Twice in the last 24 hours I've bumped into someone making the argument that people are more willing to believe something when it is presented authoritatively, in the sense that THIS IS WRONG and THIS IS RIGHT.
The more notable example (the second was a CBC podcast about risk-taking) was put forth by Bill Bryson in his recent book, At Home ... which is an spectacular resource for D&D that I started into a few days ago.
For those who don't know, and who haven't read him, Bryson is a genius. In this case, I'm defining 'genius' in the sense that if you don't agree with what he says and the research he does, you're a fucking idiot. I understand some people define genius in a completely different way.
Bryson was discussing the book published in 1861 by Isabella Beeton (actually, published by her husband) which became THE standard for homes for the next 75 years or so, Beeton's Book of Household Management. I read it years ago, as my university had a copy of it in the library and if you've done any extensive research into pre-twentieth century life, it's impossible to overlook. I would strongly recommend having a careful look into the many, many pages of cookery and other subjects.
What is interesting about the book is how truly, remarkably wrong it is in SO many ways, and the manner in which it refutes itself constantly - which Bryson discusses at length over many pages. As I worked as a chef and cook for many years during my theatre days (between work), its impossible not to notice that many of the recipes would be thoroughly unpalatable as written. And still, Beeton was to the home as Dana was to geology, as Groves was to music and as the World Almanac is to statistics.
There is something to the very sad fact that where it came to a quintessential text about womens' home lives, half the material is sadly wrong, plagiarised (whole passages are lifted from Florence Nightingale, word for word) or even incomprehensible (seriously, read the book). Still, as Bryson says, the book is written with such a firm, definite, There's No Possible Way I'm Wrong About This air, it was embraced en masse by the culture of the time ... even though it wasn't the first book of it's kind (Eliza Acton had famously produced an earlier book, which Beeton also stole from). The sheer arrogance of Beeton clings to the pages like rancid lard, in a way that even this blog has not been able to achieve. It is truly awe-inspiring.
So the question arises, as I get set to write a book on How To DM, and the community is so firm on no one having any right to say "this is the right way to play D&D" ... should I, or should I not, take the stand that there is a RIGHT way to play D&D.
Because I really think there is one. What's more, from various places (not just the two examples from the last day), I'm getting the message that if I want to be taken seriously, I have to say there's a RIGHT way. Because being wishy-washy about a subject doesn't get it done.
Which might explain why everything that comes out of WOTC is such unmitigated shit.