Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Taking offense

This week, Fox News managed to annoy a lot of pagans and Wiccans. I only just listened to the clip this morning, and yes, it was rather offensive. There were three people involved in the main discussion, the instigator being Tucker Carlson (I haven't found the names of the other two, a man and a woman). Tammy Bruce was also a guest who made commentary during the three minute clip as well.

I don't normally get my panties in a bunch over people doing this kind of thing in the media. After all, the whole point of a talk show of this kind is to get viewers. Well, Carlson definitely won that round: every Wiccan and most pagans around the country have now watched the clip.  I don't like to feed these types of media fear-mongers and hate-mongers, because it just encourages them.

This particular piece was pretty nasty, though. I encourage you to watch the clip for yourself, regardless of your religious choices. Replace "pagan" with "Jewish" in your mind, and "Wiccan" with "Muslim" and see how the piece sits with you. I would say that, had this particular broadcast been about Jews and Muslims, they would have been thrown off the air by the public at large because of the offensiveness involved. The fact of the matter is, though, that there aren't enough pagans around to get on Fox's case about these people.

The parts that bothered me the most were the misrepresentations and outright lies. You can read some of the details at NewsHounds if you like. They've done a fairly good job of fact checking for us, and I feel no need to do their work all over again.

Now, I can ignore the smarmy and self-righteous tones and small jabs. These are the types of obnoxious comments that are made by pretty much everyone who puts down another religion or belief. I've heard plenty of pagans say as much or worse about Christians. It's their show, it's blatantly Christian, so it is to be expected. It's not a show for Wiccans, after all.

At 00:24 in the video, Carlson says that there are so many pagans and Wiccans at the University of Missouri that "they need to have all of their holidays recognized now." This is one of those misdirections that news people sometimes make. It's sort of close to the truth, without actually being true. Unless you're in the know, however, it tends to go past rather easily.

The bottom line is that Wicca, like all religions, is recognized and has the freedom to enjoy its holidays. It has nothing to do with how many Wiccans might be at a school or not. It's just a fact. Wicca is a "legal" religion (and I do hate saying that; it shouldn't have to be said) and enjoys the same protections as all other religions in America.

The other male newscaster than makes a comment that the downside to this recognition of Wiccan holidays is that there are so many of them. He goes on to mention "20% of all school holidays as described by the University of Missouri are Wiccan holidays." (00:36 in the video)

Again, this is misdirection. It's not an outright lie, per se, but a way of twisting the truth to make things look negative. The percentage of holidays that are Wiccan or pagan really doesn't matter. It's likely that 80% of the school holidays are Christian, but that isn't mentioned. It would be inconvenient. The newscaster also isn't making it clear that these holidays aren't "school holidays" in that they aren't days off. The teletype below the speakers makes it worse, with quotes such as, "Testy situation? MU: No exams on Wiccan and pagan holidays." As NewsHound mentions in their article, that's just not true.

The eight major holy days of Wicca are mentioned in the school's calendar (as they are mentioned in many calendars throughout the country, both school and otherwise), and the full moons are also mentioned as days of worship. We don't hear about the 52 weekly church days of worship alongside the other major holidays of Christianity or Judaism, of course, as that would take away from their message. Wiccan holidays are printed in the university calendar, but they aren't a guarantee of time off an exam, anymore than Lent or Purim are guarantees of time off an exam.

Carlson suggests at 01:06 that, as his guest mentions, ". . . this probably wouldn't happen in any other country." Let's see... Canada, England, Ireland, Scotland, Australia, and several of the countries in Europe all list various pagan holidays in their calendars. To be quite frank, America was kind of late into the game on this one...

I won't even grace Tammy Bruce's commentary about Wiccans "being used by the establishment" (01:34) with commentary. The female newscaster, at 01:47 mentions the whole "Merry Christmas" debacle, commenting that you "can't say Merry Christmas" because it's considered pushing your religion on someone. Again, erroneous. I said Merry Christmas to many people over the Christmas/Yule/Hannukah holidays, both Christian and otherwise. No one got their panties in a bunch. No one I know was involved in a situation where that happened. As a pagan myself, if someone got annoyed at me for wishing them a Merry Christmas, I'd probably call them a grinch.

Carlson then comes in with a snide remark, saying, "You get 20 holidays if you're Wiccan. I guess that's the one to go with . . . " (01:52) He lost that percentage mark that was used earlier. At this point I think he's simply being ignorant and idiotic, not offensive. He really just doesn't know.

It devolves from there. They seem to stop any attempt at being reporters and just get into insulting comments. It's sad, rude, and nasty.

I'm still not out there boycotting it. In fact, it is my strong opinion that we should do the opposite. Let's show Mr. Carlson that we do care (and by "we" I mean everyone who is religious and dedicated to the truth). Let's all watch the show, and insist repeatedly that the truth be told. Let's use Mr. Carlson's ignorance as a teaching tool for the world.

For this reason, I urge everyone to watch the above. Don't focus on the petty insults. Those are there in any single-religion show. It's sad, but pagans do it as much as Christians do. Focus on the facts. There's a funny thing about facts... they don't change. Don't look at statistics, because they can be manipulated. Keep your eye on the bare, plain facts, and when you see someone like Mr. Carlson speak wrongly, assume that the problem lies in lack of knowledge and not malice.

As the old adage goes, "Never attribute to malice that which can adequately be explained by stupidity." Robert J. Hanlon

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