Well, it took me all day but I plowed through all of the Google Alerts I've gotten in the past week (even the weekend ones, that's how dedicated I am), just as I said I would, and came up with the following numbers: A total of 22 websites quoted TJ in some form or fashion. (Mind you, the Alert catches only new material cropping up on the Web, not material that's already there.) The total quotes used came to 85, 35 of which were spurious. So if you choose to take my sampling as representative - and I'll admit we're being horribly unscientific here - 41% of the time, when people out there drop the name "Thomas Jefferson," they are not actually quoting him at all, or are quoting him in such a mangled fashion that you couldn't in all honesty call it a Jefferson quotation.
What's more, that plaguey list of 10 quotations is having a rather alarming effect out there in WebberWorld: of the 22 websites, 5 were repeating that list of 10 supposed TJ quotes verbatim or nearly so. Some repeated single quotes from that list (especially that bothersome Private Banks one), but I didn't even start to count those. I was too sick with the horror of it all.
But, it wasn't all depressing misquotations! I found some very entertaining and sometimes touching stuff in my little experiment as well, including:
On the whole, sports teams at middle schools and high schools named after Thomas Jefferson seem to have had a rough week. One article reported that "Thomas Jefferson" was "trounced." Ouch.
Several new probably-not-TJ quotes that I haven't seen before appeared on my radar, including this one: "The beauty of the second amendment is that it will not be needed until they try to take it." That doesn't even make logical sense. But I'll look for it anyways.
So there you have it. TJ is alive and well on the Internet, being analyzed, loved, quoted, admired, hated, misquoted, used as a role-playing persona, quoted, trounced, represented by plastic figurines and forced to do battle with other plastic figurines, and misquoted some more! What a fascinating world the Web is...