Friday, March 15, 2013

Podcast criticism (1)

In the wake of my (first ever!) podcast, criticism's been relatively minor–a good thing, as far as I'm concerned! I believe I presented a fair and balanced assessment of the Highgate Vampire case overall; but I did make a few slip-ups. Nothing major.

However, one long-standing critic–Vebjørn Hästehufvud–suggests my interview was a total disaster. Before I discuss Hästehufvud's criticisms, I'd like to tell you a little more about him.

Notes on Vebjørn Hästehufvud

Likewise, Vebjørn Hästehufvud is my real name, contrary to what a certain person obsessed with the Highgate Vampire falsely alleges. You will not find me using any name other than my real one.
– Vebjørn Hästehufvud, "HIGHGATE! HIGHGATE! HIGHGATE!", 26 February 2013.
Hästehufvud actually writes under several usernames, including "Vampirologist", "Demonologist", "Gothic", "Dennis Crawford", "The Overseer" (not to be confused with my former username) and "Arminius Vámbéry" (Fig. 1; Fig. 2). Not bad in its own right for privacy's sake–except Hästehufvud also pretends they're other people and uses each one to attack critics of Manchester's account. Also, the latter alias was cribbed from a real person.

Fig. 1. Vebjørn Hästehufvud posting under the alias, the alias "Arminius Vámbéry". Source: blog.
Fig. 2. Clicking on the Gravatar profile Hästehufvud used to comment on blog as "Arminius Vámbéry" unravels the deception.

Hästehufvud was a member of "The Highgate Cemetery Vampire Appreciation Society" Facebook group, but was banned for excessive trolling. Soon afterward, he founded his own Highgate Vampire Facebook group called... "The Highgate Cemetery Vampire Appreciation Society". It was co-admined by "Arminius Vámbéry", i.e. himself.

The group is presently administrated by Hästehufvud, "Veritas Aequitas" and Bishop Seán Manchester. Manchester accepted administrative duties, despite knowing its name was stolen.

Hästehufvud describes himself as an "independent researcher", but is strongly pro-Manchester (whom he calls a "friend") and virulently anti-David Farrant. Under his present alias, Hästehufvud writes blogs targeting critics of Manchester's account. I'll highlight two of them.

The first is the The Inhuman Touch, whose title mocks Farrant's blog, The Human Touch. In this case, I use the term "write" very loosely as it's primarily composed of random press clippings supposedly "exposing" Farrant. The entries feature no accompanying text. The scans are reproduced sans citation, context and often incomplete. They were also copied from the Vampire Research Society's "archive".

His other notable blog, Hoggwatch–complete with a picture "found on" my "Microsoft messenger profile" (even though I've never corresponded with with Hästehufvud by email)–is supposedly intended to
monitor this troll's libellous and malicious allegations about Bishop Seán Manchester which appear every day of the year across the internet, invading other people's blogs and forums when he is not posting abuse on his own. Evidence will also be amassed to assist with any future action at law when his location is finally pinpointed to proceed with a prosecution. Any help that could be given in assisting with the locating of Hogg would be greatly appreciated.
Why Hästehufvud needs a blog to "monitor" me is not explained. Hästehufvud's allegation that I post "libellous and malicious allegations about Bishop Seán Manchester" on a daily basis is undermined by the fact that it presently features a single blog entry (30 November 2012) ripe with selective quotes, misrepresentation and deliberate lack of citations, lest the reader appreciate context and double-checking sources. I may address its content at a later time.

In the meantime, I will clarify that the only legal action Manchester has taken against me–even though I've written about the case since 2006–was a string of DMCA takedown notices hypocritically issued against my WordPress blog. Hypocritical in the sense that Manchester frequently violates copyrights, himself.

Hästehufvud vigilantism implies he is acting acting on Manchester's behalf, yet Manchester makes clear that "Nobody is authorised to speak in my stead." Indeed, Manchester has not publicly revealed any desire to pursue an "action at law" against me. Therefore, it's safe to say Hästehufvud has two angles with Hoggwatch: the first is to discredit me through misrepresentation. The second, is to obtain and post personal information about me online. The "location" mention gives the game away.

Hästehufvud has a history of stalking Manchester's critics in this manner, as demonstrated by his blog, The Strange Case of Della Farrant, written under his "Arminius Vámbéry" nom de plume. However, the former approach bears greater relevance to his criticism of my podcast.

Hästehufvud's Criticism of My Podcast

On 5 March 2013, Hästehufvud posted two extensive criticisms of my podcast on Angie Watkins' Facebook group, "HIGHGATE! HIGHGATE! HIGHGATE!". The first will be dealt with in this blog entry. It opens with "On his first and so far only audio interview, Hogg makes no serious criticism of David Farrant and spends his entire time (rather like Farrant himself) attacking Seán Manchester."

Hästehufvud must've overlooked the episode's topic: the Highgate Vampire. Farrant doesn't believe in its existence, despite contemporaneously giving that impression to the press. Farrant's account is also decidedly less-detailed. Manchester, however, promotes it as a real entity. He literally wrote the book on the subject: The Highgate Vampire (1985; rev. edn. 1991). If the interview was skewed in Manchester's direction, that'd be the main reason.

As to "attacking Seán Manchester", Hästehufvud did not clarify what attacks I made–therefore, I can not address the "attacks" directly. His use of the emotive term suggests I vilified him in someway or attacked him, personally. I didn't.

Until he elaborates further, I conclude Hästehufvud confused "attacks" with criticism. I was critical of Manchester's account and credibility–but gave a context for my stance with specific examples. It's a perfectly reasonable approach and entirely consistent with my writings on the case: I critique it.

Let's take the Draculesque elements in Manchester's account and his proclivity for plagiarism as two examples I honed in on. Making references to these traits isn't an "attack": they're criticisms validated by evidence and offered in conjunction with what I was being asked about Manchester's account and credibility. Indeed, at one point, I was asked if Manchester was a "liar". The fact is, Manchester's account is Draculesque and he does plagiarise. It's not an "attack" to discuss facts in context.

Hästehufvud added, "The mistakes Hogg makes are legion. I would need something the size of a small book to address them all." Thing is, Hästehufvud does have "something the size of a small book": his blog, Hoggwatch. I invite Hästehufvud to catalogue the "legion" of mistakes, because his subsequent examples doesn't do the allegation justice.

"For example," Hästehufvud continues, "he talks about the derisory cartoons that feature him without mentioning the somewhat important fact that they are published and distributed by David Farrant and that Seán Manchester is personally and abusively attacked in these self-published booklets under the "BPOS" imprint more than anyone else." This omission wasn't a "mistake". 

I was asked about a character called "Cousin Hoggy" who appears in satirical comic strip, The Adventures of Bishop Bonkers. A mistake implies I slipped-up. I didn't. Instead, it simply didn't occur to me to mention. I was focused on discussing the character on its own terms. The podcast wasn't about a comic book. That said, should I have mentioned that the comic was published through Farrant's imprint, the British Psychic and Occult Society? Maybe. But did I commit a cardinal sin by not mentioning it? No.

There's nothing sinister involved. No cover-up. Hästehufvud may not have known–or deliberately avoided mentioning–that I've previously discussed the comic and its origins on this very blog: "Farrant went onto publish the a 12 page collation of the comics that same year [2007], through his vanity press, British Psychic and Occult Society under the false pretext of 'free speech'. I say 'false pretext' because free speech is not something he adheres to."

"Such details are clearly considered irrelevant by Hogg," Hästehufvud rambled on, "especially as the context of him mentioning the derogatory cartoons occurs during one of his tirades against Seán Manchester." Nonsense. I was asked about a character in the comic; I answered. Hästehufvud suggests that the "cartoons" only targeted Manchester. They don't. Indeed, "Cousin Hoggy" is portrayed as Manchester's sockpuppet; his porcine "Australian cousin" who lives in a billabong. This character is later butchered, eaten by Manchester and Farrant, then gets sent to Hell. If Manchester is treated in a "derogatory" fashion, spare a thought for poor "Cousin Hoggy"!

"Hogg also claims that both Seán Manchester and David Farrant stood as local councillors (being very careful not to identify what they stood for)." Not true. I didn't deliberately avoid mentioning their respective platforms–I offhandedly mentioned their respective standings while discussing the divisiveness of the case; that it's like a "two-party political system" between Manchester and Farrant. Once again, context is important. It wasn't an episode of Meet the Press.

However, if you're curious about what Hästehufvud thinks I should've elaborated on, here goes.

Farrant ran for election under the Wicca Workers Party banner (FoBSM version; Farrant version) in 1978.  As Farrant notes, "One of the main policies in the manifesto was to make Wicca the official state religion.  To this end I called for more power to the Monarchy and a ban on communism, which everyone knows is opposed to any belief in God or religious worship." The FoBSM/Manchester version holds that Farrant's party had fascistic ties.

Manchester, however, stood as an independent under the pseudonym "George Byron". His official aim was to deter development of the South East corner of the Great Northern Cemetery, New Southgate, under the pretext of "conservation" in 1981.

However, according to Manchester's later account, his actual aim was to afford himself more time to locate a suspected "undead lair", "Otherwise, all manner of dilettante would descend upon the place, which would only suspend the young vampire's wanderings and make it dormant until it stirred with some future generation."1 The "young vampire" was (spoiler alert!) "Lusia".

Hästehufvud didn't just take issue with offhand mentions, though. He also tried demonstrating the "paucity" of my "knowledge" about the Highgate Vampire case in my "interview with Trystan Swale (another friend of Farrant)". This–I shit you not–is the actual example he provided:
He claims that Seán Manchester "played sax" at The Woodman, Highgate, in a group called "The Southlanders." Wrong. He played saxophone in a modern jazz group at The Woodman on just a couple of occasions. "The Southlanders" were a completely different bunch of musicians (a showband, in fact) with whom he played regularly at dance hall venues.
Firstly, I'll confess I'm not exactly sure what Swale's relationship with Farrant is, but "friend" doesn't automatically suggest a conspiratorial alliance or lock-step thought process. Swale is not a vocal supporter of Farrant's claims. But if friendship implies collaboration and conspiracy, then Manchester's "friend", Hästehufvud, has a lot to answer for. 

Second, how does Hästehufvud know how many times Manchester played at The Woodman? How does he know that the band Manchester played with at The Woodman wasn't The Southlanders? He didn't say. Then again, neither did Manchester:
It was whilst blowing a long jazz solo on the tenor saxophone in The Woodman, Highgate, where his wife worked some evenings as a barmaid, that Farrant first caught sight of me in 1968. I would remain oblivious to him, however, until the beginning of the next decade. Who knows what went through his mind as he listened to my improvised harmonic structures, accompanied by a perspiring rhythm section, in that dimly lit venue for modern jazz aficionados?2
Until Manchester speaks up, it'll remain unconfirmed. In the meantime, I'll clarify The Southlanders issue. Swale and I briefly discussed the first time Manchester and Farrant met. To elaborate further, Farrant claims Manchester approached him in the late 1960s; Manchester claims he was "oblivious" to Farrant's presence there was while he was blowing his "improvised harmonic structures". However, both agree their paths first crossed at The Woodman while Manchester played gigs there. I said the name of Manchester's band was The Southlanders. That's it. That's Hästehufvud's evidence for saying I barely know anything Highgate Vampire case. You couldn't make this stuff up, folks.

So, what was my Southlanders reference? A picture Manchester captioned "The Southlanders showband for whom I played tenor saxophone" ("The Sixties", Metaphysical Meanderings). Same decade, same sax type. Bit of a leap, sure, but not a huge one. If I'm wrong, no biggie.

Hästehufvud then sashayed from pathetic trivialities to swipes at my geographic location: "If internet users are going to rely on the retelling of history through the voice of somebody on the other side of the world like Anthony Hogg who has never set eyes on England and has never met one person involved in the Highgate Vampire case, then heaven help us all."

Yes, I've never "set eyes on England". I've never met anyone involved in the Highgate Vampire case. Know how I make up for that? Corresponding with people involved and reading what they've written about the case. I also consult various sources (that's a partial list), then compare and contrast what's being said. Weight it up. Seek verification. If needed, I'll also make further queries. It's called "research" and "investigation". Hästehufvud doesn't understand these concepts, as he's content regurgitating pro-Manchester material under various aliases.

Hästehufvud concludes the first round of his criticism with "Anthony Hogg is a complete waste of time. He is someone trying to make a name for himself off the back of public figures already known in their own right."Am I, though?

When I began writing about the case, I didn't seek fame. When I started my own forum on 22 September 2006 I wrote posts as "The Overseer". On the very same day, my forum title was stolen and my username copied. That was the first obvious sign this wasn't gonna be an easy patch of grass to maintain.

Nonetheless, I carried my username and title over to this blog. I viewed the case as a hobby; something to banter about, seek info on, that kind of thing. At that point, interaction was sparse. I'd barely get comments on this blog–I thought I was pissing in the wind. But that didn't matter, because I wrote about this thing out of personal interest. Little did I know how many other people were reading it, too. That became apparent when I installed the "Total Pageviews" gadget. I'd gotten thousands of hits. Even so, I didn't want to relinquish my privacy. I'd still likely be using an alias–if my real name hadn't been publicly revealed under malicious circumstances.

They'd obviously tried–like Hästehufvud and his stalker blog–to deter my investigations into the case by violating something I hold dear: my privacy. It's the Highgate Vampire case version of Scientology's "Fair Game" policy. In this case, you get blogs like Friends of David Farrant and Friends of Bishop Seán Manchester. I'm featured on both. If I'm "trying to make a name" for myself "off the back of public figures already known in their own right", then they ripped me from the bowels of obscurity and cast me into the spotlight. Thanks, guys!

This free publicity is a double-edged sword. On one hand, I'll garner negative attention. Hoggwatch was created to make sure I do. On the other, it means my name gets "out there" and people gain a greater familiarity with my work. Kai Roberts didn't consult some random when he asked me to look over the Highgate Vampire chapter in his 2011 book, Grave Concerns: The Follies and Folklore of Robin Hood's Final Resting Place. Trystan Swale didn't pick me out of a hat for a podcast. If I wanted "fame" for anything, it's the merit of my work. To that effect, what I do is successful.

In the meantime, stay tuned for the next thrilling instalment of "Podcast Criticism"!

1. Sean Manchester, The Highgate Vampire: The Infernal World of the Undead Unearthed at London's Famous Highgate Cemetery and Environs (London: British Occult Society, 1985), 121–130.
2. Seán Manchester, The Vampire Hunter's Handbook: A Concise Vampirological Guide (London: Gothic Press, 1997), 10–11.

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