Republican frontrunner Donald Trump sought Mahatma Gandhi’s support for his rampantly divisive campaign on Monday, using a quote that has been found to be wrongly but frequently attributed to him.
“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win,” Trump tweeted the quote with a picture from his rally in Alabama, attributing it to Mahatma Gandhi.
This quote is not from Gandhi at all, it seems.
Christian Science Monitor news magazine included it in its 2011 list of “Political misquotes: The 10 most famous things never actually said.”
“This line is probably the best summary of Gandhi’s philosophy of satyagraha as you can get in 16 words. But there’s no evidence that the Great Soul ever said this.”
It said that though the source of those exact words was not known, a “strikingly similar” version was attributed to an American trade union leader, Nicholas Klein, in a 1918 address -- “First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. And then they attack you and want to burn you. And then they build monuments to you. And that, is what is going to happen to the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America.”
There was no response from the Trump campaign to a request for comments.
The quote Trump attributed to Gandhi does capture the candidate’s pet peeve that he is often criticised and mocked for things he says, and then every one comes around.
He likes to talk about the initial response to his remarks about illegal immigration — that they are criminals and rapists — that he was derided as rude, offensive and bigoted.
But he has since found many takers, at least the sentiment behind them. And the wall that he has promised to build along the Mexican border, has since popped up in other poll agendas.
But roping in Gandhi?
This is not the first time this quote has been used for Trump. Sarah Palin, a former Alaska governor and a strong supporter of the candidate, used the same quote for him.
She used it, once again attributed wrongly to Gandhi, imprinting it on a picture of Trump at a rally, in a post on her Facebook page on February 14. It got 19,000 likes and 3,782 shares.
Palin ought to have been a little more careful as a victim of mis-representative quote herself. Christian Science Monitor’s list of famous misquotes included one comment often attributed to her.
Palin never said, “I can see Russia from my house.” It was a line used by a comedian Tina Fey who was impersonating her in a Saturday Night Live skit in 2008.
But it came to be widely attributed to Palin, who was then John McCain’s running mate, probably because it captured well her lack of knowledge on national security and foreign policy issues.
The line came from an interview in which Palin had said, “They’re (Russia) our next-door neighbors, and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska.”
That’s true, as Slate news magazine pointed out subsequently. On a clear day, “Those on the Alaskan island of Little Diomede can see the Russian island of Big Diomede, located across the International Date Line some two and a half miles away.”