Wednesday, January 25, 2017

ADN: Fake Quote In Ad

Since the Anchorage Daily News became the Alaska Dispatch News, the local and state coverage has increased significantly.  There are more reporters covering the legislature, the assembly, the university, and other significant organizations and issues.  But in the new world of Fake News, I'd like to see the ADN also take on Fake Quotes in ads.

This anti-income tax ad appeared in the ADN Sunday.

Bob Gillam, Alaska's richest person according to Forbes, and the money behind the anti-Pebble Mine campaign, doesn't want Alaska to reestablish the income tax as this ad in Sunday's ADN suggests.  If I were a billionaire with lots and lots of income, I might feel the same.

But when I read the quote from Johnson - "The 20th Century proved, if you were paying any attention, that taxation is the great enemy of civilization"  - I was skeptical.  Johnson wasn't an anti-tax guy.

So I googled and couldn't find the quote linked to Johnson.  I emailed Jim Gillam's company to see if they could tell me when and where the quote was published or he said it.  Then I emailed the LBJ Library in Austin, Texas.

I haven't heard back from Gillem, but the library was back to me quickly.   Archives Specialist Ian Frederick-Rothwell wrote back:
"I can find no record in the Public Papers of Lyndon B. Johnson that he ever said this. I searched the American Presidency Project website, which holds full, searchable text of all of President Johnson's speeches, statements, messages, and remarks as delivered or published."
He did find an article that included the phrase written by Buffalo, New York attorney Jim Ostrowski.   But I guess Ostrowski's name and picture wouldn't be as meaningful as Johnson's.

And the statement under LBJ's picture about every state that introduced an income tax since 1960 experiencing economic decline seems pretty sketchy as well.  Most states have had periods of 'economic decline' (however one might define that) since 1960.  Is there any cause and effect relationship that can be proven here?  I doubt it since all but a handful of the other states already had income taxes before 1960, so they should be totally depressed by now.  The only 'truth' this add is might prove is that some folks will believe what they want to believe, without any thought.

Billionaires have the resources to check their facts, though as our current president proves, having money doesn't necessarily lead to the truth.

But in this day of FAKE NEWS, I's urge the ADN and other reputable media, to require ads like these to provide sources before they print them.

Another option is simply to put a fact check next to advertisements so that readers don't have to each do this kind of homework.


  1. Here's my favorite Lyndon Johnson quote (which I got from the great new book "White Trash" by Nancy Isenberg)

    "If you can convince the lowest white man he's better than the best colored man, he won't notice you're picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he'll empty his pockets for you."

    very timely, don't you think?

  2. It's the kind of quote that sounds right on the mark, though I'm sure others would deny it till they die. Johnson was in the middle of that world and would have been a good commentator. I did check online to be sure he actually said it. There are lots of examples that quote him - though that's true of fake quotes which all seem to lead to the same original citation. In this case we have a former Johnson staffer, Bill Moyers, relating the story.


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