The claim: Author George Orwell said 'A people that elect corrupt politicians, imposters, thieves and traitors are not victims… but accomplices'
Invoking George Orwell’s name (often inaccurately) to describe contemporary events has become so commonplace that some social media users are turning it into a meme.
A quote falsely attributed to the English author resurfaced on Facebook this week, too, getting new life in the post-election spotlight shining on Washington.
“A people that elect corrupt politicians, imposters, thieves and traitors are not victims... but accomplices,” it said, plastered over a picture of Orwell.
A search for that quote in Orwell’s work did not return any results, though, and Snopes debunked its connection to Orwell in November.
The Facebook account that shared the meme did not respond to a request for comment.
Is that quote ‘Orwellian?'
While the quote has circulated on social media several times, including back in 2016 when comedian Ricky Gervais posted it on Twitter a few weeks after the U.S. presidential election, it did not come from the author of "Animal Farm" and "1984."
The University College of London’s Orwell Archive, which calls itself “the most comprehensive body of research material relating to the author,” offers a searchable collection of manuscripts, notebooks and other personal writings that Orwell’s widow provided in 1960.
A search for the quote returned no results.
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Two officials with the Orwell Society told Snopes that the quote was not part of the author’s “Complete Works,” and trustee Leslie Hurst said it might have been altered from a quote with similar construction in a 1942 Orwell essay.
“Those who now call themselves conservatives are either liberals, fascists or the accomplices of fascists,” Orwell wrote in “Rudyard Kipling.”
The Orwell Society did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Our ruling: False
We find it is FALSE to claim the quote “A people that elect corrupt politicians, imposters, thieves and traitors are not victims… but accomplices” is attributed to George Orwell. The quote does not appear in the author’s written works, but has some structural similarities to a quote from the 1942 essay “Rudyard Kipling.”
Our fact-check sources:
Snopes, Nov. 30, 2020, "Did Orwell Write That People Who Elect Corrupt Politicians Are ‘Accomplices’?"
University College of London, accessed Feb. 26, "Orwell Archive"
Newsweek, June 25, 2018, "George Orwell Quotes: Famous Sayings on Author's 115th Birthday"
Orwell Foundation, accessed Feb. 26, "Rudyard Kipling" essay
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: George Orwell misquoted in 'corrupt politcians' meme