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Damaging quotation

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A damaging quotation is a saying by a public figure used against him by his opponents. In some cases, these collections may include quotations intentionally removed from their context in order to sound more damaging. Partisans often compile such sayings into lengthy compendiums, justifying the attacks by portraying them as a necessary part of the checks and balances that help to identify the qualifications of elected officials for public office.

Compilers choose what sort of damaging quotation to collect based on the politician. A given politician, for example, may have a particular propensity for making a particular type of statement which then lends itself to a specific source of ridicule. For example, a politician might express frequent malapropisms or grammatical errors, and thus lists of quotations in such cases tend to focus on the politician's use of language. Another politician might have a propensity for making reciting "facts" to make a point when such "facts" are actually untrue.

On the other hand, some quotes are distorted or deliberately misinterpreted. Occasionally, a straightforward statement is added to such a list, merely because the author wishes to rebut it in an atmosphere of ridicule. With their every word recorded, it is almost impossible for a public figure to avoid saying things that can be made to sound ridiculous. Some quotations are mere malapropisms.

Other statements are distorted or deliberately misinterpreted, a practice which has almost become routine in partisan political debate. To give just one example: former U.S. Vice President Al Gore helped obtain money for the research that supported the development of the Internet. In one interview, he said he "took the initiative" in creating it, which has since been distorted by others to a claim that he "invented the Internet". Partisans have many times attempted to use this distorted quote to discredit him, so much so that Vint Cerf (one of the pioneers the Internet) and others have been forced to point out the error of the discreditors.

Lists of damaging quotations

In the final quarter of the 20th century, lists of so-called "Quayleisms", "Bushisms", and "Goreisms" have abounded. With the ascendancy of inexpensive computers and the Internet, it has become easier than ever to accumulate and distribute information such as quotation lists. Many times, identical lists of questionable quotations have been circulated by different people, each crediting the quotations to different speakers. For example, in the early 1990s, lists of unverified Dan Quayle "quotations" made their rounds on the internet via newsgroups and websites. In the early 2000s, the exact same list of "quotations" were once again circulated, this time attributed to either Al Gore or George W. Bush.

Unlike the "Yogiisms" of baseball great Yogi Berra, or the Colemanballs collected by Private Eye, lists of damaging quotations are used often intentionally to hurt and sometimes even mislead, but they may also be offered as a means of giving insight into the patterns of thought processes or the intelligence of the politician. As such they belong to the colorful history of political satire[?].

See:

Books The following books contain collections of damaging quotations:

  • The Bush Dyslexicon Mark Crispin Miller -- the title contains a portmanteau of dyslexic and lexicon, a play on "They misunderestimated me" -- itself a portmanteau of misunderstood and underestimated
  • Prince Albert: The Life and Lies of Al Gore by David N. Bossie
  • George W. Bushisms : The Slate Book of The Accidental Wit and Wisdom of our 43rd President

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