Quote on censorship falsely attributed to Voltaire

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Facebook posts attribute a quote on censorship to Voltaire. But the director of a scholarly foundation dedicated to the 18th-century French philosopher said Voltaire had not made the statement and that it appears to have come from a neo-Nazi more than 200 years later.

“If you want to know who is controlling you, look at who you are not allowed to criticize,” states a May 17, 2021. Facebook message shared more than 81,000 times, which attributes the citation to Voltaire.

Screenshot of a Facebook post taken on May 28, 2021

The claim also appeared on Facebook here, here and here.

But the quote does not come from the philosopher, according to the director of the Voltaire Foundation for Enlightenment Studies, an author-focused research department whose work has helped create today’s political and social systems.

“Another saying that has recently gained popularity on the web is:” To find out who rules over you, just find out who you are not allowed to criticize, “wrote Nicholas cronk, professor of French literature and director of the foundation of the English University of Oxford.

“Now regularly attributed to Voltaire, this saying seems to come from something written in 1993 by Kevin Alfred Strom, an American neo-Nazi Holocaust denier, and not a man who clearly exudes Voltairian spirit and irony”, writes Cronk in a blog post, listing him among the “one-liners he never really said”.

The Guardian and the bbc reported in 2015 that an Australian politician tweeted the quote and wrongly attributed it to Voltaire.

Buzzfeed traces the original wording back to a 1993 trial called “All America must know the terror that is upon us,” in which Strom wrote: “To determine the true rulers of any society, all you need to do is ask yourself this question: Who is this? I am not allowed to criticize? “

He recognized the fake quote in a Blog post 2009.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors extremists in the United States, identifies Strom as a “neo-Nazi” and says he also pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography in January 2008.



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