George Walford: Fifty Million Lemmings Can’t Be Wrong

What is the supportive force of quotations? They are, often necessary as examples if it is intended to approve or criticise a statement it is usually well to quote it verbatim. But can they ever help to show that a proposition is valid?

Sociologists (in particular) do seem to believe that quotations possess supportive force. It is hardly an exaggeration to say that if a sociologist can quote two other sociologists in support of a point he considers it established.

But on what principle do they select their quotations? Only by their agreement with their own ideas. A quotation is not there because the original writer said it; practically everything he said they choose not to quote. It is there because the quoter selected it. As a quotation a statement is the work of the quoter, not the author, and can therefore carry no more weight than the quoter’s own unsupported statements.

from Ideological Commentary 9, February 1981.