In the four years that this blog has been online, we’ve occasionally found our name wrongly associated with activities that we didn’t commit and don’t endorse.
An extreme example would be John Paterson’s claim that someone “from Hoaxtead” punched him outside Southwark Crown Court during Sabine’s trial, and his subsequent barrage of threats and demands that we “turn over” this alleged person or face dire consequences.
It should go without saying that neither Scarlet Scoop nor El Coyote commands some sort of goon squad which runs about the city punching people, but there has been no convincing Paterson of this. (Also, as far as I’m aware, George Dufort is an imaginary character, but whatever.)
We expect this sort of thing from some of the more aggressive Hampstead hoax aficionados. What we could not have predicted, though, is that a war would break out between two relatively friendly factions, and that we would somehow find ourselves dumped into the middle of it.
What is a ‘Hoaxtead troll’?
Recently an ugly situation has blown up on YouTube, in which “Hoaxtead” has been repeatedly invoked.
I’ll be very honest: I don’t know how the situation started, I don’t know who said what to whom or in what order, and I don’t know the current state of affairs. I have neither the time nor the interest to watch flame wars play out in real time, as (believe it or not) I have a life away from the internet.
But I do know that people seem to be lobbing nasty threats and allegations and counter-threats and counter-allegations back and forth, and that somehow, yet again, it’s being blamed on Hoaxtead Research.
I understand that some of the people on one side of the battle are folk who read and sometimes comment on the blog, and I want to make something abundantly clear: Once a person clicks away from here, they don’t represent Hoaxtead Research in any way.
By way of analogy, I sometimes read the Times or the Daily Mail, and I might comment in their comments sections, or even cite certain articles here, but that doesn’t make me a “Times blogger” or a “Daily Mail blogger”.
Our core values as a blog
The current situation raises a bigger issue than that, though.
When she started this blog, Scarlet initiated a strict “no threats” policy, which has always been a core value. As the main writer here, I have always tried to promote similar values: the importance of intelligent enquiry and legitimate criticism; compassion for others; tolerance for differences of opinion; intolerance of hateful behaviour; and a sense of humour about it all.
I realise that not everybody shares these values in equal measure, and that disagreements on the internet can devolve into threats and infantile name-calling before one can say “WTF?”
And when our readers click away from this blog, they are no longer bound by whatever rules or guidelines we might impose here. I’d like to think we lead by example, but the sad truth is that some people are more interested in scoring points or drawing (metaphorical) blood than in impassioned but reasoned argument.
Although I believe every person is responsible for their own behaviour, I also recognise that many people have personal issues, such as mental health difficulties, which call for compassion. The thought of exploiting another person’s mental health problems in an effort to “get to” them is frankly abhorrent to me.
Long-time readers might recall a few occasions on which I’ve removed posts at the request of certain people’s family members, who expressed concern that the posts might be making their love ones’ conditions worse. On other occasions, I’ve refrained from writing about certain individuals, or redacted others’ names, because I felt that naming them might cause serious damage to their mental health.
That doesn’t make me a saint; it just means I feel a sense of responsibility and restraint, and I try to make the right judgement calls. I don’t always get it right, but I try to keep the core values of this blog in mind whenever I sit down to write a post.
‘You’re a cult!’ versus ‘Control your people!’
A frequent accusation from those who wish we would just shut up and go away is that Hoaxtead Research is a “cult”. Those who follow us, like our posts, or comment here are labelled “gang-stalkers”, which apparently is conspiranoid code for “people who point out our poor behaviour”.
I note a few names in the above which have only ever been named on this blog in positive or at worst, neutral terms; and at least one person whose name was explicitly banned from the comments section for a year or longer. But hey ho, apparently truth is the first casualty of trooferism.
Still, that does not stop some people from making similar extravagant claims, and implying that those who read this blog think and act in lockstep. The implication is that this “cult” acts unquestioningly on my direction, and that I somehow mobilise the troops to do my bidding on a whim, à la Dr Evil.
Perhaps this idea arose because our comments section is relatively flame-free, and our commenters almost always treat one another with respect. Sure there have been a few notable exceptions, but in contrast with some discussion boards, things at HR are generally pretty harmonious.
Or perhaps the online UK troofer community just isn’t used to having their actions scrutinised, and they don’t much care for it. Hard to say, really.
In contrast to the “Hoaxtead cult” accusation, I’ve received messages lately from people who are alarmed by the current YouTube situation, urging me to “control my people”. I suppose I could do this, if they really were a bunch of brain-dead zombies—a cult, if you will.
The people who read and comment here aren’t cult members. And like it or not, I cannot control their behaviour. Here on the blog, I can delete comments, but as soon as a person clicks away from this blog, they are on their own.
My best current guess is that a relatively small group of people are involved in the current scrap, and as far as I can make out, those on both sides appear to be out for blood.
I wish it were otherwise. I wish all concerned would grow the fuck up and start acting like reasonable adults. I wish they would agree to disagree on whatever it was that set this thing off in the first place.
I’m deliberately not naming any of the combatants, but I will say that I know that some of them are capable of much better than this. I wish they would show it.