26 February, 2013

Short & Sweet (Fox News, Wiccans/pagans, prejudice reduction)

Hey, Readers,

I'm sure by now you have all heard about Fox News' crew, Fox & Friends, saying some ridiculous things about Wiccans and Pagans. It all started because the University of Missouri recognizes Wiccan/pagan holidays on their academic calendar, so that professors cannot give exams on religious holidays, which means students no longer have to choose between studying or attending an exam and practicing their religion. It's not a day off classes, just no exams. This is great! With the large pagan population at UM, it's also completely understandable. But if you try to find information about this online, at least in my experience when I tried it, the majority of articles are neither neutral nor praising UM, nor are they pagan-centered. The majority of articles that came up when I searched it were from Christian-based sites (many had Christian in the name of the website, so I knew immediately, while I had to click on others with non-specific names which revealed their religious status on the page top) arguing that UM is wrong to include these holidays because Wiccans and Pagans are too small a minority, or too much of a "fringe" religion/belief (I don't even think most of them granted us the word "religion") to have our holidays recognized.

What happened was that Fox News did a segment about this, expressing their opinions. A few things they said were said as fact and are not, of course, but they were at least expressing their opinion and the views of the channel. Anyone who knows Fox knows that they have a distinctly conservative bias to begin with. I don't know if they know this, but there are certainly conservative pagans out there, even if most of us are more liberal. So while I and my friends never watch Fox News, there could have very well been some pagans out there watching. I only watched a partial clip of what people are now calling their "attack on Wicca," where the main comments were things such as (and I am paraphrasing but as closely as I can remember),

  • There are pagans and Wiccans out there, I guess, though I don't know if they constitute a significant portion of the population.
  • (in response to the previous) They don't. [laughter]
  • Fully 20% of the holidays at UM are Wiccan/pagan holidays! (Said as though that were absurd.)
  • (Shortly after) Wiccans have 20 holidays!
  • I bet Wiccans can't even name all their holidays. Who can name 20 holidays?
  • But we can't say Merry Christmas? [nervous laughter]
  • I guess if you're going to choose a religion, pick the one with the most holidays, haha.
  • Any religion that has Halloween as their most significant holiday, I just can't take seriously.
  • All the Wiccans I know are about the Earth and for the Earth. That's nice.
  • All the Wiccans I know play D&D and live in basements or are middle-aged women who have been divorced multiple times and work as midwives, hahaha. Also something about loving incense.
  • I don't know a single Wiccan!
And so on and so forth. And this was only in a few-minutes-long partial clip. The things I heard about the rest of what they said go on to things like "I wouldn't want to see a Wiccan when they're angry," and "They all hate Christianity." So as you can gather, the things they said were just silly, not researched (they even confused their own data, going from 20% into 20 holidays total), and clearly biased. I mean, we understand this simply based on the channel that aired it. Anyone who knows Fox probably was not surprised. The closest to accuracy they got was the person who admitted knowing that Wicca had something to do with the Earth and nature, but that was quickly bowled over by the other person's stereotypes.

Still, I did a response video, addressing things such as the fact that they said they don't know any Wiccans, so now they know me; the amount of holidays we have and that we can name all eight; the percentage issue, because they never said how many holidays UM celebrates, which I learned from a Washington Times article is 42, and 8 of 42 holidays is 19%; the fact that UM recognizes more Jewish holidays than Wiccan/pagan ones (11 as opposed to 8, so I guess if you choose the religion with the most holidays, go for Judaism); and so on. I kept this video as short as possible because I know people aren't going to want to watch something long, and I planned for the possibility that Fox might actually see my video. I kept this video respectful, because while some people may not earn our respect, I believe it does not benefit us to call names or get riled up and prove their point.

Now, I have been informed that one of the people from Fox did "apologize" on Saturday morning, but I didn't see it. From what I heard, his comments were brief, insincere, and basically just said something like I didn't mean to offend any Wiccans, Wiccans have never done wrong by me, live and let live. Which I guess is a nice sentiment, but I don't need any "apology" that is purely to be able to say you apologized. I know they don't feel bad or even realize why the things they said were wrong (the others didn't even apologize, only one person, though I think it was the guy who said the most ridiculous things, at least), so I say, don't even say anything! I didn't sign the petition to get an apology because 1) I knew it wouldn't be sincere and 2) that's not what we need. We need understanding, education, prejudice reduction.

And you know what? It's on us, too. Since this started, YouTube has been recommending other videos that people did in response to this situation, and while I watched some by people I usually watch (linked in my video's description), others were by people whose names I recognize but don't watch, or from people I've never heard of. Most of them were 15-35 minutes long, and the thumbnails revealed the person's face or body language in a position showing anger, lack of control, or generally looking like they were "ranting." One thumbnail shows someone with their face contorted, hands thrown up in attack mode. Another shows a sarcastic look, mouth open mid-challenge, and the incredible length of the video is what told me it must be a rant. I say to you, fellow Wiccans and Pagans, how does that help us? Do you think they're going to listen to an angry witch yell at them for half an hour or even fifteen minutes? Do you think name-calling and raised voices make them take us any more seriously? It was with all these things in mind that I did my video. I scripted it to make sure I said what I wanted to but did not ramble, I put in my real thoughts about their negative biases and lack of credibility while still remaining respectful and calm, and I attempted to include a solution. My video invites those at Fox News, or anyone watching it, to ask me or any other Wiccan or Pagan about our religion. It invites people to educate themselves, because education is the key to prejudice reduction.

We deal with things like this all the time, whether from family and friends, or from strangers online or through TV. In my opinion, we should speak our peace and not stand by and let people spread falsehood against us. We should be honest about what was said incorrectly and what was wrong that needs fixed. But we do not need to follow their example. There is no need for name-calling, stereotyping and generalizing, shouting, or other such things. While these things certainly make us feel better (and you can bet I did my fair share of laughing and cursing while explaining this ridiculous occurrence to my mother and boyfriend), that's not how to handle interpersonal relationships. And actually, if I got a chance to speak to the Fox News people in person, I wouldn't be ashamed to admit what I said in private to my mother and boyfriend, because I still didn't call them names or belittle their own beliefs. So the point is that we can deal with these things in a way that remains respectful and respectable while still sticking up for ourselves, and there is no need for these extra-long, rambling videos that YouTube keeps recommending to me. Sometimes it's best to keep it short and sweet.


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