Sunday, October 30, 2011

You gotta do what? I gotta believe!

Man, thanks to this stupid fucking Anonymous movie, the stupid fucking Shakespeare-authorship conspiracy theorists are getting new publicity for their stupid fucking ideas. Granted, most of that publicity consists of scorn being heaped upon them, but I feel like when it comes to stupid fucking ideas like this, no publicity is bad publicity. As with creationism, trutherism, birtherism, climate-change denialism, et al, engaging just gives them an increased sense of legitimacy (and how fucking perfect is it that the Oxfordian who pops up in comments to the AVClub review is also a proud truther?).

What is it about these people that makes them so particularly enraging? The noxious classism is obviously a big part of it (in our current political climate especially) but not the only part. I think it also has something to do with the fact that they're so fucking smug about the fragments of wishful-thinking non-evidence that they're able to muster up in support of their argument. They try to create the impression that they're interested in debate, but they're not; there is absolutely nothing anyone can say that will disabuse them of the idea that they're right, unlike all you sheeple out there, maaaaan.

I guess another big part of it is the total contempt for history that they display. At least with birthers and truthers, there's a clear political motive for them thinking what they think (not that that makes them any less misguided-at-best). Whereas the anti-Stratfordians just want to fuck around with history because they can and it satisfies their petty prejudices. Sometimes people ask: why does this matter? They're arguing about stuff that happened hundreds of years ago that has no clear connection to anything that's going on today. That, however, is the same attitude that allows winger theocrats to do what they do; to pick out an assortment of misleading facts, factoids, and out-and-out falsehoods in order to create the impression that, eg, America's founders supported their particular brand of totalitarian dominionism. Same methodology in either case. Furthermore, our inability to engage with history (wherever you want to say it comes from) has a lot to do with why our overlords are able to revoke workers' rights that many people fought and died to secure; why they're increasingly able to strip away women's right to bodily autonomy; why they're able to get away with starting obviously fraudulent, unprovoked, unwinnable wars; and so on.

And from a literary standpoint, it's also the rather obvious point that few of them actually care about the work in question from a literary standpoint. They're not reading Shakespeare to read Shakespeare; they're combing through it like cryptologists trying to find nonexistent "clues" to crack some sorta code. Mine you, that leaves mysterious how no less a personage than Derek Jacobi could buy into this. He builds a career on the man's work and then kicks him in the face. Nice, guy.

You know what I'm really reminded of? Those obviously-guilty-as-sin witnesses in Phoenix Wright games, who, once you expose their first lie, always immediately leap to something different, which you then have to disprove in turn, and so on. How they can get away with this is just one of those delightful idiosyncrasies of the law in Ace-Attorney-Land. The difference, of course, is that with the anti-Shakespeare people, you will never, ever reach the end, and they have no compunctions about returning to earlier claims that you've just disproven. Actually, come to think of it, I guess that's how all conspiracy theorists operate. I still like the simile, though!

I understand--or think I understand--the appeal of conspiracy theories. There's something undeniably cool about feeling like you're ferreting out secret truth under the "official" truth. Putting pieces together, like a badass detective, to reveal what "They" don't want you to know. Certainly, our government does not go out of its way to demonstrate that it is not capable of big cover-ups and such. But, really now, you're devaluing actual mendacity when you latch onto this transparent nonsense, and it has real consequences, so stop doing it.

Here's a site that patiently debunks anti-Stratfordian claims, in case anyone was sincerely confused. Here's an instructive post and comments thread in which you can see their techniques in action. Here's a fun article by Ron Rosenbaum savaging the movie and associated bullshit.


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