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Fact check: Fabricated George Orwell quote about people who elect corrupt politicians

A quote falsely attributed to George Orwell saying that people who elect corrupt politicians are not victims but accomplices is circulating online. The Orwell Society and The Orwell Foundation confirmed to Reuters that this quote does not belong to the English writer.

Laura Wood of Skoob Books poses for a photograph with a copy of George Orwell's '1984' in central London June 9, 2013. The novel, which is set in a world of government surveillance, was first published by Secker and Warburg 64 years ago on June 8, 1949. REUTERS/Toby Melville (BRITAIN - Tags: POLITICS SOCIETY)

“A people that elect corrupt politicians, imposters, thieves and traitors are not victims… but accomplices. George Orwell,” say the posts (here  ,  here  ,  here  ,  here).

The quote is commonly misattributed to Orwell: Newsweek attributed the quote to Orwell in an article in 2018 (here), the quote also appears on several quotation sites including GoodReads (here  ,  here), and it has been shared on social media by various famous people since at least 2016 (here  ,  here  ,   here ,  here).

Newsweek said that Orwell wrote the quote in the 1940s, supposedly according to a book of Orwell’s work called “The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell: As I please, 1943-1945.” However, Reuters could not find any evidence of the quote in an archived version of the book visible here  , nor in the other three volumes of this collection (here  ,  here  , (here).

Reuters did not find the quotation in the extensive University College London Orwell Archive, visible here  .

Benedict Cooper, the Publicity Officer for the Orwell Society (orwellsociety.com/), which promotes the understanding and appreciation of the life and works of George Orwell, told Reuters via phone that the quotation is not correct and Orwell did not say those words.

Jeremy Wikeley, Program Manager at The Orwell Foundation, (here), a charity which brings together Orwell scholars and awards the Orwell Prizes, confirmed this to Reuters via email: “We don’t think there’s any evidence it’s a genuine quote, you can be pretty secure in saying it is false.” He added that the quote, “doesn’t even align with Orwell’s own views, which were much more charitable to ordinary people! (While never naive about human nature).”

The quote was also debunked by Snopes when it appeared on social media in November 2020 (here).

VERDICT

False. The Orwell Society and The Orwell Foundation told Reuters that Orwell did not say the quotation and Reuters could not find any evidence of the quotation in collections of Orwell’s works.

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

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