Morgan Freeman probably didn’t say that thing everyone is saying he said.

The quotation is interesting, but without any indication of a credible source, Morgan Freeman did not say it. Some of the sentiment is well-worth sharing, considering and inserting into the national dialogue, but this Internet-aided tendency to attribute ideas to celebrities and other public figures against their wills as a means of disseminating ideas and agendas is a dangerous one.

UPDATE [4:00p]: Surprise! Morgan Freeman didn’t say this.

As I wrote elsewhere, the attribution of ideas, sentiment and agendas to more authoritative sounding avatars is so popular a human tendency that the act is the foundational action of the establishment of every religious mythology. That said, this is the 21st Century. Sentiment worth entering into a dialogue should not need to be gussied up by deception, and even in desperate times, we should be careful to value proper source attribution.

UPDATE [7:45p]: I am seeing / reading a lot of people writing something to the effect of, “It doesn’t matter who said it, it matters what was ultimately said.” That is driving me insane.

As far as I am concerned, here is why it matters that Freeman never expressed this in the first place and then thousands of people passed it along.

While this wasn’t the case in this particular instance, imagine if a quotation was attributed to you, though there was no source cited because you never actually said it. People then find the sentiment compelling and intelligent and, because sharing these things occurs with such ease, it is passed around regardless of the lack of citation. Now imagine you disagree with the sentiment, but it is attached to your name. And imagine you aren’t of the stature of Mr. Freeman, and more people come to know you for something you disagree with and never said in the first place than for anything you have done, or anything you actually represent. Imagine that false quote becomes how how you are contextualized by the most amount of people, or judged, or considered for future employment.

That is not what happened in this instance, but the aforementioned sentiment went viral in the same manner, by people choosing to accept it belonging to Freeman because it was more attractive / convenient to do so over checking the facts. This is why this kind of sloppiness is ultimately harmful, because it leads to acceptance of behaviors that can ultimately lead to damaged reputations, and also because we should be savvy enough to to make sure that something we are going to share with other people is true in the first place.

There are responsible ways to share this sentiment without just glossing over the fact that the person being credited for conveying said sentiment probably never did so in the first place. Re-phrasing it in one’s own words in one’s own status is a pretty good starting point, though doing so is not as convenient as simply pressing the “share” button.

Accepting this simply because we agree with part or all of the sentiment is unacceptable. The next time, perhaps, we won’t be so lucky.

Alex Steed

About Alex Steed

Alex Steed has written about and engaged in politics since he was an insufferable teenager. He has run for the Statehouse and produced a successful web series. He now runs a content firm called Knack Factory with two guys who are a lot more talented than himself.