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 My Ilk and I 

June 29, 2006 
[Originally published by the Universal Press Syndicate, July 15, 1997]
indentHave you ever noticed that there is no such thing as honest and rational disagreement? Your own opinions are grounded in reason and truth, of course, but people who hold different opinions are stupid, dishonest, paranoid, or otherwise irrational. Their motives are evil, too. (The people who agree with you are generally a decent, sensible lot. No need to delve into their motives.)

paragraph indentTake me, for example. Having recently published a book on the Shakespeare authorship question, I’m discovering how crazy I am and how dark my motives are. As some of my readers may recall, Today's column is "My Ilk and " -- Read Joe's columns the day he writes them.I believe the real author of the Shakespeare works was the wayward 17th Earl of Oxford, Edward de Vere.

paragraph indentBut the orthodox reviewers — those who believe that “Shakespeare is Shakespeare” — insist that there’s simply no room for honest doubt. So, rather than discussing the evidence on its merits, they feel compelled to explain why I, and others of my ilk, won’t admit a truth that is so radiantly clear to them. (Notice that nice people don’t have ilks. The moment someone refers to your “ilk,” you know you’re in trouble.)

paragraph indentOne academic reviewer calls my views “multiculturalist” and “Marxist” (and these terms aren’t meant as compliments!). He adds that the anti-Stratfordians — those who question Shakespeare’s authorship — usually have “an ax to grind,” adding that “English upper-class snobbery fuels the questioning of Shakespeare’s authorship.” I didn’t realize I belonged to the English upper class. In the future, I’d appreciate it if you knaves out there would address me as “my lord” or, better, “your lordship.”

paragraph indentIt isn’t just me. The defenders of Stratford’s son think the anti-Stratfordians in general have a thing about aristocrats. A British professor finds aristocrat-worship an American trait: “Over the years more than a dozen Elizabethan aristocrats have been dusted down and presented to the public as the true author of the plays. Americans have been especially fascinated by this bizarre pseudo-mystery. Perhaps because the only two things that the British have got and the Americans have not are Blue Blood and William Shakespeare, it has proved all too tempting to suppose that Shakespeare was an aristocrat in disguise.”

paragraph indentAnother Stratford partisan surmises that we anti-Stratfordians are self-deluded pseudo intellectuals: “I believe that a large number, if not a majority, among our best and brightest secretly or not so secretly imagine themselves to be intellectual Columbuses.... Many of these would-be conquistadors have sought their El Dorado in an ironclad proof that William Shakespeare’s works were written by someone other than [the Stratford man].”

paragraph indentA Texan professor offers another psychological explanation: “Part of the anti-Stratfordians’ appeal is the anti-establishment cachet that goes with belonging to an exclusive group. As such, their purpose is not so much to expose the truth as it is to propagate an unpopular, often irrational, belief, rather like those who believe that behind every political assassination lies a conspiracy or that the Holocaust is a lie.” He calls the anti-Stratfordian position “a product of paranoia and our rampant culture of conspiracy.”

paragraph indentOh, man! I’d better dial 911 and get a psychiatrist here, pronto! I’m a self-deluded, paranoid snob, the equivalent of a Holocaust denier, with no real interest in exposing the truth!

paragraph indentI knew I was a sinner, but until I questioned Shakespeare’s authorship I had no inkling of the true depths of my depravity. That goes for the rest of my ilk too. A bad lot!

paragraph indentNever mind who wrote Shakespeare’s works. The interesting thing here is that the orthodox reviewers can’t make their case with rational, impersonal argument. They feel compelled to adopt a tone of haughty scorn, making irrelevant ad hominem charges against large numbers of people they have never even met. Without these tactics, they seem to have no way to defend their position.

paragraph indentI’ve always met the same tactics in political debate. The defenders of an exhausted establishment can be relied on to attack their critics, accusing them en masse of evil motives, rather than to refute their arguments. So when people you disagree with have to smear you, take heart: It probably means you’re winning the debate.

Joseph Sobran

Copyright © 2006 by the Griffin Internet Syndicate,
a division of Griffin Communications
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