Has Everyone Turned Off His or Her Brain?,Nicole Scott,Free Inquiry

Editors’ Note: When Tom Flynn unexpectedly died in August 2021, he had many articles in the works for publication in FREE INQUIRY, including this one. We present it along with Flynn’s introductory comments.

The Mail I Get …

In the summer of 2020, I received a proposal from one Alan Tarica for an article on the subject of who wrote the works of Shakespeare (spoiler alert: it wasn’t William Shakespeare). If you’re not aware of this controversy, suffice it to say that it has generated outraged commentary on all sides—and did so even before the rise of social media. I declined Mr. Tarica’s article, commenting that Free Inquiry was more comfortable exploring “civilized and uncontroversial subjects like whether there’s a God.” His response is something I just can’t resist sharing.

What do you say, gentle readers? Should Free Inquiry explore the Shakespeare controversy, or—in the tradition of that other great British sage, Lamont Python—should we “Run away, run away”? We’ll welcome reader comments!

—Tom Flynn

What shared controversial ideological view do the late Antonin Scalia and John Paul Stevens share? You might have already guessed what it is—at least the one I’m very aware of: the notion that Edward de Vere was more probably the man behind the nom de plume “Shakespeare.” They are part of the group of people self-labeled as “Oxfordians” but more prominently known as “conspiracy theorists” and “classicists” by most.

How is it that these two men celebrated for their jurisprudence on either side of the political divide were so unabashedly unconstrained from expressing this view, and yet the editor of this publication thinks it appropriate to avoid? Our editor very freely proclaims he is “more comfortable with civilized and uncontroversial subjects like whether there’s a God.” What makes someone who purportedly espouses the importance of “Free inquiry,” i.e., questioning even established orthodoxies in other fields, think that not being interested in possible alternative authorship views of Shakespeare is perfectly reasonable?

This is especially troubling given that I actually also offered Mr. Flynn entirely new evidence that not only reveals the motivation for an authorship concealment but also the clear and obvious mechanism by which there would be necessitated secrecy surrounding. And I did it with what can only be described as both the most accessible kind of evidence possible in questioning authority and the most obviously reliable source: Shakespeare’s very own words. It is most accessible (not necessarily easy) because it is just literature, i.e., language, and we (English readers) have the facility to gauge fidelity to the text. And there is no more authoritative source than Shakespeare to bear witness any better than himself on his identity and the circumstances surrounding his need for separation from his oeuvre.

The new evidence also provides the obvious answers to why generations of scholars have misinterpreted and taken at face value information that should have long ago been considered suspicious in so many ways.

Why has our editor not embraced wholeheartedly a new opportunity for reading and thinking about Shakespeare that not only challenges the status quo but potentially provides vastly new and exciting insights into the text of Shakespeare in a way that offers new and exciting inquiry into the Elizabethan history and politics surrounding the transition of power at the end of Queen Elizabeth I’s reign?

Why would this not be considered potentially the opportunity of a lifetime? Why would someone not jump at the chance to illustrate how sophisticated and literate he or she is even if the only motivation were disproving the ramblings of a rando conspiracy theorist who thinks he has “Da Vinci coded” Shakespeare (as so many people have already expressed this view of me)?

Isn’t there an implicit obligation of the people purporting to be interested in skepticism and free inquiry to be the first line of defense for challenges? Why else do skeptic organizations make the silly pretense of offering to do “paranormal investigations”? Why proclaim yourself a “free thinker” if you aren’t essentially soliciting ideas that challenge views?

More specifically related to Shakespeare, how is it not outrageously classist to exclude me specifically from the ability to even have evidence? How it is not so unbelievably obvious that it should be trivially easy to illustrate that my evidence doesn’t work—either specifically revealing the incongruity with the text or any specific historical evidence that would clearly contradict such a veritable alternative universe as I’ve proposed?

Why am I having to labor for decades getting any kind of hearing from anyone unless virtually everyone has shut down his or her brain and relied on mindless heuristics for faith in the pedagogy and established ideas?

How can everyone essentially conspire in this way and at the very same time reject any notion that there are ever conspiracies? How can people both refuse to publicly acknowledge their refusal to consider my ideas and mock the notion that large secrets almost never exist?

Again: Is anyone out there actually thinking? Does anyone know what it really means to think? 

You might think I’m purely alone in having this problem, and yet there are other situations similar to mine. There is a geochemist who has revealed that ancient Egyptians likely used a castable form of limestone, and he has convinced a material scientist who claims he can carbon date the Great Pyramid to four thousand years! Yet there has been no public discussion!

There was a major motion picture made illustrating how Vermeer used optical techniques to produce his realism and extraordinary color variation, and yet little to no discussion.

There is a man who has provided a detailed analysis and context for what he calls the “Ischia” manuscript that everyone else knows as the “Voynich.” Surely there should be all too many ready to pounce on his “translations.”

What is wrong with this picture? If you think all this is perfectly acceptable, then I don’t not particularly want to live in a society with you.

Turn on your brains, please. We face existential threats to ourselves and our planet, and all people have to seriously open their minds and consider their place within these challenges. That will require serious thinking. Me and others are providing warm-up exercises that should have obvious appeal.

Tom Flynn admitted, by the way, that I was indeed providing “intriguing stuff.” I solicit you in making it clear you want to know when that happens!

Editors’ Note: When Tom Flynn unexpectedly died in August 2021, he had many articles in the works for publication in FREE INQUIRY, including this one. We present it along with Flynn’s introductory comments. The Mail I Get … In the summer of 2020, I received a proposal from one Alan Tarica for an article on …