In March I gave a presentation to the Atlanta Skeptics about the Shakespeare authorship question and compared the flawed reasoning of Shakespeare conspiracy theorists to more modern conspiracy theories. Here is the description that I provided for the talk:
I wrote Shakespeare. I am a time-traveling alien who built Stonehenge, the pyramids and wrote the works commonly attributed to William Shakespeare. I also created the earth 6000 years ago and helped fake the moon landing. You can’t prove that I didn’t.
Not all fringe theories are alike, but proponents of fringe theories tend to use similar reasoning (or lack thereof) to support their claims. Regardless of the specific fringe theory, the same logical fallacies will appear over and over again, as, for example, the attempt to shift the burden of proof. The argument that Francis Bacon/Christopher Marlowe/the Earl of Oxford/the Countess of Pembroke/Queen Elizabeth I/Batboy wrote Shakespeare thus has much in common with theories that suggest we never landed on the moon or that 9/11 was an inside job. Come for the strawman; stay for the red herring.
Mark Ditsler of Abrupt Media has made that talk and the accompanying PowerPoint presentation available online, and I repost it here as an .mp3.