Posted By Roger Stritmatter on November 25, 2012
A few days ago I wrote up a “back of the envelope” Amazon review of Steven McClarran’s stupendous new book, I Come to Bury Shaksper. I had missed the opportunity to review some other recent and excellent contributions to authorship studies such as Katherine Chiljan’s Shakespeare Suppressed, so I relished the chance to be the first one out of the gate with a review of this new offering. I enjoyed the chance to print a few preliminary comments about the new book and endorse its qualifications for wider readership, most of them consisting of generous quotation from this imminently quotable book.
Little did I anticipate that my review would elicit such a remarkable discussion, complete with a cameo appearance from none other than Tom Reedy, who dropped by to remind us that anyone who questions Shakespeare’s identity is an uneducated loser and a malcontent who is likely to end up drunk in a gutter before the decade is over.
True, I did say that the “boxing gloves” had come off in I Come to Bury Shaksper. But I had no idea when I wrote my review how much metaphoric blood was about be on the floor.
Among the most interesting revelations of the discussion following my review was Dr. Waugaman’s disclosure in this post that Reedy repeatedly removed from Wikipedia Waugaman’s citation to his 2009 Notes and Queries article on the influence of the Sternhold and Hopkins psalms in Shakespeare. This was news to me, although I cannot say I was surprised. Waugaman, a psychoanalyst by trade, holds forth at his own blog, The Oxfreudian, and his frequent and public advocacy of the Oxford cause in numerous academic articles, published in both psychoanalytic and literary journals, has been a constant thorn in the side of orthodoxy.
In other Wikipedia activity, previously noted on this blog, Reedy removed reference to Robert Detobel and K.C. Ligon’s outstanding study of Francis Meres’ Palladis Tamia, which showed through painstaking analysis that Meres was already in 1598 tipping his hat to Oxford’s authorship. In that instance the publication was in Brief Chronicles, a relatively new and untested forum for the discussion of early modern authorship and culture (of which I happen to be the editor).
Brief Chronicles is a double-blind peer reviewed journal with a Wikipedia entry of its own and an impressive lineup of academicians on its editorial board, but those sympathetic to the ailing orthodox position on Shakespearean authorship might plausibly offer some legitimate basis for claiming, as Reedy did, that the journal is not a “Reliable Source” (RS for short) according to a principled definition of that key term. That is, except for the fact that Reedy’s wikipedians had already played so fast and loose on the other end of spectrum by coddling all kinds of sources that don’t have nearly the academic authoritas of Brief Chronicles but which happened to oblige the editors’ prejudices.
Notification of Reedy’s activities regarding Waugaman’s Notes and Queries article, which can be accessed here, is another matter. It is difficult to imagine what Mr. Reedy can have been thinking when he took to chopping a reference of this kind from Wikipedia. Notes and Queries, which has been in print since 1849, is published by Oxford University Press. Moreover, according to Waugaman, the absence of a Wikipedia link has not been an effective suppression strategy; according to Waugaman, the article is the most-read Notes and Queries article going on three years now.
Geeze, I wish I could get that kind of rating for my own Notes and Queries articles. Maybe I need to be more pro-active at adding them to Wikipedia’s apparatus criticus so Tom Reedy and his gang can slash them. Would that do it?
But here’s my main point: By the example of this particular suppression, it would appear confirmed that the operant definition of “RS” among Reedy’s colleagues, as I have already indicated elsewhere, is “we agree with it.” That is the basis on which Wikipedia is being defended from the Oxfordian infidels.
“We don’t like you, take your academic references and go away.” That’s the message that Mr. Reedy and his wikipedia sidekicks have been peddling for over a decade now. And they aren’t nice about anyone who doesn’t agree with it.
If you ask why someone — anyone for that matter — would be so ridiculous as to prevent a Wikipedia article from containing reference to an article published in an academic journal such as Notes and Queries on the pretense of protecting readers from “unreliable sources,” the answer is that Waugaman’s study, based in part on his examination of the marginal markings in the Folger library’s de Vere Psalmbook, has implications that Reedy does not want to consider.
Moreover, and perhaps more to the point, he doesn’t want you to consider them either.
“It is my understanding,” continued Waugaman,
that [Reedy] used his impressive knowledge of Wikipedia censorship to permanently block me from posting that reference anywhere on Wikipedia. Given the time it takes to master the art of manipulating the Wikipedia rules to suppress controversial evidence, I can see why he has published so little….
[My article] enriches the meaning of many sonnets that scholars have found difficult to understand, as well as deepening the meaning of many of the plays. Naively, I thought Wikipedia readers had the right to read the article and think for themselves about its possible relevance to the Shakespeare authorship question, since it was the large hand-drawn pointing hands in the margin next to 14 psalms in Edward de Vere’s copy that led me to these discoveries.
But Mr. Waugaman’s voice has not been the only one to contest Reedy’s presumptions. Steve Steinburg, apparently the man behind the mask of “Steve McClarran,” had this to say to Reedy about his involvement in the Amazon discussion:
I’ve commented critically [in my book] on a number of Stratfordians books including those of Matus, McCrea, Greenblatt, Shapiro, etc. I bought and read each of those books before commenting and my comments dealt with the substance of those books and were not cheap insults such as you hand out here.
Later Steinburg elaborated on Reedy’s history on Wikipedia in an anecdote that perfectly reflects the “business as usual” attitude among the gang Reedy runs with on the online encyclopedia:
From the Wikipedia Shakespeare Authorship Article:
“Shakespeare’s authorship was first questioned in the middle of the 19th century, when adulation of Shakespeare as the greatest writer of all time had become widespread.”
H.N. Gibson, The Shakespeare Claimants, is cited at least four times within the article. Clearly, therefore, Gibson is an acceptable source, and Gibson, very clearly and convincingly says that Marston and Hall, contemporaneously, believed the name Shakespeare was pseudonym and that one or more of them believed that Bacon was the man behind the pseudonym. I seem to recall you saying you have Gibson’s book, so you may recall this or be able to look it up.
I inserted Gibson’s comments about Marston and Hall into the article and Reedy removed them with the excuse, first of all, that Gibson didn’t say what he obviously said, and then with the excuse that Gibson was the only source and not reliable enough.
Reedy wants to sustain the fiction that there was no contemporaneous “doubt” and he will do whatever he can get away with to skew the article the way he wants it. He makes up claims that aren’t true and puts words into the mouths of his sources. If Tom wants to challenge me on any of this I’ll be happy to go into further detail.
Steinburg concludes that there is not much future in this sort of thing:
in Tom’s case….he has gotten away with inserting stuff he made up and lied about the citations. Wikipedia works in favor of orthodoxy. I learned this first hand. Roger learned it. Richard learned it. Others like Nina Green have learned it.
All institutions are imperfect. Wikipedia is no exception. Peer review is no exception. But these are probably the best ways we have of sorting out what is true.
The great danger to Shaksper orthodoxy (and other orthodoxies) is that alternative arguments are accepted in respected academic journals and appear in books endorsed by academia, and that universities and colleges provide courses that deal even-handedly with alternative theories.
Reedy knows this.
Stanley Wells has openly lamented the fact that anti-Stratfordian programs are appearing in respected academic institutions. This means that anti-orthodox opinion is going to become more and more citable in Wikipedia and at some point Tom’s going to run out of fingers to plug up the dike. The time is not far off when Wikipedia will be forced to treat anti-Stratfordianism (or whatever one chooses to call it) as `alternative theory’ rather than `fringe theory’. This is Tom’s worst nightmare…and its coming.
If so, Steinburg’s new book, I Come to Bury Shaksper — which neither Tom Reedy nor his Amazon sidekick B.J. Robbins can bring themselves to actually debate — will deserve a significant amount of credit.