One aspect of the Hampstead SRA hoax which many of us have trouble grasping is how people can maintain their seemingly intractable belief in such an utterly improbable story, for more than three years now.
Scarlet Scoop first mooted the idea of the true believers as a kind of cult, and it’s a thought we’ve returned to several times. As Scarlet wrote in 2015,
Hoaxteaders are certainly “a relatively small group of people having religious beliefs or practices”.
They are definitely “regarded by others” – by most, in fact – “as strange”.
They certainly “impose excessive control over their members”, as we have seen with [people] who have tried to distance themselves from the group; and with that poor couple who dared to remove their names from the petition and faced an avalanche of harassment and intimidation from Sabine et al. …
As for “a misplaced or excessive admiration for a particular thing”, look no further than their bizarre obsessions with tattoos, genitals, child porn, skulls and baby blood. …
Yesterday we stumbled across a new-to-us blog, The Psychology of Conspiracy Theories, where we found an article which posits the current alt-right/conspiranoid phenomenon of QAnon as an “internet prophecy cult”.
Suddenly, a great many things crashed into place.
Mike Wood, a lecturer in Psychology at the University of Winchester, writes,
Despite being an anonymous shitposter, Q’s got a lot of people convinced that he’s got insider info on the deep state conspiracy against Trump. But you need to understand that this is a much older scam than Q himself. People have been pulling the same thing for decades.
The thing is, Q isn’t just a conspiracy theory. It’s a kind of internet prophecy cult. Never mind that its prophecies are almost entirely wrong when they’re not too vague to make a judgement one way or another.
He breaks down the steps in creating internet prophecy cults, citing QAnon and several of its predecessors.
Step 1, he says, is to find an audience and tell them what they want to hear:
Figure out who you’re appealing to. Preppers? Goldbugs? New Age UFO fans? The new right? Whoever you want to reach, go to where they are. Find their communities and post there. Act mysterious. Tell them that everything they believe is right and good, and everything they disagree with is wrong, evil, and doomed.
In the case of the Hampstead hoax, this would have been “anti-establishment conspiracy theorists”, and as we’ve said in previous posts, Sabine, Belinda, Abe, and Ella put a great deal of effort into getting some of the more popular conspiracy purveyors on-side.
Tell them that while things might look bad at the moment, soon a great cleansing will come upon the world. The evil men who have jealously hoarded their power will be swept away, and the world will be ruled by the just. It might hurt, people might die, but in the end, everything will be set right.
How often have we heard Belinda and others claim that the worst problem facing society is SRA? Or that once the paedophiles (excluding of course those who are their friends) are dealt with, the world will be a wonderful place?
Next, says Mr Wood, establish who the “good guys” are: in the case of the Hampstead hoax, that would be “children’s rights activists” (or just plain “activists” for short). No matter who you are or what you do, if you call yourself an activist, you’re A-okay with the Hoaxtead mob.
These “activists” are going to put everything right. They are everywhere, even though we might not always be able to see them. They are constantly vigilant, they know who the bad guys are, and they are just about to bring them to justice…any minute now. No, really.
People will believe you. People always want to believe they’re right. Mostly, they will convince themselves that they’re right anyway, and since you were telling them things they want to be true, they’ll give you credit for having been “right.”
The Hampstead hoax feeds the belief, held by a small but substantial number of people, that the world is controlled by unseen forces, who prey on the weak and vulnerable (children) and get joy from tormenting those less powerful than themselves.
Given that many of those who avidly support the hoax feel themselves to be disenfranchised in some way, latching onto the Hampstead hoax is a way of regaining a sense of power and control over their lives…even if all that means is making the lives of other people miserable.
And really, who cares about a bunch of people living in one of London’s poshest neighbourhoods? Clearly, they are the oppressors, and those who adhere to the hoax have every right to destroy them.
Tell them that your critics are not really critics – they’re shills, trolls, stooges. Agents of the conspiracy. Tell them that the shills will stop at nothing to prevent the Truth from getting out, to keep people asleep.
Most of all, tell them that they’re special for believing you. They’re not like the sleeping masses – they are the rare people who can see through the lies. They are good and smart and righteous.
This calls to mind some of the emails Belinda sends out to her massive mailing lists.
On 8 June, 2014, she published the following call to arms on her blog:
After hitting a low point last month, financially that is to say I’m happy to report that I’m back in the saddle, thanks to the great generosity of a dozen supporters who between them have enabled me to continue to make trips up to Scotland in the coming few weeks – YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE and I’m exceedingly grateful to you, you’ll certainly be on the Roll of Honour when this fight is concluded and hopefully successful!
Not a moment too soon as the really active part of the Battle, what I call my ‘Special Operation’ is about to commence. I mentioned this a few weeks back and asked for volunteers willing to allow me to inform you & hopefully enlist you VIA YOUR POSTAL ADDRESS – maybe that was the problem, I didn’t at the time give my my postal address? so here it is 83 PRIORY GARDENS LONDON N6 5QU.
So drop me a line and all will be revealed, as long as I’m satisfied that is that you’re not a McKenzie Enemy (I’ve a good idea who all of those are by now!)
Even without any ‘volunteers’ I will still be able to carry out the Operation but it will certainly help to have a few people assisting – but NB it can be done from home and will not take much of your time at all.
Mr Wood suggests setting a date for when everything will start to happen; here’s where the Hoaxtead mob seem to have departed from the script. No date is set, but it’s clear that Something Big is about to happen, and if Belinda’s supporters aren’t on board, they’ll be left behind.
However, the next step—when nothing happens, make an excuse—is definitely part of the Hoaxtead mob’s playbook: how many times have we heard that they would be winning this battle if not for (insert your choice of) corrupt police officers, evil Satanists, uncaring politicians, or vipers in their midst?
Tell them that despite all this, the signs are still there for anyone with their eyes open. The faithful, the enlightened, the awake – they will be able to see what’s going on. It’s obvious. How could they not see it? Anyone who doesn’t see it must be blind – and when the time comes, they’ll get theirs.
As Mr Wood says, when you can get your supporters making your arguments for you, defending you against those who claim you’re a scam artist, and urging people to get on board before it’s too late, you know you’ve got it made.
A spanner in the works
All of this, of course, assumes that Operation Internet Prophecy Cult will go according to plan. In the case of Hoaxtead, things began to fall apart shortly after Abe and Ella brought the children back from Morocco, and they have been in catch-up mode ever since.
Their original plan—to use to beautiful, intelligent, well-spoken children as icons who would draw millions of followers and reap millions of pounds in donations to fight the good fight against the evil Hampstead cult—was a failure from the outset, as the children were removed from Ella’s care following the police investigation.
To be sure, the hoaxers regrouped and tried again, and for a short while around the release of the videos in early 2015 it looked as though they were well on their way to an internet cult of QAnon-like dimensions.
However, while the hoaxers never achieved the mass market appeal they yearned for, those followers they were able to convince have remained staunchly loyal, as one would expect from faithful cult adherents. And as Mr Wood says, the real question, once the cult is established, is, “what do you want to do with it?”
Maybe you want them to give you money. Tell them your expenses are high. Tell them that it’s not easy revealing the secrets of the universe. Tell them you need help. They’ll do it. What’s a few dollars in exchange for the secrets of the universe?
Maybe you’re not in it for the money, though. Maybe you just want power, or attention, or to change people’s beliefs. Maybe you believe some of what you’re saying. In that case, you might make some more predictions, set some more dates – try to convince more people that what you’re saying is true. Expand the borders. Build an empire of belief. But at this point, that’s optional. You’re there, now. You have a following, a mythology. You’ve arrived.
It’s up to you. The world is your oyster. Enjoy your cult.