No, Voltaire Didn’t Say That

On Sunday, Kentucky GOP Rep.Thomas Massie tweeted a quotation that he falsely identified as originating from French philosopher Voltaire: “To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize.” The quote, intended to be a criticism of Anthony Fauci, is accompanied by Massie’s own caption: “You mustn’t question Fauci, for he is science.”

Per USA TODAY the alleged Voltaire quote actually originated from a 1993 radio broadcast from neo-Nazi Kevin Alfred Strom, who in the broadcast “All America Must Know the Terror That is Upon Us,” said a slightly different version of the quote: “To determine the true rulers of any society, all you must do is ask yourself this question: Who is it that I am not permitted to criticize?”

In 2017, Strom, who is also the founder of the neo-Nazi organization National Vangaurd, took credit for the quote in an essay published on the National Vanguard website: “​​… in 1993, I said, in my American Dissident Voices broadcast titled ‘All America Must Know the Terror That is Upon Us,’ the following: ‘To determine the true rulers of any society, all you must do is ask yourself this question: Who is it that I am not permitted to criticize?’” 

Strom also noted in the same essay that his quote is often mistakenly attributed to Voltaire. “Since that time, my statement has become the stuff of Internet memes, quote collections, graphics, and motivational posters. There are over 926,000 entries for one variation of it alone on Google search. Trouble is, the quote is almost always attributed to the 18th-century French writer Voltaire, and not to me.”

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