to 1993 and said by Kevin Alfred Strom, which organizations concerned with monitoring indicated Hate groups suggest he is a neo-Nazi.
As the Associated Press explained, “The quote published by Elon Musk was originally quoted by Strom, who described himself as an American white nationalist and Holocaust denier, and has been used by the Internet and paraphrased in various wordings.”
The agency added that although the saying was said more than a hundred years after Voltaire’s death in 1778, it has been quoted again and again, and has been wrongly attributed to him dozens of times. The American actor, John Cusack, published the same statement in 2019, then quickly deleted the post and apologized after he noticed that it was wrongly attributed.
On the other hand, Elon Musk’s tweet has been published since Saturday, May 27, and has been seen more than 26 million times, without correction or apology, although many users indicated that it was wrongly attributed, although some of them commented on it with laughter. and others criticize.
Keith Olbermann, sports commentator and author, tweeted: “If only your ability to launch missiles and support presidential campaigns was as good as your ability to launch disinformation.”
While another user – with the identifying name: HistoryUser – posted a link on Reuters to an article investigating the origin of the saying, and denying its attribution to Voltaire.
According to him, the words commonly attributed to Voltaire were actually spoken by Kevin Strom, a Holocaust denier and neo-Nazi. Although the statement is profound, it should not be associated with Voltaire. Therefore, people should refrain from using and falsely accrediting the quote to Voltaire.