On August 7th, Texas Governor Gregg Abbott tweeted a meme featuring an image of Winston Churchill and a quotation attributed to the British Prime Minister. Unfortunately, as he quickly discovered, the governor had fallen prey to the hazard of “Churchillian Drift,” attributing an aphorism of unknown origin to Winston Churchill.
The tweet quoted Churchill as saying, “The fascists of the future will call themselves anti-fascists.” Reporters from Texas to Washington were quick to contact the International Churchill Society and inquire if this is in fact a valid Churchill quotation.
“The quotation is not one that has ever been documented as having been said or written by Churchill,” Churchill Bulletin editor David Freeman told the Austin American-Statesman.
“Abbott’s incorrect attribution is ‘not especially egregious,” Freeman continued, as “Churchill criticized both extremes of the political spectrum” and pointed to an article published by Churchill in 1937 as an example.
In it, Churchill said communism and fascism reminded him “of the North Pole and the South Pole. They are at opposite ends of the earth, but if you woke up at either Pole tomorrow morning you could not tell which one it was. Perhaps there might be more penguins at one, or more Polar bears at the other; but all around would be ice and snow and the blast of a biting wind.”
The International Churchill Society is happy to see today’s political leaders at least trying to understand the relevance of Churchill’s example in contemporary society and stands ready to assist them in sourcing quotes in advance in order to facilitate these efforts.