That Churchill Quote on The Arts is Nice—But It’s Fake

The meme below was widely circulated in January after news hit of President Trump’s intentions to cut funding for the National Endowment of the Arts and Humanities as well as funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Winston Churchill is one of the most quoted leaders in history, but many of the words attributed The British Bulldog are apocryphal.  This particular meme, which fits right into the anti-Trump narrative spread like wildfire throughout social media a few months back and popped up again after Trump’s budget blueprint was released last week.  The messaging here is obvious: Churchill, a legendary leader of the past understood the value of the arts, even during a time of war, while Trump, forever obtuse in his grasp of anything inclusive or nurturing simply doesn’t get it.  It’s hard to argue with the contrast—however, Churchill never said this.

As Snopes pointed out, there is no record of this exchange.  What they did find was a quote from 1938, in which Churchill espoused the general value of the arts, but never explicitly mentioned war:

“The arts are essential to any complete national life. The State owes it to itself to sus­tain and encour­age them….Ill fares the race which fails to salute the arts with the rev­er­ence and delight which are their due.”

The meme is an easy share and its message is important, but please, stop sharing it—it’s fake.  Let’s not muddle the pond any further, it’s half sludge already.

Use the real quote.  It’s not as direct, but it still works.

N.B. It’s also worth noting that while Churchill did say this oft-quoted quip about government, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others,” he was actually quoting someone else.  And the quote has been modernized and truncated somewhat.

Here’s the full quote courtesy of Churchill historian Richard M. Langworth:

“Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.…”

 

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