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Crying Wolf: On Hoaxes and their perpetrators

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posted on Aug, 7 2007 @ 02:32 PM
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Hello, and thanks for dropping by. Seriously.

I'll get into the heart of the matter. I have begun this with the aim of discussing hoaxes and hoaxers; everything from the possible motivating factors for planning and carrying out a hoax, to the implications of continuous hoaxing on the public.

The topic of hoaxes may be a touchy one. For the purposes of this discussion, a hoax is merely an act that was previously presented as fact, but subsequently confessed to be false (or replicated and proven beyond reasonable doubt). If a reference is (currently) still regarded as a controversy - the hypothetical Jury is still out - then we will not discuss it as a hoax.

I'm sure your interest in the paranormal has exposed you to a plethora of useful and useless information. Through the years, I too gorged myself on whatever I could find involving the UFO phenomenon. These days, the occasional half-hearted search will satiate my interest. I have lost interest in the evidence that is currently presented -- but my personal interests are irrelevant, at the moment.

I once drew the conclusion that hoaxes were perpetrated in research fields shunned by the "Scientific Community", because it would be difficult to disprove the hoaxer's claims due to a lack of knowledge in the field. Interestingly, the increasing hoaxes in these fields continue to repulse the Scientific community from researching these topics any further. And on it goes.

On one hand, I'm rather curious about the hoaxer themselves. What psychological processes inspire an individual to create a magnificent sham? Like the boy who cried wolf, is it merely the satisfaction of watching the frantic, exhausted (and subsequently frustrated) villagers running up to find no wolf? Or, as others have suggested, is it a need for attention? I'm neither a psychologist nor a psychiatrist, although I recently developed a curiosity for how the mind works. However, I am not qualified to make personality judgments: the minds of hoaxers may remain a mystery to me for now.

On the other hand, there is the concept of the Wolf's arrival.
What happens when irrevocable evidence is presented? Someone gets irrefutable video evidence of a "ghost" or paranormal activity, or a fleet of "alien" ships orbits the planet for a 6 week period, providing ample time to be observed by everyone. Or, even closer to home, someone creates a functional "Free energy device".
How will the public react?

I will conclude for now; let us remember that this is a discussion involving opinions. There is no right or wrong here: there should also be no name-calling, or pooling into groups of "skeptics" and "believers". We'll leave the rounds for another tournament.

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts; let the discussions begin!




posted on Aug, 7 2007 @ 02:45 PM
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What hoaxes there are, I suppose were perpetrated by individuals seeking attention. Also, there are people out there who don't believe in certain things who hoax things just as a prank.



posted on Aug, 7 2007 @ 04:14 PM
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Originally posted by SpeakerofTruth
What hoaxes there are, I suppose were perpetrated by individuals seeking attention. Also, there are people out there who don't believe in certain things who hoax things just as a prank.


There is no way to conclusively know why all hoaxes are started -- so I don't think we can write them all off as motivated by "attention seeking".

It is true as well that there are some who deliberately create hoaxes in fields they don't believe in. This is what fascinates me; why would anyone take the time to deliberately ridicule someone else's beliefs? The time spent on planning and assembling the material; the subsequent careful execution of the plan; stringing people along and making sure they believe everything they are told -- deliberately manipulating them the entire time.
Then the hoaxer gleefully announces it was his/her plan all along.

You see, it can also be argued that it's a power-trip, and not just the need for attention. Modern hoaxers tend to be discreet about their identities - as we can see from the recent World increase in "anonymous, highly credible witnesses". Somehow, "attention seeking" doesn't cut the mustard anymore.

I'm sure Freud would have a field day on this one.



posted on Aug, 7 2007 @ 04:18 PM
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Originally posted by Mr Jackdaw

It is true as well that there are some who deliberately create hoaxes in fields they don't believe in. This is what fascinates me; why would anyone take the time to deliberately ridicule someone else's beliefs?


They do it in the hopes that all things like that will be considered unreal. They have just about been successful, unfortunately. Don't believe me? Stay here long enough and the first thing that pops out of skeptic's mouth is, "photoshop." That's their answer to everything.



posted on Aug, 7 2007 @ 08:45 PM
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They do it in the hopes that all things like that will be considered unreal. They have just about been successful, unfortunately. Don't believe me? Stay here long enough and the first thing that pops out of skeptic's mouth is, "photoshop." That's their answer to everything.


And CGI


I still think this is too broad an allegation, though. What would they be trying to achieve?

In the past, most hoaxes were motivated by a need for money; there was almost always something to be seen or bought. In more recent times, there appears to be less of a clear motivation; the oddities don't go asking for money, and in many cases the perpetrators maintain a complete anonymity.

Still, all hoaxes are similar because each of them is essentially an elaborate, premeditated lie. I am simply fascinated by what sort of mind would spawn such a lie; Perhaps this "groundbreaking research" would allow us to view hoaxes differently - even spot them more quickly.


Or at least, that's my delusion of grandeur.



posted on Aug, 9 2007 @ 05:28 PM
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Perhaps I should also mention that the hoaxer and the skeptic are arch-rivals in the realm of the paranormal. To the skeptic, every paranormal "witness" is a potential hoaxer until proven otherwise. But to the hoaxer, is every skeptic a potential "challenge"? The longer I brood on it, the more I lean towards the conclusion that a large number of hoaxes may be motivated by a need to prove some sort of mental superiority.

Of course, due to our technological advancement, hoaxers now have access to a increasingly sophisticated plethora of "tools" for their trade. As a result, modern day hoaxes die out as controversies, and are seldom ever conclusively debunked. As I mentioned before, this isn't made any easier by the fact that our modern day hoaxers choose to remain anonymous in most instances.

It is my belief that hoaxers (and hoaxes) are worthy of investigation and discussion; I think the world needs to understand why they are there - and perhaps they too need to understand the damage they are causing to our society at large. Thoughts? Anyone?

Seriously. This echo is becoming very unnerving.



posted on Aug, 9 2007 @ 05:38 PM
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Originally posted by Mr Jackdaw
Perhaps I should also mention that the hoaxer and the skeptic are arch-rivals in the realm of the paranormal. To the skeptic, every paranormal "witness" is a potential hoaxer until proven otherwise. But to the hoaxer, is every skeptic a potential "challenge"? The longer I brood on it, the more I lean towards the conclusion that a large number of hoaxes may be motivated by a need to prove some sort of mental superiority.



You actually have a point there. However, all of this is to the degradation of some events that are real, unfortunately. It is playing a game where someone is going to get burnt and that person who gets burnt may be tempted to start a wildfire.



posted on Aug, 9 2007 @ 05:48 PM
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I hope I have not misinterpreted your post:

My intention is not to discuss the evidence presented in hoaxes: I'm well aware that many things defy our explanations, although we interact with them daily. The real discussion is about the minds of the people who come forward with "suitable explanations" about these anomalies; explanations that are nothing more than hastily concocted lies, supported with personal conviction. In other cases, their explanations are intricate and extremely believable - until someone finds a fault or two. Suddenly, the entire contraption seems shaky and faulty... but it won't fall apart.

If we can understand why these are built, we will have a better understanding of how - and I'm not just talking about using assorted graphics programs.



posted on Aug, 11 2007 @ 08:49 PM
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In an attempt to further stimulate conversation here, I have decided to introduce a new tangent: we will also be discussing previous (declared) hoaxes.

To avoid any unnecessary arguments, I will be avoiding "current" issues: any issues that have not been conclusively declared hoaxes will not and should not be mentioned. This includes, to name a few:

The Isaac/CARET issue.
The Disclosure Project.
The "UFO-Haiti" video.
And (unfortunately), anything involving the Dropas.

And with the un-pleasantries out of the way, let us begin.

Our "new tangent" begins with an old hoax; one that dates back to the 1890s, but whose consequences still influence many to this day. The incident is remembered as the Taxil Hoax. I knew nothing about it until I discovered it a few weeks ago. Interestingly, I couldn't help but draw a few parallels to certain incidents as they occur today.

For those unfamiliar with it, here's a summary:

Leo Taxil (a pseudonym) was a French-born atheist, originally known for writing several Anti-Catholic books. In 1884, the Catholic Pope at the time wrote an encyclical which, among other things, condemned certain practices of Freemasonry. There's a summary here.

In 1885, Taxil underwent a public conversion to Catholicism, claiming that he planned to undo the damage he had done. In the 1890s, he started writing articles that denounced Freemasonry, beginning with a four-volume history of it. His account included testimonies from fictional witnesses. In a later work (titled The Devil in the Nineteenth Century and published with a collaborator), Taxil introduced a new character called Diana Vaughan. She was allegedly the descendant of a Thomas Vaughan, and (according to Taxil) had frequent encounters with incarnate demons. Diana was also reported to be involved in Satanic Freemasonry, but was 'redeemed' when she mentioned her admiration for Joan of Arc. As Diana Vaughan, Leo Taxil published a book of prayers, which was apparently praised by the pope.

(Pause here and think of the catchphrases "whistle-blower" and "anonymous, credible witness")...

In 1897, Taxil called a Press Conference, apparently to introduce Diana to an increasingly suspicious public. The audience was shocked (and subsequently enraged) to hear Taxil inform them instead that Diana was just one in a series of hoaxes - which you can read in the brief Wikipedia article about Taxil.
Of course, he got mobbed as he left the hall, and the police had to escort him out.

The Taxil hoax was intended to mock both Freemasonry and the Catholic church's antagonism towards it. But as I mentioned, its consequences have lasted until today. For instance, it was responsible for associating the image of Baphomet with the Devil (hence the horns, in case you ever wondered).

Even today, Taxil's tracts are still used to rail against Freemasons. Yet his was not the only hoax to have survived until now as 'quoted truth'. Any thoughts as to why he was successful? I know I have mine.

See also:
Taxil on pro-Freemasonry site
Taxil on anti-Freemasonry site
Article on the Confession of Leo Taxil; includes his address at the Press conference.

[edit on 8/11/2007 by Mr Jackdaw]



posted on Aug, 11 2007 @ 09:20 PM
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A few minor observations. Hoaxes play on the hopes of one group, and the fears of the other. A "good" hoax usually is not over elaborate, and yet it has enough meat to spring the trap. And every good hope needs to be in an arena that has opposing sides, else there is little chance for success.

The UFO believers would take the Drone Hoax to heart, but it would have been a much quicker death for it, provided it ever does die, than it would have been without the debunkers.

But sometimes, now and then, it seems to me that sometimes the hoax has a hidden agenda. Isaac is a good example. There seems to be a deeper motive than satisfaction and ego. And since there seems to be little money involved, that only leaves sex as a major motivator, and even I haven't heard of that angle being brought up.


Sometimes, there are hidden motives, and those make the most interesting of cases.

Edit by NGC--I can't spell tonight.


[edit on 11-8-2007 by NGC2736]



posted on Aug, 11 2007 @ 09:36 PM
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Certainly true that hoaxes play on the hopes of one group. Taxil's hoax was dependent on the attitude of the Catholic Church towards freemasonry -- which is why his outlandish tales were easily sold. The eager crowd could seldom see through the blatant falsehood of it.

The problem with hoaxes of that magnitude is that they hinder real-world relations concerning such subjects. Taxil's hoax occurred at a time when Freemasons were becoming more open to the public - prompting the Pope to write his encyclical. Since then, Freemasonry has been demonized - as a cursory search on the net will show.

I would like to discuss similar hoaxes and their impact. My intention is to analyze how they form, to subsequently perceive the order in which events occur. By identifying key "characteristics", we can apply them in researching other potential hoaxes as they occur, and perhaps alleviate the current prevailing tension between CGI experts and "Believers". Is it ambitious to think that this thread can produce such a thing? I don't think so; I believe this site is frequented by intelligent minds that are more than capable of the task at hand.

Thank you NGC; to everyone else, I again invite and welcome your comments.

P/S: Again, out of respect to those who believe in the UFO-Haiti and Isaac/CARET incident, we will avoid discussing those topics for now, until we have reason enough to approach them boldly. Think of it as "reverse-engineering" a poison; when we're done, we'll know how it kills, and we'll (hopefully) have an antidote. Only then can we decide who needs to be healed, and how to heal them.

[edit on 8/11/2007 by Mr Jackdaw]



posted on Aug, 11 2007 @ 09:57 PM
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Mr Jackdaw, since we will take the road less traveled, at least on this forum, let us look at who would have benefited from the Taxil hoax.

Now granted, the sense of humor of that day could account for it, to some degree, coupled with the eccentric nature of some of those involved. But there was a clear, at least in hindsight, need for something of that nature about then.

Secret societies were suspect because no one could be sure of their real powerbase. This made not only the secular authorities nervous, but it made Rome worry about the hold it had on those who swore allegiance in darkened halls by night, and crossed themselves by day.

Can we all spell "agent provocateur"?

It seems that there are amateurs and professionals at this sport. In the bush leagues they play for fun, but there's a payoff when you're in the pros.



posted on Aug, 11 2007 @ 10:24 PM
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It seems that there are amateurs and professionals at this sport.


Finely written, NGC2736; indeed, there are amateurs and professionals - although I am of the firm opinion that both should not exist. (To clarify, hoaxers should not exist. The only thing I have against hoaxers is an extreme distaste for their profession; I would not harm any of them, given the opportunity.)

Moving swiftly along


Secret societies have been suspect for as long as the Church has known about them. It's ironic to think that the Catholic Church was concerned about the Freemasons being open, when the "Church" is constantly preaching about 'brotherly love'. The Pope's encyclical decried their acceptance of "people of all creeds" because it indicated an acceptance of all religions -

Heresy!


Still, it bears considering that Taxil got away with other (ridiculous) things:

Persuading the commandant of Marseille that the harbour was infested with sharks, and getting a ship deployed to destroy them.
Inventing an underwater city in Lake Geneva, drawing tourists and archaeologists to the spot. (Source: Wiki entry on Taxil)

M. Taxil was one of many fine hoaxers to grace this planet. His most famous work serves as a reminder to us, various seekers of truth. But I will curb my desire to go eloquent, and move to more important matters.

Let us now attempt to list some of the prominent characteristics of his hoax. Later, we will analyze the steps he took to accomplish his goal. I suggest we use this procedure on all hoaxes discussed: Background story => Characteristics of hoax => steps taken. Other suggestions are also welcomed.

Again, we will only discuss things that have been conclusively denounced. M. Taxil denounced his hoax himself; unless there is a similar conclusion to a controversy, we cannot discuss it here.

Once more, I invite your commentary.



posted on Aug, 13 2007 @ 03:30 PM
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As the responses aren't forthcoming still, I will continue with my attempt to dissect hoaxes in general by listing the characteristics of Taxil's hoax, as mentioned in the previous post.

Similar to many "suspicious" incidents today, Taxil's hoax possessed the following characteristics. I will attempt to list them in the order they appeared. Again, the further I look at this, the more interesting and familiar the parallels become.

1. A spectacular announcement: His public (alleged) conversion to Catholicism.

2. Fictitious (and fantastic) evidence corroborating step 1: In Taxil's case, it took the form of writing numerous anti-Freemasonry materials -- beginning with his four volume History of Freemasonry.

3. The use of accomplices: With the assistance of someone (known by the pseudonym Dr. Karl Hacks), Taxil wrote the book "The Devil in the Nineteenth Century", in which he introduced a new character; Ms. Diana Vaughan. The name belonged to a typist in his employ (see Wikipedia article on Leo Taxil: Link above). The character herself was entirely fictional, and controlled by Taxil himself: masquerading as her, he later wrote a book of prayers (see above).

*Note that 3 above is really a sub-characteristic of the entire plot, although here it is listed sequentially per Taxil's actions. Also, the fabricated "Diana Vaughan" stayed out of public view.

4. Closure -- The Grand Finale: Taxil's press conference, where he announced to a shocked audience that he'd been stringing them along the entire time.

Few hoaxers in recent times have taken the trouble to be as audacious in their exploits, and even fewer have taken the final "closure" step. Taxil was mobbed as he left the conference, and had to be escorted out. The sentiment hasn't changed; people dislike being fooled, and could easily rise to violence if there were enough supporting spectators.

Yet, hoaxes still occur. This begs the question, "Why?"
I will be addressing the characteristics of Taxil's (gullible) audience in a separate post - again, pending a further lack of responses
. If nothing else, this thread can be archived and (hopefully) discovered in the future, when it is needed.

Once more; I invite your commentary.



posted on Aug, 13 2007 @ 03:41 PM
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I'll tell you why people do hoaxes...

Ego and artistic satisfaction.

One wants to feel smarter than others (this has already been said)
but more importantly, one wants to get a buzz from
the act of making something fictional appear real.

Orson Welles got the same kicks with War Of The Worlds...

Making the unreal seem real- that is the quest of the hoaxer.

When it is bought by the public- they get an ego payoff.

TPM
HDF



posted on Aug, 13 2007 @ 03:47 PM
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Originally posted by HighDefinitionFilms


I'll tell you why people do hoaxes...

Ego and artistic satisfaction.

One wants to feel smarter than others (this has already been said)
but more importantly, one wants to get a buzz from
the act of making something fictional appear real.

Orson Welles got the same kicks with War Of The Worlds...

Making the unreal seem real- that is the quest of the hoaxer.

When it is bought by the public- they get an ego payoff.


TPM
HDF


I agree but we can lay almost every thing we do at the feet of Ego. The ego of some must feed greatly.

I believe control of other humans plays a large part. Get them to do/say something.

Roper



posted on Aug, 13 2007 @ 04:28 PM
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Originally posted by HighDefinitionFilms

Orson Welles got the same kicks with War Of The Worlds...

Making the unreal seem real- that is the quest of the hoaxer.

When it is bought by the public- they get an ego payoff.

TPM
HDF


The problem with this is that Orson Welles' broadcast wasn't a hoax. It was merely a radio broadcast of his book. Unfortunately, people who tuned in late didn't realize it was simply a radio play, and therefore mistook it as a news broadcast. The ensuing chaos was a result of this innocent mistake.

You see, the problem with hoaxes is that people attempt to view them in one light only. Not every hoax is purely motivated by ego, artistic satisfaction, or control -- although that can play an important part. In recent times, for example, the use of hoaxes to generate income is not uncommon. Taxil's hoax was directed at the Catholic church - an institution he'd gotten in trouble with in the past, due to his anti-catholic writings.

Hoaxes play on public gullibility, with "public" referring to the hoax's target demographic. The antagonism felt towards hoaxers only comes when the audience realizes they've been tricked -- but this antagonism itself is a dangerous trap, because it usually indicates that the public is ripe for yet another hoax. As a result, subsequent hoaxers attempt to be more cunning than the last, and therefore invent new and intricate ways to perpetrate their frauds. In reality, a hoax is as much a responsibility of the "hoaxed" as the "hoaxer"; I will expound on this shortly, if nothing more is said.



posted on Aug, 14 2007 @ 01:07 PM
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As aforementioned, I will briefly discuss (and conclude on) Taxil's hoax - if no further commentary is forthcoming.

I came across an interesting quote earlier. It mentioned that a preconceived notion of "what should be true" can have a dangerous (or detrimental) effect on Scientific research. But in my opinion, the statement doesn't apply to scientific research alone: it also applies to every field of research and/or knowledge that exists on the planet. Our knowledge of the world and the natural Universe (if there is such a phrase) is limited; as such, it is always wisest to keep an open mind when dealing with new and interesting things.

Taxil's audience, as stated before, was the Freemason community and the Catholic church - specifically the latter. As was also mentioned before, this occurred primarily in the time of the Catholic Church's antagonism towards the Freemasons. Taxil set out to mock both groups, and was welcomed by Catholics who had suspected the Freemasons all along. When his fictitious volumes were published, his audience once again lapped up the contents. It was everything they had hoped for; devil worship and incarnate demons -- ironically, the God-sent evidence they needed to condemn Freemasonry. One could almost say that the eager believers were tricked by their beliefs into seeing what they wanted to see. As such, when Taxil announced his fraud, it was taken very badly.

The moral here - for the audience - is that one should be cautious about 'believing too much.' History has proven that when one professes an unshakable belief, another will attempt to shake it. It's like walking onto a battlefield with a bullseye painted on one's uniform.

To illustrate, we move on to another hoax; The Cardiff Giant (takes you to Wikipedia entry). Oddly, this was also perpetrated against Christian Fundamentalists by an atheist; difference is, this one happened in the USA. I present you with two more links for your perusing pleasure;

On Skepdic.com
On Roadside America
Google image results

It's interesting to note that this occurred before Taxil's incident in France -- but also took place in the 19th Century. And if you're getting concerned, I assure you that the next hoax I'll be bringing up was directed at the Scientific Community.

Well, cheers! Looking forward to your thoughts.



posted on Aug, 14 2007 @ 01:14 PM
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I think you're complicating this more than need be. To me, the answer is relatively simple. There are two quick and easy answers to what you are wondering.

1. The hoaxer disbelieves in something, and wants everyone else to disbelieve as well, so, he/she decides to show how said phenomena could be faked. This is actually the theory that seems most obvious to me.

2. He/she is simply looking for attention. In the world we live in today, it's no surprise.

I don't think that hoaxes are concocted by some "brilliant" mind or anything of the sort. Actually, I think most hoaxers tend to be shallow and agenda filled.



posted on Aug, 14 2007 @ 01:41 PM
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Yes, but this is not a matter of "complication". This is about laying out every factor that influences a hoax's inception and reception, so as to avoid them happening any further. Such an obstinate point of view - and please forgive the expression - is precisely what excites a hoaxer into becoming more devious and cunning.

If you looked at the links I posted (concerning the Cardiff Giant), you will find that none of your "simple answers" applies as you have presented them. The Cardiff Giant Hoax was created by an atheist who planned to fool Christian fundamentalists - specifically after he'd gotten into an argument with a fundamentalist minister (see Roadside America link). He invested $2600 in the project, and subsequently earned at least $30,000 from it - remember, we're talking about the late 19th Century here.

It should be understood that hoaxes are not simply motivated by a desire for attention; as I mentioned before, many hoaxes (even today) are done by anonymous individuals. Anonymity presents one with no attention, as I'm sure you are aware. Hoaxes are also not necessarily directed at causing disbelief, but at mocking belief. When you want someone to drop their beliefs, you don't start by fabricating something that they believe in; for instance, if you wanted Christians to stop being Christians, you wouldn't create a convincing "Second Coming" scenario.

I will conclude with one thing: it takes a twisted genius to create a convincing hoax. Certainly you need sheer cunning in order to fool a large number of people; one cannot simply present a dead cat as proof of alien life. The process of turning a dead cat into a convincing proof of alien life; now, that takes some measure of brilliance.




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