Context matters – poster from unions4workers deleted a key word to tell a lie

12552872_967885293297610_2504569832739597361_nTL;DR Summary

  • The poster conveys that James Madison believed in 1817 that business corporations are inherently evil regarding accumulation of property.
  • The person who created this poster left out one word: “in perpetuity by [ecclesiastical] corporations” which completely changes the meaning.
  • The quote is contained in a paragraph about the power of religious bodies, in a document that is entirely about “Ecclesiastical Bodies” (Churches).
  • Unions4Workers is telling an outright lie.

Here is the full quote from which the above is taken:

But besides the danger of a direct mixture of Religion & civil Government, there is an evil which ought to be guarded agst in the indefinite accumulation of property from the capacity of holding it in perpetuity by ecclesiastical corporations. The power of all corporations, ought to be limited in this respect. The growing wealth acquired by them never fails to be a source of abuses. A warning on this subject is emphatically given in the example of the various Charitable establishments in G. B. the management of which has been lately scrutinized. The excessive wealth of ecclesiastical Corporations and the misuse of it in many Countries of Europe has long been a topic of complaint. In some of them the Church has amassed half perhaps the property of the nation. When the reformation took place, an event promoted if not caused, by that disordered state of things, how enormous were the treasures of religious societies, and how gross the corruptions engendered by them; so enormous & so gross as to produce in the Cabinets & Councils of the Protestant states a disregard, of all the pleas of the interested party drawn from the sanctions of the law, and the sacredness of property held in religious trust. The history of England during the period of the reformation offers a sufficient illustration for the present purpose.

This propaganda poster uses the popular technique of appearing to quote a historical figure who was prescient in viewing the future in away that supports their agenda in 2016.  This relies on celebrity/appeal to authority endorsement.

In this particular example, like so many of these, the promoter Unions4Workers has deliberately removed the first part of the sentence and the critical keyword “ecclesiastical” from the quote and is thus lying to make their point. Over 400 people have liked the post and not one comment notes that Unions4Workers is lying but instead, finds this quote agreeable.

We call this a “lie” because of the deliberate deletion of a key word, and for using a quote removed from the entirely different context in which it originated – this was not an accidental misquote.

Text for Search Engines

“there is an evil which ought to be guarded againts in the indefinite accumulation of property from the capacity of holding it in perpetuity by corporations. The power of all corporations, ought to be limited in this respect. The growing wealth acquired by them never fails to be a source of abuses.”, James Madison, 4th President of the United States, March 16, 1751 – June 28, 1836.

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