Fox vs. Wicked Witches? {Updated}

Via on Feb 22, 2013

Does It Matter Whether Fox News Apologizes to Pagans & Wiccans for Insensitive Remarks? ~ Jayleigh Lewis

“…the bad side of Wiccanism is that it’s obviously full of witchcraft…”

~ Fox News reporter Tucker Carlson, February 17, 2013

Religious intolerance is alive and well at Fox News. I don’t actually watch the channel (or any TV, on a regular basis), but I’m well aware of its reputation for a certain type of conservative-slanted prejudice. So, I’m not surprised by this:

Missouri University is breaking ground by officially recognizing pagan and Wiccan holidays on par with holidays of other religions. It is not advocating that students be given the days off, just offering a guide to faculty, staff and students so they can be sensitive to the needs of those who choose to celebrate these holidays.

As a practitioner of earth-based spirituality and an advisor to pagan college students, I much appreciate any gesture that acknowledges that there is an entire cycle of seasonal changes which is intimately tied to our spirituality. The academic calendar runs from September to May, and thus contains the entire “dark” half of the year—the time between the fall equinox and the spring equinox (both pagan holidays), when the days are short and the nights are long in the Northern Hemisphere. This is the time when the earth is quiet, when introspection naturally increases and activity naturally decreases.

College life, however, continues on at its own rapid pace. A friend and fellow earth-based practitioner once said that it would be nice to not have any academic work between the end of October and the winter solstice, the darkest of the dark time, the time of deepest rest, when the old year’s agricultural and energetic cycle has ended and the new cycle has not yet begun. I have often wished that I could officially acknowledge pagan holy days, such as Samhain (which is a day of deep reflection and connection with ancestors), by taking the day off from my responsibilities.

Missouri University doesn’t go so far as that, but its decision (which was actually made months ago, prior to the start of this academic year) is truly good news. It’s too bad that Fox News had to sensationalize it.

Besides the disrespectful, snarky attitudes of the news anchors, and the misinformation—it’s not “Wiccanism,” it’s “Wicca,” and there are only eight annual holidays, not 20—there’s a larger problem with the way this was and is being handled.

When we sensationalize a group of people, we distance ourselves from them and their humanity.

We tell ourselves that “they” are “over there,” and we are “over here,” and therefore we don’t have to worry about whatever the issue is. We might throw a few jokes or conciliatory words in the direction of the “other” (a good sign that the issue is making us nervous), which are like insincere slaps on the back, “hey, we’re all friends here” gestures—except that these are actually power plays. (Tucker Carlson, the news anchor quoted above, put an apology out on his Twitter account after this news story began drawing fire. It reads: “To Wiccans and pagans: Sorry for my pointlessly nasty remarks. Your holidays still confuse me, but you seem like nice people.”)

Tammy Bruce, the ultra-conservative radio show host, actually mentioned the larger issue, when she said “pagans and Wiccans [are] being used for a political agenda to downgrade what’s important to a majority of Americans.” She went on to say that pagans and Wiccans should be angry about this.

Pagans and Wiccans are angry about being used for a political agenda—that of perpetuating a tradition of “othering,” of solidifying a narrow-minded idea of how someone who wants to be taken seriously should and shouldn’t look, think and act.

There are petitions online demanding that Fox News apologize to pagans and Wiccans. (I signed one myself.) There’s a Facebook page for the cause. Does this help? Yes and no.

Pagans and Wiccans are angry right now because this hit a nerve. We are easily stereotyped because of our long history of being stereotyped (to this day, calling someone a witch is generally considered an insult). We’re feeling it. We’re moved to respond.

But are we the only group to be marginalized and stereotyped? Not by a long shot.

Does that mean it’s ultimately not important whether or not Fox News apologizes? After all, Fox News will still be Fox News, and in the bigger scheme of things, there are more complex and troublesome problems in the world.

True. And yet there’s still this “othering” thing going on. As diversity along many spectrums becomes more present and recognized, issues like these are going to keep coming up. Missouri University offers one solution to the problem of what to do when those of (sometimes vastly) different backgrounds, cultures and religions meet in a common environment that must keep to some common standard. It is advocating sensitivity without radical accommodation. Fox News offered another solution—alleviate fear of having to change or accommodate by making the other seem silly.

I think most reading this would align more with Missouri University than with Fox News. But are these the only two solutions? Are there ever situations where radical accommodation is called for? Let’s keep talking about it…

Update:

Tucker Carlson apologized on air on February 23, saying he never intended to offend and wants to “live and let live”:

 

 

jayleighJayleigh Lewis is a writer who will one day write a book. She currently works as a spiritual advisor to college students as well as a freelance editor. She has a dream that one day humans will remember the integral role ceremony has in our lives and will learn to create sacred spaces within which intention may manifest. Learn more about her dream and read more of her words on her blog.

Like Enlightened Society on Facebook.

 

Ed: Brianna Bemel

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13 Responses to “Fox vs. Wicked Witches? {Updated}”

  1. Mark Ledbetter says:

    Just watched the video here.

    I don't know any of these guys as I live outside the country and never see Fox news. But from where I stand, Fox seems to get "othered" a whole lot more than Wiccans or Pagans do. If I moved in different circles, I'm sure it would be otherwise but normally Fox is either a joke (just say Fox News and everyone laughs) or a demon.

    These fox guys are not Wiccans or Pagans. But they are talking about Wiccans and Pagans in a very nice way considering they are philosophically coming from a much different place.

    I agree completely with the importance of not "othering" (nice word by the way!). But "angering" is just about as bad, I think. In fact, I'd say that othering and angering are synonyms. I don't understand why Wiccans and Pagans should get angry here. If you choose a minority spiritual framework to be a part of, these things will happen. And here, it is happening very nicely.

    Nice little intro to W and P, by the way. See? I learned something. And Fox gave you this little opening to teach.

    • Jayleigh says:

      I meant to reply sooner, but had technical difficulties and then couldn't get back to it right away.

      Thank you for noting that Fox News itself does tend to get "othered" a lot. I agree that we have to be careful. I think it's important to correct misinformation (and it is upsetting to me when a major news channel repeatedly puts out misinformation–this is not the first time!) but also to do so in a way that does not perpetuate a stereotype of the "bad guy." To do so fair-mindedly.

    • Jayleigh says:

      I think the anger in this situation was coming from the perception that this was not simply misinformation–this was misinformation delivered in a sensationalized and patronizing way. I have to disagree with you that they were talking about Wiccans and pagans in a nice way. It wasn't full-on hate speech, but it fell far short of full respect.

      I see religious identity on par with other forms of identity, such as ethnic, racial, gender, sexual and cultural identity. True, there is a bit more choice in religious identity (and far fewer outward signs of that identity, such that one can usually choose to hide one's religious identity if one wants), but not so much that it is completely open. I could not suddenly become a Christian or a Jew just by wanting to–it wouldn't fit with who I am as a person right now. Therefore, I don't think it's fair to say that anger at religious identity being belittled is unwarranted. The belittling feels like an attack on one's core self. I believe all identities (minority or not), including religious, need to be approached with the same fair-minded respect.

    • wolvenwood13 says:

      Mark, let me put it this way: I live in the South, the Bible Belt where if you aren't a Southern Baptist Christian, you are highly suspicious. My husband and I keep our religjion very quiet but someone found out we were Pagans and spread the word throughout the small town we live in and the result was that a couple tried to burn our house down with us in it. This is murder and it isn't unusual for this to happen to Pagans, wtiches and yes, even gays/lesbians as well. We aren't safe to practice our religion or even tell anyone what it is. I don't know one Pagan in the South who hasn't had trouble simply over their religion. I can assure you that Fox News doesn't get death threats over religion. I don't know one single Pagan who thought Fox portrayal of witches was nice; it was filled with ridicule, misinformation and demonizing. They called us a fringe religion with less members than Rasatafarians, who number about 4,000 I'm told, while Pagans number about 4 million here in the U.S. We don't have 20 holidays, we have 8 and they're holy days called sabbats – some of which , by the way were stolen from us such as Christmas, Easter and Halloween, which were originally Yule, Oestre, and Samhain. This whole Fox episode was highly inflammatory and the vast majority of us were extremely offended; especially when said hate speech and ridicule results in people being harmed, as has so often happened throughout history. As well, we have a growing number of Christian Dominionists/extremists who'd love to see us all killed, expelled or at the very least forccefully converted. I ask you, how do you think the Christians would have reacted if their religion had been ridiculed, lied about and made to look ridiculous and evil?

  2. Ryan says:

    Ah yes, more religious love and peace. It always warms my heart to see a mention of any religion on any news channel, because there's always so much love and peaceful contentment behind the story.

    • john says:

      wow, why not cast a spell on them…. or STFU

      • Amanda says:

        John, casting a spell on anyone is not as easy as people think it is. First the caster has to make sure that the spell does not violate the free will of someone else, then they have to sure that their intentionss are to actually “cause no harm”. A Pagan or Wicca will always keep in mind that what ever is sent out is returned times three and that everything must remain in balance.
        I live in the South, deep in the Bible Belt, and when I came out of the broom closet, it wasn’t attacks from strangers I had to worry about, but from my own family. Strangers attacking me came later. On any given day I will have between 10-30 people “pleading the blood of Christ” over me and my children in the hopes of driving away the “demons”. And it’s not only that, but my grandparents are having me investigated to make sure I will be safe.around my kids because of my religion, and I had to request a new social worker three times before I found one willing to at least look at ME.and NOT my religion.
        Could I change the way I am being treated with the casting of one apell? Sure. But why risk harm to myself or my children when I can be proactive about what I believe and DO something to make not only MY life easier, but the lives of those who walk the same road I do?
        ~Gaia is my Mother

  3. Michelle Marchildon says:

    I completely agree that we shouldn't have any work from the end of October to the winter solstice so we may rest according to our natural cycles. It seems like my teenagers are already honoring this, and actually, they are doing a pretty good job of honoring the dark cycle for the entire school year. They only really seem to come to life in June.

  4. Adriana says:

    Besides stupidity, prejudice (aka Fox News) is usually a result of total ignorance and deep fear of “the others”! Prejudice is their name, misinforming is their game!

  5. gwion Bach says:

    Beltaine, May 1st in the wiccan and many pagan traditions(not to all be all lumped together. There is a saying, all wiccans are pagans, but not all pagans are wiccans!Take that foryour research foxnews!)Starts the LIGHT half of the year, both do not occur in the DARK half of the year.

    • Jayleigh says:

      Yes, that is absolutely true. I apologize if my wording was confusing–I meant to say that the entire dark half of the year is *contained within* the time frame of September to May, not that it is *identical to* that time frame (because otherwise we'd have a pretty short light half of the year!). Thanks for reading!

  6. Robert Masengale says:

    Incidentally, the entire issue has brought a positive light to us, and the Wiccans and Pagans that responded to those posts, for the most part, were extremely respectful and peaceful considering. I think that ultimately if there was some back-ended plot to push people against the faith, then they have inadvertently done the exact opposite and more and more people and organizations will look at Wicca and all forms of Paganism in a more open light now.

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