Tag Archives: Edward R. Murrow

People Think They Are Thinking When They Are Merely Rearranging Their Prejudices

Edward R. Murrow? Knute Rockne? William James? William Fitzjames Oldham? Josh Billings? George Craig Stewart? Luther Burbank? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Changing deeply help opinions is very difficult. A brilliant and forceful quotation expresses this idea:

Many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices.

These words have been attributed to the prominent journalist Edward R. Murrow, the famous football coach Knute Rockne, and the influential psychologist William James. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: The earliest close match known to QI appeared in 1906 in the religious periodical “Zion’s Herald” based in Boston, Massachusetts. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

Bishop Oldham scored with his audience with a bon mot to the effect that some people “think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices.”

The name “Bishop Oldham” was ambiguous, but his first name and middle initial were given in the August 24, 1904 issue of “Zion’s Herald”. 2 William Fitzjames Oldham served in the Methodist Episcopal Church and performed missionary work around the globe.

Knute Rockne used the expression in a newspaper column in 1926, but he disclaimed credit. William James received credit by 1946, and he did write a thematically similar passage in 1907 before his death in 1910. Yet, QI has found no direct evidence that James made a closely matching statement. Edward R. Murrow received credit by 1949, and he may have used it after it had been circulating for years.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order. Continue reading


  1. 1906 November 7, Zion’s Herald, Volume 84, Number 45, Notes (A miscellaneous collection of short items), Quote Page 1433, Column 2, Boston, Massachusetts. (ProQuest American Periodicals)
  2. 1904 August 24, Zion’s Herald, Volume 82, Number 34, Personals, Start Page 1063, Quote Page 1064, Boston, Massachusetts. (ProQuest American Periodicals)

When the Politicians Complain That Television Turns Their Proceedings into a Circus, It Should Be Made Plain That the Circus Was Already There

Edward R. Murrow? David Horsey? Apocryphal?

murrow07Dear Quote Investigator: In March 2016 the political cartoonist and commentator David Horsey of the “Los Angeles Times” published a cartoon showing the prominent journalist Edward R. Murrow seated in front of a television screen that displayed a group of angry clowns. The quotation accompanying the illustration compared political gatherings to circuses. Was the ascription to Murrow accurate? When did Murrow deliver this quotation?

Quote Investigator: In October 1959 Granada Television sponsored a set of lectures in London’s Guildhall on the subject of communication in the modern world. Edward R. Murrow delivered a speech titled “Television and Politics” which included a passage that strongly matched the words in Horsey’s cartoon. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1 2

The relationship between television and the politician should be at arm’s length; the eye of the camera should pursue the politician to the very limits of privacy and decency. When the politicians complain, as they have in several countries, that television turns their proceedings into a circus, it should be made clear that the circus was already there, and that television has merely demonstrated that not all the performers are well trained.

Murrow’s words were remembered, and in December 1959 “The Des Moines Register” of Des Moines, Iowa included the statement in a column titled “Worth Repeating” that contained fourteen other miscellaneous quotations. The passage was streamlined with the omission of the phrase “as they have in several countries”. Also, “television” was converted to “TV”: 3

EDWARD MURROW, CBS news commentator:

“When the politicians complain that TV turns their proceedings into a circus, it should be made clear that the circus was already there, and that TV has merely demonstrated that not all the performers are well trained.”

The version in Horsey’s cartoon closely matched the shortened text given above. There was only one difference: the word “clear” was changed to “plain”.

Here are additional selected citations.

Continue reading


  1. 1959, Dons Or Crooners?: Three Lectures on the Subject of Communication in the Modern World, The British Association Granada Lectures, (Three lectures given in Guildhall London in October 1959 on the subject of communication in the modern world), Lecture Title: Television and Politics, Speaker: Edward R. Murrow, Start Page 47, Quote Page 75 and 76, Published by Granada TV, London. (Verified with text from the Digital Collections and Archives at Tufts University; also scans; thanks to Stephen Goranson and the Duke University Library System)
  2. 2013, A Documentary History of the United States by Richard D. Heffner with Alexander Heffner, (Expanded and Updated Edition), Chapter 28: Decade of Turmoil, (Guildhall Speech on “Television and Politics” by Edward R. Murrow, 1959), Unnumbered page, A Signet Book: Published by the Penguin Group, New York. (Google Books Preview)
  3. 1959 December 28, The Des Moines Register, Worth Repeating, Quote Page 20, Column 7, Des Moines, Iowa. (NewspaperArchive)