Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Watching Our Words

"Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, 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 (1929-1968)

These are words I have found stirring and inspiring in the last few days. They showed up on some friend's statuses in social media. The only problem was in a seemingly harmless distortion.Nowadays in our new world of social media, it is so easy to take a quote at face value. The old saying "don't believe everything you read" is a good thing to remember. In my family background, my father worked in the printing industry. I remember, as a small boy. seeing typesetters setting type by hand. In just the last five decades we have seen tremendous change. The upside is the ease of sharing information. The downside is in how easily that can be distorted.

One of my father's great pet peeves was seeing printed material that had not been properly proof-read. We rely on computers to do a lot of our checking for us. Don't get me wrong, were it not for these resources you wouldn't be reading this. I have also done a little side work doing some proof reading and helping with essays and such. It's extremely important to check sources and, to give credit where that is due in quoting others. Also to look at context etc. I admit I get lazy sometimes in this regard. Usually in social exchanges like facebook where discussions are happening in the moment. I am blessed with good friends that set me straight when I err.

This last weekend there was so much buzz going on in the news and in the midst of it all, many people put up a status that expressed a sentiment. The words were inspiring but the problem was that someone had taken the above quote from Dr.Martin Luther King, preceded it with their own words and in the original post had put the quotation marks in the right place (which is fine, quite appropriate). In subsequent posts the quotation marks were moved. The problem is that this misuse is an appropriation that detracts from credibility. Here's a link to a further article on this

In a time when words and rhetoric can be a rallying cry, a reassurance, and a driving force, I'm glad to have this reminder to question, check, and when in error, promptly acknowledge that.