HEMA in the time of the coronavirus, and other weirdness

masked knight facemask coronavirus

We live in strange times.

The world at large has changed rather substantially since the beginning of this year, in many ways driven into a state of near-hysteria by a tremendous amount of fear mongering. The HEMA community is not immune to this, either.

This article isn’t about wearing masks.

This isn’t really an article at all.

Rather this is more of a news update for the site, the first it has had. We didn’t really expect things to go this way.

Many have reached out to us and said they appreciate what we are doing and want to contribute. We’re thankful for this and glad that others understand what we are trying to do. We believed that many people would.

A minority of individuals within the HEMA community with loud voices are upset that we made this website. There are many reasons for why and we’ll not get into them all here, as we’ve elaborated our thoughts on them elsewhere in response to some of the more outlandish things we’ve seen posted in numerous groups and in numerous places.

Firstly we want to say this website was not created for them. It was neither created with their input, their permission nor with any desire to impress them. It was intentionally made outside of their echo chamber, because this website was not made for them to be happy with, or even particularly like.

We’re grateful if any of them happen to like it, but it was not made for them. They were not even considered as an audience for this website.

This website was made to provide information about Historical European martial arts for newcomers and the general public, and direct them to places they can find more information, such as books and videos, and to clubs they can join.

That’s it. That’s the sole “grand scheme” of this website.

We decided early on we wanted to make an informational site for newcomers after gaining this website domain. This is what we thought would be the best and most responsible usage of it. Not making a new organization or using it for a school, but instead to use it as an information site for people interested in learning about HEMA.

It has affiliate links because if we’re successful the site needs to be self-sufficient. The costs of operating need to be covered. This is the reality of publishing. If you think affiliate links for a small sporting niche can be a path to great riches then you really don’t know much about digital publishing. This site was built out of passion, not for financial gain. But it has to gain something or it won’t be around very long.

We’re trying to be responsible with this site because we know the domain name is the exact keyword phrase for this art, sport and hobby. We’re trying to be inclusive of the international community, not just specific regions, and do a good job of archiving the history of how HEMA became revived as we feel it’s important to make this information accessible for HEMA to gain wider acknowledgement. It is still often confused for roleplaying and our site is designed to make its rich history more visible to newcomers and the general public.

We’ve been striving for editorial neutrality but it’s becoming rather difficult when people decide if they cannot control the site with bullying tactics they will resort to trying to hack us.

We knew some individuals would seek to bully and harass to pressure us to remove info about certain individuals from the site who are an essential part of the history of HEMA, which is why anonymity was chosen. There has developed a habit of gate keeping by stalking newcomers’ social media history and then kicking them out of the Facebook groups for essentially being more conservative than the admins are, even if those individuals never made any political posts in the groups. We know this also happens to others, even veterans of the community. Some individuals claim they do it to “protect” minorities but they do it to minorities, too.

This behavior has gotten worse due to political events taking place in the USA. We did not create this culture and we’re not going to be able to address it in those groups, which is why we’ve tried to stay out of it by creating an alternate place for newcomers. We cannot control others as they turn their sporting organizations into political activist organizations. We don’t have that power. We only have power over our own selves.

So far we haven’t banned anyone for this harassment, for the false accusations, for just outright bloody lying about things like stolen photos and whatnot. Every stock photo you see on this website has been licensed, including the fancy pants masked man one you saw when you clicked on this article. Product photos, including book covers, are used per terms of service agreements with affiliates like Amazon but honestly they could have just fallen under fair use limitations on copyrighted works for purposes of critique and review. A handful of photos here have been included that fall under that category. There is exactly one infographic on this entire website so far, and that one is wholly original although it was inspired by a similar, much less visually engaging chart created with basic lines. We cited this chart in our infographic so to say it was “stolen” is a pretty ridiculous accusation.

For people who spend a lot of time publishing some of them don’t seem to understand international copyright law very well. Just as they were able to write their own books and articles by citing other people’s work we can do the same exact thing by citing theirs. There does not need to be “original research” because this is not an academic website. There only needs to be original expressions of the ideas so discussed.

We’ve been careful in developing this site to not leave much that could reveal author identities, which is largely why licensed stock photos have been used to start with. Micro-analysis and weird theories about things like the order of links and citations is a waste of time. Much of this stuff is arbitrary.

In addition some do not seem to understand names of businesses and address which are public knowledge are not personal data, so threats of lawsuits for their inclusion is not only ridiculous but also senseless. Being listed in our club finder service does not make you “associated” with our site anymore than you are associated with Google when its bots scrape your addresses from your Facebook pages and websites. You have no reasonable expectation of privacy for information in a public space. As we doubt any of you have ever thought to sue Google we have a strong suspicion many of you did not think things through very well here, and instead allowed yourself to be led by the nose into hysteria by a handful of people who have their own agenda in riling you up against this website.

Has it not possibly dawned on you that maybe they just want to gate keep and have convinced you gate keeping is so necessary for reasons that are not entirely truthful?

Turning down free publicity is probably not serving your own self interest. Nevertheless, when people asked us to remove their clubs we did so even though we really do not have to. If you’re this hostile to our site perhaps newcomers shouldn’t be attending them anyway.

Finding themselves unable to easily figure out the identities, some of these individuals have turned to less than honorable means in what we can only assume is desperation. Well, illegal means, really. We’ve had people submit clubs for inclusion that have their site links listed as IP sniffers and key loggers, and people making other kinds of disingenuous statements. Very knightly conduct indeed. We had an attempt at breaching the site security and buffed up this security to where it has became less accessible for some, but honestly the effort is pointless. There is nothing in the backend of this website nor the forums that will reveal the identities of anyone behind this site. The site is frequently backed up and any defacement of it will just result in a quick restore, as you’ll never gain access to the domain itself. Breaching the security of this website will not achieve your goal. This isn’t a taunt, we’re just putting it out there.

Your goals are unachievable to start with. There is a phrase thrown around, often out of context, about people not having earned “seats at the table”. We figure this is in reference to a popular post Richard Marsden made a few years ago. As we recall he meant in context of anyone who contributes something useful and productive to the community gets a “seat” at the “table”, but the table is a lie. There is no metaphorical table and that is not how the world actually works. Power is power and it can be obtained in any number of ways. It is not always merit based. It typically is not. That’s kind of the wider problem we’re having in society right now, isn’t it? That power is not always merit based.

We believe that telling people there is a metaphorical table they can earn a seat at and everyone has to earn the seat just gives people the wrong idea and has unintentionally lead to this sort of feeling of personal ownership some people have over things that belong to everyone, like culture, history and ideas.

Here is the truth of how the world works:

Culture belongs to everybody. Everybody gets to choose their culture.

The specific expression of an idea may be owned, but ideas themselves are not. Others can express those ideas in other ways.

Trying to control an entire international community of people with fear when anyone can just make a new website or incorporate their own group is childish and short-sighted. Eventually people will realize anything you could do for them they can just do for themselves.

Hobbies have long been a place for those of different walks of life and outlooks to be able to find commonality, sports in particular have a long history of this. Events such as the Olympics were literally created to help bridge damaged relationships between countries and allow for cultural exchange between sworn enemies, using sports as common ground. Trying to use sports as a means of exclusion under the false pretense of inclusion is contradictory.

Some people are upset because they believe no one should be able to make a site like this without their permission and that their stamp of approval is required. Having realized their approval is not required they are very threatened and scared because seemingly much of their identity has been built into control over things within HEMA.

It was not and is not our goal to threaten anyone, and we will not take responsibility for their wild imaginations. If anything we find it disappointing that an organization that claimed to be founded on the principle of freedom of study does not believe in freedom of having a different point of view and has basically become everything it claimed to not be.

This site will persist. It will continue to publish material to make information more accessible and bring new people into HEMA. Even should the privacy of the authors be breached it will continue to do these things, and there is nothing that anyone can do to stop this. Just as we made this website we can make our own clubs and our own events. Maybe we already have. After all, anyone can.

Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.”

Steve Jobs

Your efforts would be better spent improving your own clubs, your own groups and your own websites rather than obsessing about this one. This would be a more constructive usage of your time than sitting around in supposedly secret groups all day angry about something you have no control over.

Fortunately we believe in what we are doing here so no group will be excluded from mention in our site in retaliation for this bad conduct we experienced. This statement should not be seen of a change in editorial policy. We’re still practicing a neutral editorial policy on the site.

We’ve been having to focus too much on this sort of thing the past couple of days. We’re going to stop now and focus on improving this website.

We leave you with the following music video. We feel it is very relevant.

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