But who is Alex Warbucks?

Quotes are an amazing tool, useful for portraying an ideal or sentiment better described by a greater mind. However, quotes are only as good as the mind who stated them.

Just the other day I was indulging in a cheeky social media fix. I was enjoying the click bait Facebook offers when I found an incredible article. It was written by Alexander Warbucks, and titled “How I would manage my slaves”.

I thought to myself, a wonderful article like this must be from someone pretty special. I needed to know who had said these magical words. With nothing more than a name to guide me towards my new found messiah, the same article just kept on popping up.

With a year of journalism behind me, and a head full of dreams, I was not disheartened easily. I clicked through to page two (a rare event in the way I usually use Google) yet, still, I came up with nothing! Deciding to alter my Google search I finally came up with one link. This one link would give me a lead to the information I so desired. The link was similar to those I’d visited before. A picture with an ominous coloured background with the quote over the top and a comments section filled with anti-government sentiments; then right down the bottom there was the magic line “But who is Alex Warbucks?” It seemed as though I was not the only traveller asking this question.

This got me thinking about how we use quotes. In academic literature, they provide links to reference material, but, I wondered, how about on social media? Are quotes analysed? Do we peer into the background of the owner of a quote before we re-post it? The quote, “When you work hard to do something right, you don’t want to forget it” seems wonderful, until you learn its author and context. This ‘wonderful quote’ is from the notorious American serial killer Ted Bundy. That changes things a little doesn’t it?

Or try this: “the great thing about science is that every day you’re on the forefront of discovery.” Again, a great quote, but who said it? No one did. I made it up. Now, while I don’t go around collecting body parts, like Ted Bundy, I also don’t hold any sort of scientific background.

Finally, one last quote, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results”, which is commonly attributed to Einstein, the only problem is, Einstein never said it.

This is why it is important to check your quotes. A misquotation or made up quote can destroy an argument. Nothing will kill the mood more than saying to that special someone, “as long as you have love in your heart you’ll never be alone,” only to have the other person to respond with, “didn’t Charles Manson say that?”
So before you re-post a quote or let it profoundly impact your way of life, ask yourself “but who is Alex Warbucks?”

John Tanner

beard = many wisdom


  1. Avatarjohn Reply

    did you ever find out where the quote originated. or who Alexander Warbucks is? one other thought. does the author really either add to or take away from a great quote or do you think that the words can stand on their own?

  2. AvatarS. P. Reply

    But does it really matter who said it, if the words spoke to you?

    What if, after all that research, you discovered that these were lines from a play, or a novel—not the sentiments of a real person, but a character? Would that make any difference?

    What if one person thought these words were written sardonically by Mark Twain to expose the ridiculousness of society—and another thought they were the rantings of Joseph Goebbels? The first would laugh mightily in unison with the biting sarcasm, the second would be appalled, thinking that the author sincerely meant to enact a mind-control scheme.

    What matters perhaps is how you read them without such background, and what you take away from them for yourself.

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