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The death of Osama Bin Laden has already brought one man Sohaib Athar, the man who “unwittingly” gave the world a front row seat to Bin Laden’s death and unexpected fame. However, yet another person has now received their 15mb of fame kudos to the death of Bin Laden.
In a strange twist of irony, after Osama Bin Laden was literally bombarded, figuratively, so have we.
The news on Bin Laden that has been most discussed has ranged from the serious — such as questions on how will his death affect the War on Terror — to the not quite so serious — such as revelations that his favourite soft-drinks were both Pepsi and Coca-Cola.
Interestingly another issue was raised that seemed to have gained traction — the global hand-wringing over whether rejoicing at his death was appropriate.
The issue resonated in a “quote” by Dr Martin Luther King Jr. which went viral following Bin Laden’s death.
I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, 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. — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
However it was later discovered that the so-called quote was (partly) misattributed for the true quote was, “Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, 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”.
What had happened was that the first part was an addition made by Jessica Dovey, an english teacher in Japan.
Dovey had in a Facebook status update correctly quoted the Martin Luther King quote with her own commentary separate from the quote. But somewhere along the lines of copying and pasting from Facebook status update to Facebook status update, the quotation marks were lost and her comments were also attributed to King.
From Facebook, it truly began to go viral when celebrity comedian and magician, Penn Jillete tweeted to his his more than million followers.
Of course none of that was said by King, but rather by Dovey. However, having been copy/pasted and re-tweeted millions of times on both Facebook and Twitter respectively, it was too late.
In an interview with the American magazine, the Atlantic Dovey said, “It just doesn’t matter that it was me. I didn’t expect or invite this. I don’t mind it, I guess. It’s positive and good and if I had to have 15 minutes of fame by some means, then I couldn’t have picked anything better.”
There was also another “quote” with a similar message which garnered many re-tweets and copy pastes; “I’ve never wished a man dead, but I have read some obituaries with great pleasure.” This one purportedly by Mark Twain actually was by an American lawyer Clarence Darrow, as Matt Blum noted in a column on “Why It’s OK to Celebrate Osama bin Laden’s Death” for Wired.
This is neither the first, nor will it be the last time that something going viral on the web will turn out to be false or incorrect.
We all remember the horrendous Mandela death hoax which also went viral on Twitter earlier this year. For some, that and examples such as what happened with this King quote justify their opinion that social networking sites such as Twitter have an inherent weakness as a means of disseminating information.
As Virginia Woolf wrote “it is harder to kill a phantom than a reality”, but then again, I did get that quote from a website’s thought for the day, so who can say if it was Woolf who said it?