DeVere, 9/11, and Intellectual Conceit

I have never thought of myself as so smart or so courageous. And here I chastize those who are clearly the former for not being the latter. The world is full of arrogance; have I found a bit of a supply of my own?

This essay is prompted, with apologies, by perceived cowardice on the part of the most able of our citizens. Those to whom I refer are unable to see what all should be able to. Or, seeing, are unable to say so. Two current obsessions will serve to illustrate. That Edward De Vere, the Seventeenth Earl of Oxford, was the man who wrote the works of Shakespeare, has been plain since the English schoolmaster with the funny name, J.Thomas Looney (pronounced loney) wrote his famous Shakespeare Identified in 1920. Quite a number of very serious scholars have since solidified the notion, most recently Mark Anderson with his wonderfully written and reasoned biography of DeVere, Shakespeare by Another Name. A decade or more ago, Roger Stritmatter, a professor at Coppin State College in Maryland, having written a masterful dissertation on De Vere’s Geneva Bible and its marginalia which gives the so-called orthodox Stratfordians, those who believe that the historiless man from Stratford-on–Avon wrote the works, a whole lot of explaining to do, said that his work was an entirely unnecessary piece of evidence in the case of who authored the works of Shakespeare.

When he said that, he was right. There is truly a mountain of circumstantial evidence establishing De Vere’s authorship. Stritmatter’s dissertation, to try another metaphor, is simply a truckload of sand piled onto a very serious stretch of beach. What Mark Anderson has done is write the biography of that most amazing and interesting and compelling and unusual of men that Shakespeare had to have been. He demonstrates with more truckloads of sand how the plays and Sonnets and other writings so obviously and conclusively came from the pen and the mind of Edward De Vere.

With each several pages comes another bit of History and another bit of English that English teachers the world over will disregard at their intellectual embarrassment. The works of Shakespeare will be diminished for some when they learn that the author was one of the more autobiographical writers in the pages of world literature and not purely the product of an electric, nuclear imagination. Others will be awed by the layers of imagination superimposed on one of Time’s more complex, enigmatic, conflicted, flawed, mammoth lives. All of life is in Shakespeare because all of life was in De Vere.

But that is not the way everyone will see it. Daniel Swift, doctoral candidate at Columbia, writing his thesis on Shakespeare, was given the opportunity to review Anderson’s book, in addition to two others, in the Nation magazine. I have no reason to question any of the conclusions that he publishes about the other two books on Shakespeare, but what he arrives at with regard to Anderson’s work is a sad piece of business, indeed. Mr. Swift is apparently so chagrined to learn of the autobiographical nature of the works of Shakespeare that he simply is unable to admit the fact.

Maybe the most interesting facet of the phenomenon toward which this essay is directed is the internal intellectual calculus of the scholar, Daniel Swift. If he is writing his dissertation on Shakespeare, he is a scholar of Shakespeare. If he is published in the Nation, and the New York Review of Books, he is an accomplished scholar. When did it first occur to him that the man from Stratford might not be the author, a notion that the likes of Mark Twain, another of the world’s most famous pseudonyms, had bundles of fun with, not to mention Sigmund Freud and Orson Welles, and Ralph Waldo Emerson, and….

If the fact never occurred to him, how does his mental faculty qualify to be exposed in the nation’s vaunted journals? Assuming the idea has entered his mind, where did the thought lead? Which books were devoured in pursuit? If none, why? If a few, some, or many, what about that beach strewn out before us proved uncompelling? Just how many instances of biographical coincidence between the lives of the characters that populate the works of Shakespeare and the life of Edward De Vere is a scholar able to reckon with without Seurat’s dots turning into a proper canvas? Just how many turns of phrase and linguistic idiosyncrasies can be shared by De Vere’s known poetry and letters and the pages of the Canon without a stark realization taking hold?

There is an inspiring passage in Anderson’s book where he discusses a Thomas Watson’s book of poetry and the fact of its dedication to De Vere. In the course of thanking his patron for getting the poems published, Watson asserts that the works were perused by the Earl. Gloriously, the criticisms that accompanied the poems have survived and in the annotations live a mind as outrageously learned and astute and Shakespearean as any other mind would be able to imagine. As found in Anderson’s book, either Shakespeare wrote those annotations, or the world can look forward to the unveiling of another Elizabethan scholar of truly Olympian accomplishment.

Since it is certainly the case that the Oxfordian view is not the prevailing one in the great colleges of the world, Mr. Swift is not alone in his mental gymnastic that finds a place, somewhere, for each of the now countless pieces of evidence which Anderson and Charleton Ogburn and others have done great service in harvesting and exposing. But how and why do they perform such gymnastics? Is there danger in confronting the establishment of Shakespearean scholarship? Does one immediately become unemployable if one acknowledges there is a way to understand the works that includes a living being and his life as opposed to the “perhaps’s” and “possibly’s” found throughout the usual biography of the man from Stratford that Swift rightly derides. The man from Stratford, that is, about whom nothing noble or unusual is known, beyond the fact that he had difficulty writing his name, if he in fact did, which is not entirely clear.

Those of us with no position to hold on to, no esteem to lose in the eyes of some group of establishment thinkers, bring that most cherished of items to the debate, an unshackled mind. And then, at some point, or not, the edge of enlightenment finds its way under the tips of one’s toes, and there at your feet is an understanding. Not knowing of any price attached to such an act, you reach down, take it into your grasp, and view life as that understanding directs.

As criminal investigators do. They gather the fingerprints, and the DNA, and the statements of witnesses, and the lies of the suspect, and, taking into consideration theoretical innocent explanations for each piece of evidence, at some point pronounce the amalgamation sufficient. In a perfect world, in fact even in this one, such judgments are made with great accuracy, without corrupt influence, on a daily basis. The world then views life as that conclusion directs. In the instance of the tragedy of Edward De Vere, however, there is no governmental agency with authority to correct the wrongs of history. There is only the legion of English Chairs throughout the world’s universities peopled in large measure by men and women who have not the intellectual bravery to declare their own patently obvious mistake.

Of all that man is capable, what sublimely beautiful act compares with the acknowledgement of error? Is this not a moment for a thousand true humanities to drop their swords of obstinacy, look into the eyes of their own ignorance and weakness, and speak humbly, to be embraced by the world’s lovers of literature? As surely as it should have happened in 1920, it can never be too late to right a wrong, a four hundred year old one, or a newer model.

As important as a true understanding of the works of Shakespeare may be to those of us who love them, a far more serious misunderstanding of world history plagues the minds of those who matter. The most grievous of acts of evil occurred on September 11, 2001 when occupants of the highest levels of United States government enabled and abetted and fostered the attacks on New York and the Pentagon that those criminals now proclaim, “changed everything.” The single greatest crimes ever committed on American soil are now embedded in the national consciousness as the work of nineteen Islamic extremists and their generals. The evidence that this understanding is inaccurate mounts by the minute; yet, just as in the case of the works of Shakespeare, the establishment power structure, though innocent and ignorant of any criminal knowledge or activity with regard to those attacks, is unwilling to confront and correct its erroneous judgment which holds the government negligent but criminally blameless.

These individuals who comprise the establishment power structure find themselves in one of two categories. There are those who might admit to a doubt about the government’s role, but are unwilling to expend mental energy to eradicate it or confirm its propriety. And there are those who admit no doubt without expending any of the admittedly substantial intellectual effort to become learned on the subject. Are there additionally those who simply know the government was involved but won’t say so out loud? What a fascinating phenomenon.

These last, if they exist, some of whom hold some part of the rudder of state in their hands at the moment, have made a judgment that their, or the country’s, interests are best served by the perpetuation of the lie. If they are right about the country’s interest, one must question whose part of what country? If they are right about the country’s interest, in spite of the interests of justice, one supposes there will be a suitable reward for promoting mendacity in the face of injustice, in this life or some other.

Some of us, however, believe that life itself is defined by justice. And for us, the calculus of those who deceive, however sincere, will always be mistaken. One may pray for redemption in the hearts of the powerful who lie to maintain what they see as stability, but those are surely prayers to an unseen entity as opposed to an appeal to the conscience and reason of a truly decent soul. For those simply unable to handle the truth, acknowledging doubts but not engaging them, or without the world view which contains the abhorrent possibility, the 9/11 truth movement has its Looney and Anderson in David Ray Griffin and among others Steven E. Jones.

It is Jones whose work begs its way onto these pages. There may not be a suitable substitute to attending his lecture, though his paper, “Why Indeed Did the World Trade Center Buildings Collapse Completely?” is all of the essentials to understanding. It is just a wonderful blessing that an individual who, as a major part of a platoon of scholars who have led us into this politically and intellectually treacherous thicket, turns out to possess self-effacing charm, an irrepressible chuckle, and uncounterfeitable sincerity when he talks about a commitment to the truth and justice for those who suffered on 9/11. It gets a lot more bearable in the thicket with company such as his.

And the thicket is surely no picnic these days. One is routinely referred to as a nut. Derision, scoffing, eye-rolling, it is thick here in the thicket, but not because the ideas have been rebuked by facts or science, but simply because they are too awful to entertain, one supposes. No one who scoffs has anything like the time invested, or the time it takes, to respond to the library of books now in existence. It is apparently sufficient to merely expel air briskly from the mouth without opening a book or uttering a sentence, and said or not, the underlying indictment of ”conspiracy theorist” is ample in the mind of the scoffer to sufficiently carry the moment.

And that is for those led in here among the sharp thorns and prickles. One of the leaders, Steven Jones, has essentially been retired from his teaching position at Brigham Young University, where he earned a teaching award as recently as last year. The wardens and cultivators of this briar patch have all kinds of strategies to deal with dissident academics who dare to challenge authority. Virtually none of those strategies require a conspiratorial moment since the assumptions of the state are so deeply ingrained in the collective sub and unconscious that thinking outside of that particular box is what requires energy. Thinking inside it, barely qualifies as thought at all.

An entire department disavowed Jones’s hypothesis and questioned the process that allowed his work to be published. He was suspended from the faculty pending a review of his work, but then an agreement was reached between Jones and the university administration which allowed him to retire and continue his research without danger of besmirching the academic standing of Brigham Young University. All of this sort of consequence might be completely appropriate had Jones committed some sort of error in scholarship, and arrived at a conclusion entirely unwarranted by the demonstable facts.

Though that is certainly the implication the scholars at the Civil Engineering Department would like to convey, that Jones has fouled the whole business off his foot, no one has set forth how, precisely, he has erred. In other words, his science has not been challenged in a public way by anyone at BYU. And why not? His paper has been available to be read for quite some time. It has gone through revisions and grown in scope, but nothing in it is too dense or taxing, certainly not for an academic mind, to forbid study and criticism. It would certainly take time to give it and its author their due, but if the other choice is ignorant condemnation…

Perhaps the case of Dr. Manuel Garcia Jr. will provide some insight. Dr. Garcia is a physicist working at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories. Dr. Garcia has published a series of articles for Counterpunch which set out to demonstrate and explain how the towers collapsed, in essence confirming the work done by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. As only one of his articles has yet to appear, it is impossible to comment on the extent of the work he has done for Counterpunch. His exchange with this author established that, as of the time of the publishing of the first of his three articles, he did not know who Steven Jones was. When informed of some of the work that Jones had done, including finding zinc levels consistent with explosives, in the dust from ground zero as well as in solid pieces of iron from the rubble, Dr. Garcia had fun with Jones’s connection to cold fusion by saying that he used to refer to it as “confusion.” It must be understood that Jones’s work, having to do with muon-activated cold fusion, has been confirmed scientifically, as opposed to that of Pons and Fleichman which generated such a storm of controversy and richly-deserved derision in the 1980’s. I referred Dr. Garcia to Jones’s paper as part of a request for educated assistance in trying to understand a piece of scholarship. Dr. Garcia suggested he was content to read the Wikipedia synopsis which contains nothing about the scientific work or experiments done as part of it. Dr. Garcia referred to Jones’s beliefs about 9/11 as “religious,” and suggested he had no further time for the matter.

Almost all of us have severe limitations on our time. It is perfectly reasonable for Dr. Garcia to choose to spend less time than he might, trying to enlighten the non-physicists among us about how the buildings fell down. One is, however, left a bit unsatisfied when the work of the premier scholar who has done scientific work on the subject, published a peer-reviewed article detailing the nature of that work, and who is traveling around the country speaking to interested audiences, is ignored.

When one’s scientific findings are denounced as religious by another scientist without being read, you know you are on revolutionary ground. And, applying what would seem to be only the minimal assumptions that attend post-doctoral work at Cornell and Stanford, you are probably right. If you were wrong, given the price of potatoes and media attention surrounding all things 9/11, some valued mind would take the time and effort to destroy your work and reap the spot lit gain. Or so it would seem. Things having swerved into these narrow winding pathways, doesn’t Dr. Garcia have some sort of professional, societal duty to put up or shut up, read Jones’s paper and honestly critique it, or retire from the field?

He could be the Daniel Swift of 9/11, or a prophet with a whole new identity, who has embraced truth, no matter the disagreeable substances attached to it. He could be another Mark Anderson, striding purposefully into the lists next to David Ray Griffin and Steven E. Jones. In order for great good to be done, great change must occur. The most significant change may well take place in the mind of a decent man or woman, previously unable to conceive of wrenching evil, constitutionally indisposed toward thoughts of conspiracy, yet so essentially decent as to be unable to allow doubts to rest quietly while vicious hands pull hard at the reins of state.

Maybe it will be a moment or two of history, that of the United States in the last 70 years, for example, that allows unthinkable thoughts to find their way to a chair in the back of an open mind. Such devastation cast across the latitudes of the world by American government after American government, must declare something about the bounds of this nation’s leaders’ morality. If capable of that, all over the world, why not this at the tip of Manhattan and at the very seat of government? Those of us without position or influence, with unshackled minds oiled by a stiff shot of history, may have to acknowledge a bit of intellectual conceit. Until the guardians respond to fact and argument, concerning giant works of literature or giant acts of evil, acknowledging some intellectual conceit will be the least of our worries..

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