#SkepticalTuesdays: Look Before You Like | Vol. 2 / No. 41.2

"Don't believe everything you read on the internet" -- Abraham Lincoln
“Don’t believe everything you read on the internet.” — Abraham Lincoln

I was preparing a post on how in many ways hope is one of the more tragic reasons behind magical thinking, but it’s still stewing in my head, so I’m going to let it wait until next week and instead present you with a post on being skeptical and doing a little digging when encountering everyday memes. Enjoy!


A friend of mine, in my facebook feed, posted this image just recently. It’s an image macro with a (possible) quote by Nobel laureate Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.

If it’s not appearing at the top of this post for you (for whatever reason) the full text is this:

You must understand. The leading Bolsheviks who took over Russia were not Russians. They hated Russians. They hated Christians. Driven by ethnic hatred they tortured and slaughtered millions of Russians without a shred of human remorse. The October Revolution was not what you call in America the “Russian Revolution.” It was an invasion and conquest over the Russian people. More of my countrymen suffered horrific crimes at their bloodstained hands than any people or nation ever suffered in the entirety of human history. It cannot be understated. Bolshevism was the greatest human slaughter of all time. The fact that most of the world is ignorant of this reality is proof that the global media itself is in the hands of the perpetrators.

On the surface, it seems like it might be a bit of harmless fight-the-power, the-media-is-lying-to-you, see-this-Nobel-laureate-thinks-the-current-power-structures-are-bad-too fluff. But for some reason this one caught my eye. Maybe it’s because it was early in the morning and my mind was moving more slowly and deliberately (as the coffee was still brewing), but I actually read it instead of glossing over it and moving on (as I usually do with image macros, to be honest). And something twigged.

Wait, I thought, if the people behind the Russian revolution weren’t Russian, then who were they? Is he just saying that the people who did this gave up their right to be considered Russian? A kind of expulsion from the “tribe,” the way both Christians and secularists might (rightfully) disavow Timothy McVeigh? The way we expect Muslims to disavow every violent Islamist? Well, not exactly.

What he means, you see, is that they weren’t Russian because they were Jews.

See, Solzhenitsyn is a noted believer in the current Russian nationalist canard that somehow it was the Jews that were responsible for the October Revolution, and of course, for everything that came after it. It’s a piece of propaganda similar to the once used by the Nazis known as “Jewish Bolshevism,and it was rather effective in its day.

And so, it turns out, it continues to be. I refuse to link to it, but if you choose you can find the same image macro shared on the white supremacist blog “The Stormer.” While the jury is still out on whether or not Solzhenitsyn was actually an anti-semite or just said things that are really easily construed as anti-semitic, it’s pretty clear that this is just an updated version of the medieval blood libel fantasy.

And here’s the other thing: we don’t even know if Solzhenitsyn actually said this. The only place it’s quoted is in a book by one David Duke. How best to describe him…? Let’s just say that his Wikipedia entry begins with the following: “David Ernest Duke (born July 1, 1950) is an American white nationalist, anti-semitic conspiracy theorist, far-right politician, and former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.” Yep, that’ll do for starters.

In his book he reports that Solzhenitsyn told him this in a 2002 interview, but as far as I’m aware, if the meeting took place, they were the only two people there. Here’s a link to the Amazon page for his book. Go on, go read some of the reviews. I’ll wait.

Are you back? You didn’t go, did you? Okay, here’s some choice selections:

There was no Russian revolution. It was a Bolshevik coup that resulted in the genocide of the Russian people… Communism is a criminal act against all of humanity. Who are these people? “They” have names. David Duke names the criminals. Some readers will be afraid to look at those names because it will mean changing everything you ever thought about the world. The realization that the world you thought you were living in is not real is a traumatic experience strait [sic] out of the Matrix. If you want to know the truth, the truth is not for the faint of heart.

Get out of there, girl! The crazy is coming from inside the house!
Get out of there, girl! The crazy is coming from inside the house!

Head hurt yet? No? Here’s another one.

This book is very excellent. I am very angry at jews because we are victims of jewish liars. I was brainwashed by the false history books. The masons and jews control American history and world history books in the schools from you. That is why you never heard them. The jews hides the first White and non-jew holocausts in the Soviet Union and old history from you. It was jewish soviet masterminded: illya ehrenburg created the story of 6 million frauds and also created mass rape. HORRIBLE!!!

[As horrible as your grammar and random capitalization? Perhaps not.]

They’re pretty much all like that, anyway. It’s… actually kind of amazing, in that oh-my-god-it’s-so-horrible kind of way.

So in the end, I suppose this is just a PSA of sorts. I know they say that “sharing is caring,” but sometimes it’s worth just a little bit of research before you do. Just in case, you know, the thing you’re sharing turns out to be really, really horrible white supremacist propaganda.

As ever, your mileage may vary.


Richard Ford Burley is a writer, library worker, and doctoral candidate in English at Boston College, where he’s studying remix culture and the processes that generate texts. In his spare time he writes about science, skepticism, and feminism (and why you should research before you “share”) here at This Week In Tomorrow.