Johnson's Pickpocket

Date updated: November 30, 2019 [Up]
Material is free to copy, use, and modify.

Did Lyndon Johnson really say this?

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Image of Johnson Quote, transcribed below.
"If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.” -Lyndon B. Johnson

In this case we normally would only have the image, not the transcription above. So it's probably enough to search for Lyndon Johnson pickpocket white man

Our Google SERP looks promising. Scanning the blurbs we even see a NY Times opinion column that gives us a bit of a context -- this was supposedly said to Bill Moyers.

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Google SERP. Top result has blurb reading As President Lyndon B. Johnson said in the 1960s to a young Bill Moyers: “If you can convince the lowest white man he's better than the best...

We add Bill Moyers to our search and click into news. The NYT post is probably paywalled, so we'll use this Big Think article.

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Google news SERP, with two results, one from the NYT and one from a publication called Big Think.

Unfortunately, this post doesn't have any more detail. Remember, what we need to know is when and where this was said and who it was said to.

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Screenshot of quote from the post -- but it does not have more information.

Let's do an exact quote, add Moyers, and look in general search. We find a couple newspaper citiations.

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General SERP

We click through the WaPo link and find -- to our surprise actually -- that it's a piece by Bill Moyers called "What a Real President Was Like".

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Screenshot of article

We control-f and put picking his pocket in the box -- and get a hit.

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Typing into search page box.

And there it is. The full quote, in the Washington Post, from Bill Moyers (a famous journalist) relaying the quote as something told directly to him in Tennessee in 1963. It's real.

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The quote in context.

Actually, just now I realize that earlier I was using "pickpocket" instead of "picking his pocket" -- and that might have made it harder to find at first. But that's part of the reason you want to shift your strategy when you're not seeing results. You'll make stupid mistakes like that, and unless you adjust your strategy, you won't notice what you did wrong.