Earlier this week, a fellow named Nicholas Gibbs published an article about the Voynich Manuscript… a book from the 15th century that has apparently confused researchers quite awhile because of how strangely written it is. Gibbs felt that he had finally figured out what the Voynich manuscript was all about!
Well it seems that Gibbs didn’t bother to check with anybody who has spent time with the manuscript about the claims he puts forth in his article… so that’s fun!
As soon as Gibbs’ article hit the Internet, news about it spread rapidly through social media (we covered it at Ars too), arousing the skepticism of cipher geeks and scholars alike. As Harvard’s Houghton Library curator of early modern books John Overholt put it on Twitter, “We’re not buying this Voynich thing, right?” Medievalist Kate Wiles, an editor at History Today, replied, “I’ve yet to see a medievalist who does. Personally I object to his interpretation of abbreviations.”
The idea that the book is a medical treatise on women’s health, however, might turn out to be correct. But that wasn’t Gibbs’ discovery. Many scholars and amateur sleuths had already reached that conclusion, using the same evidence that Gibbs did. Essentially, Gibbs rolled together a bunch of already-existing scholarship and did a highly speculative translation, without even consulting the librarians at the institute where the book resides.
People buy into a lot of nonsensical stuff so yeah… we’re buying into it.
Gibbs said in the TLS article that he did his research for an unnamed “television network.” Given that Gibbs’ main claim to fame before this article was a series of books about how to write and sell television screenplays, it seems that his goal in this research was probably to sell a television screenplay of his own. In 2015, Gibbs did an interview where he said that in five years, “I would like to think I could have a returnable series up and running.” Considering the dubious accuracy of many History Channel “documentaries,” he might just get his wish.
So a guy who writes screenplays… and is only known because he wrote a book on how to write screenplays… did research on the manuscript for a television network.
That isn’t suspicious at all!
It’s almost like Gibbs fully knows his claims are suspect, sensational, and he’s using the buzz created to promote himself in general and to promote a possible television show about the Voynich manuscript.
Oh no that can’t be right… people would never engage in such questionable behavior!!!
L O L
People are having their chains yanked again.
Just like Animal Planet did with the Cannibal in the Jungle, just like Discovery did with the Megalodon documentary, the History Channel is going to do with the Voynich manuscript.
They’re going to make a fake documentary, with actors playing fake experts, and they’re going to promote the show with sensationalist advertisements along the lines of “ancient manuscripts secrets revealed!!!”
I am absolutely speculating, but given TV networks past behavior you and I both know that’s just about how it’s going to go.
Ultimately, for television networks it all comes down to money. They want everybody else’s and will do whatever necessary to get it. Ethics is an aspirational thing after all!
What consumers want, consumers of what were formerly documentary channels, is the truth and entertainment. The truth told in an entertaining way to phrase it differently.
And while mockumentaries have the potential to be entertaining… they do not tell the truth. A subtle difference from consumers expectations that the TV networks are completely oblivious to.
Mockumentary: a fictional television show,that is recorded in a documentary style in an attempt to confuse viewers into believing its sensational claims are fact. Mockumentaries often incorporate just enough truth to be mildly believable.