‘Fooling the Experts: A Great Shakespeare Hoax’ (2017)

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Boy howdy, when The Experts swallow a hoax, they really swallow it–hook, line, and sinker.

In 1796 all England was agog: a lost Shakespeare play had been found, and would be performed at Drury Lane. The Experts were all swooning over it.

Fooling the Experts: A Great Shakespeare Hoax

The actors saw through the hoax while they were acting the play. The hoaxer himself admitted what he’d done.

And yet somehow, after all this embarrassment, The Experts were still… The Experts! Yup, still there, still pontificating, still being listened to. Once an expert, always an expert, I guess.

5 comments on “‘Fooling the Experts: A Great Shakespeare Hoax’ (2017)

  1. These words, form the Smithsonian article say it all: “From this William-Henry drew an important lesson: people tend to see what they want to see. All the forger does is suggest a plausible story; his victims fill in the details.”

    Right now, the media is playing out a real-life version of the Emperor’s New Clothes, with a crowd of sycophants cheering on every utterance and working to “cancel” anyone that dares to point out the obvious. Some years ago, I watched a documentary, of sorts, about commonly believed notions which seemed to persist, in spite have having been disproven. The ultimate conclusion was that people believed in these things because they wanted to believe in them. In our age of Internet publishing, promoting falsehoods has become easier than ever. It’s amazingly easy to craft a nice looking website and, just as with the hoax in the Smithsonian article, many people never look beyond the surface. William-Henry convinced his father by forging a seal, and the fact that the contents were substandard never entered into the equation.

    The same sort of thing has played out, time and time again. Some years back, I stumbled upon the words “The Great Disappointment” and upon seeing these words, I decided that I HAD to know what that was all about. As it turned out, in the early 19th century, a fellow by the name of William Miller came up with a theory regarding when Christ would return, and settled on the date of 1843. People wanted deliverance and he soon found himself with a group of would-be acolytes, so to speak, listening to his every pronouncement and furthering the cause of Miller’s teachings. Careers were ended, homes were sold and the lives of Miller’s followers were voluntarily disrupted, because people wanted this to be true, and were in essence, wagering their livelihoods on the veracity of Miller’s calculations.

    I use the word wagering to describe the behavior of people in this situation advisedly. When someone wants something to be true, they will suspend their plans, in hopes that they are right and will rebuke anyone that challenges their beliefs. If you present evidence that they are mistaken, you are in effect forcing them to face the fact that they have wagered their futures on a theory which has little, if any basis in fact.

    What is most interesting, however, is the behavior of followers when a fallacy is disproved. As in the case of William-Henry Ireland, the truth faces resistance. Samuel Ireland went to his grave believing that the play in question was written by Shakespeare; because admitting that his son could have pulled off such a hoax required two distasteful things. First off, it meant that Samuel Ireland would have to admit that his son was not an absolute dolt, but the second admission would have been much more painful. The second admission would require Samuel Ireland to admit that his faith in the “experts” was misplaced.

    In the case of William Miller, many of his followers left in disillusionment when 1843, and then 1844 passed without the return of the Messiah, but a minority of his followers doubled-down on their wager. Miller himself never questioned the validity of his math, which was purely conjectured by cherry-picking time periods mentioned in scripture and then molding those time periods to fit his assumptions. This is a critical point in understanding the psychology of such belief systems; they all involve inductive reasoning, which is to say that a conclusion is induced and then facts are carefully chosen and applied, only if they support the desired conclusion.

    In the case of Miller, he ascribed the failure of his predictions to human errors that had crept into the chronology of the scriptures. He died convinced that he had been on the right track, even though his predictions had failed, miserably. While many of his followers left in disgust, some were so attracted to the notion of Christ’s imminent return that they continued to believe that they had the key to predicting Christ’s return, and that some external “errors” are the reason that these predictions failed. Like a gambler doubling-down on a failed bet, they refuse to even consider the notion that the errors may be of their own making. Such religious belief systems persist to this day, and we see similar belief systems in the secular arena, with bold predictions that fail repeatedly, yet the beliefs are never allowed to be questioned.

  2. NewsMax played Senator Johnson’s committee panel of whistleblowers on the dangers of the Covid vaccines, not allowing therapies that work, and the abuse being done in hospitals in the name of Covid. Of course the fraudulent biden administration along with big tech call all this truth misinformation and so it is censored. God bless Senator Johnson. Where are your senators on this subject? Mine are out to lunch, although Tom Cotton is good on our national defense.

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