On the meme, an illustration of Twain was accompanied by the quote. No additional information — such as source or context — appeared alongside the meme.
Google Trends data for the phrase (in quotation marks) was the first indicator the commentary was likely novel and not the work of Twain. Setting parameters for a five-year span ending in March 2022 demonstrated no search data for the phrase until a sharp spike appeared in late October 2021.
October 2021 wasn’t the purported Twain quote’s first appearance online. On March 17 2021, a Twitter user quoted it — again, without any indication that Twain actually said it:
The truth has no defense against a fool determined to believe a lie
~ Mark Twain
— 𝕊𝕜𝕖𝕝𝕖𝕥𝕠𝕟𝕂𝕖𝕪³ (@Key3Skeleton) March 17, 2021
A basic Google search (not restricted to recent results) returned only a handful of results, none of which included credible sources; in fact, the very first Google result was the tweet embedded above, which it did not have much engagement and didn’t seem to be virally popular. Nevertheless, a Google Highlight erroneously amplified the tweet as a source for the attribution to Twain:
Restricting results to anything published on or before March 15 2021 narrowed the returned results to a total of seven. All seven results were unreliably dated meme aggregation sites, or links to content which had been updated after the content was published.
Clicking through to the results rarely even led to variations of the quote. We found no results containing the phrase “the truth has no defense against a fool determined to believe a lie” published prior to the March 2021 tweet, although iterations could be hosted on platforms that were not visible to Google.
An ironically popular March 2022 Imgur meme attributed a quote — “the truth has no defense against a fool determined to believe a lie” — to author Mark Twain. There is no evidence, credible or shaky, that Twain ever wrote or said the words in the meme, and the oldest iteration of the quote we found just under a year old on March 15 2022. Although the commentary was popular with social media users when it was shared, the attribution to Twain was unsupported and the articulated sentiment likely very recent.