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Fact Check-Quote about media misattributed to George Orwell

Social media users are sharing a fabricated quote about people believing “what the media tells them to believe” and attributing it to English novelist George Orwell.

Examples can be seen (here) and (here).

The quote reads: “The people will believe what the media tells them they believe. – George Orwell.”

Reuters did not find any evidence that Orwell said this quote. It does not appear in his books or other notable writing.

Benedict Cooper, publicity officer for the Orwell Society, told Reuters via email: “I can confirm that this is not an authentic Orwell quote and has been shown to be spurious numerous times.”

“This is part of a worrying trend of spurious quotes not only being incorrectly attributed to Orwell, but actually fabricated and passed off as Orwell quotes, for motives which we can only speculate on,” Cooper added.

Cooper has debunked this quote in an article (here).

Dorian Lynskey, who wrote “The Ministry of Truth: The Biography of George Orwell’s 1984”, referenced the misattribution in an original essay published (here) on powells.com.

Lynskey said that Orwell never wrote the quote, and it did not sound like something he would have written.

“For one thing, “the media” did not enter common usage until after his death in 1950, and this stickler for correct prose would never have used the singular,” Lynskey said in the essay. “For another, he had too much faith in ordinary people to portray them as gullible puppets.”

The Atlantic also debunked the attribution, saying it had appeared during the 2016 presidential campaign (here).

VERDICT

False. There is no evidence that George Orwell said this quote about the media.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work  here  .         

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