Fake Churchill Quotations: Democracy, Life, Living, Enemies

Fake Churchill Quotations: Democracy, Life, Living, Enemies

Sev­er­al requests have arrived late­ly to iden­ti­fy fake quo­ta­tions. Win­ston Churchill’s pub­lished utter­ances con­tain none of these. I will not dig­ni­fy them with quo­ta­tion marks….

On Democracy:

<<The best argu­ment against Democ­ra­cy is a five-minute con­ver­sa­tion with the aver­age voter.>>

Deseret News in Salt Lake City, Utah was a recent pub­lish­er of this red her­ring. The line is com­mon­ly attrib­uted to Churchill, but with no author­i­ty. It is not quite as cyn­i­cal as Win­ston Churchill could be—but not about Democracy.

Though he some­times despaired of Democracy’s slow­ness to act for its own preser­va­tion, Churchill had a  more pos­i­tive atti­tude towards the aver­age vot­er. On 31 Octo­ber 1944, for exam­ple, he told the House of Commons:

 At the bot­tom of all the trib­utes paid to Democ­ra­cy is the lit­tle man, walk­ing into the lit­tle booth, with a lit­tle pen­cil, mak­ing a lit­tle cross on a lit­tle bit of paper—no amount of rhetoric or volu­mi­nous dis­cus­sion can pos­si­bly dimin­ish the over­whelm­ing impor­tance of that point. —Churchill By Him­self, page 100.

This is a favorite of Dr. Lar­ry Arnn, Pres­i­dent of Hills­dale Col­lege. The ques­tion aris­es whether the lit­tle man (by which Churchill meant to include women) is still alone in his lit­tle booth, or receiv­ing input by oth­ers, some­times weeks before Elec­tion Day. If so, that dimin­ish­es Democracy

Living and Life

Next to Democ­ra­cy and “suc­cess” quo­ta­tions, one of the most pop­u­lar Churchill red her­rings that bedi­zen the Inter­net is:

<<You make a liv­ing by what you get; you make a life by what you give.>>

This crops up in sev­er­al poor­ly researched quote books and was tak­en up in a TV ad by Lock­heed Mar­tin. No one ever lists a Churchill attri­bu­tion, because there is none. The words can­not be tracked to Churchill and have been put in his mouth to make them more interesting.


<<The oppo­si­tion occu­pies the bench­es in front of you, but the ene­my sits behind you.>>

Among quo­ta­tions on polit­i­cal ene­mies, this is famous. It was just revived by writer and broad­cast­er Trevor Phillips in The TimesMr. Phillips was explain­ing that British Con­ser­v­a­tives, almost cer­tain to be the Oppo­si­tion after the next elec­tion, need to stand strong—particularly against them­selves. I have no quar­rel with his log­ic, only his attribution.



And then there is this well-known gold­en oldie….

<<You have ene­mies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for some­thing, some­time in your life.>>

It’s noth­ing Churchill ever said, but the admirable Quoteinvestigator.com tracks some­thing sim­i­lar to Vic­tor Hugo. “You have ene­mies? Why, it is the sto­ry of every man who has done a great deed or cre­at­ed a new idea.”

Further reading

“All the Quotes Churchill Nev­er Said,” begin­ning with Part 1, 2023.

“Democ­ra­cy is the Worst Form of Gov­ern­ment, Except For all the Oth­ers,” 2022.

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