Monday, February 18, 2013

That thing that happened with Fox.

This has been a popular topic for discussion on some pagan blogs and forums today, so you might already be familiar with this story, but a quick recap for those who aren't...

The University of Missouri has added the eight holidays of the Wheel of the Year to their guide on religions. It is suggested that faculty use the guide to plan classes around - classes are still scheduled for these days, but it is advised to think about planning exams on non-holidays, and other such thing. The guide is also just for informational use by students, as well.  It talks a bit about dietary restrictions, things to expect, what the holiday is about, and similar information. Christian, Muslim, and Jewish holidays are all represented on the calendar, as well as some other religions including Shinto and Buddhism. Here's a short article that gives a little more information.

That's all well and good, right? Well, sure, until some of the fine folks at Fox News decided to give their commentary on the matter. (The article on their website is much less inflammatory, much more informative.) It seems they've removed the video from their site, but if you want to see what was said, it's still being hosted on a few sites, including this copy on Youtube.

Alright, so, let's look at some of the issues here. Right off the bat, there are more Zoroastrians here than Wiccans? I'd love to see a source for that, because briefly looking at some numbers for the US shows otherwise. That number shoots up when looking at paganism as a whole.

"Wiccanism." Enough said.

Then we're told that we (pagans and Wiccans) should be mad, we're being used to oppress Christianity. We're being used to downgrade what's important to a majority of Americans. Okay, so let's recap... Eight holidays are added to a list, nothing is removed, nothing is taken away from anyone, but we are downgrading something important. Somehow. According to her, we are ruining the very thing that allows us to enjoy religious freedom. We are ruining religious freedom by acknowledging that other religions exist, that some people follow these other religions, and that said religions have holidays.

At the end, her exact quote is this "...look, tradition in this country is what allows people to be pagans and Wiccans, and to enjoy their lives freely. Good luck doing that in any other country." Really, is she seriously saying no other country enjoys religious freedom? Does she not know where Wicca originated? (I doubt she does.) I honestly do not understand how someone can hold beliefs that are so immensely delusional. I really just don't.

Then the guy goes on to say Wiccans get twenty holidays. I think he's probably just mixing up the 20% figure quoted earlier. (Which, incidentally, is actually higher than the correct number by a little bit - close enough, right?) It's possible he's counting the full moons in with the eight solar holidays, too. Either way, again, only eight holidays were added to this list. Not twenty.

Of course, this gets into "how many Wiccans can name every Wiccan holiday, or 50% of Wiccan holidays?" Dude. There's only eight of them. It doesn't take a genius to remember eight holidays, just a little bit of effort. We're talking about eight holidays spread evenly through the year - plus, maybe honoring the moon cycles. It's like asking someone how they remember the names of the months or what month it is. It's really just silly. (Frankly I'd love to show them some of the other pagan calendars out there - Greek and Egyptian recons often have quite a long list of dates to remember!)

There's also the bit where they're confused about Halloween, and is it Wiccan or pagan? Totally unaware that, you know, Samhain is not equivalent to secular Halloween. It's like someone saying Christmas is all about trees, lights, and Santa - it sure is to some, but you just know these folks are very likely the type of people who go on about "the reason for the season!" and all that. This idea should not be foreign to them, and yet...

Then there's that lovely ending, stereotyping all Wiccans. What needs to be said about that? Anyone who has even done the slightest bit of earnest research knows they're wrong. So, either they've done no real research into the topic before deciding to do a news piece on it, or they're being willfully ignorant. There's just no other excuse, no other explanation.

I don't know. Honestly, having seen a fair bit of Fox News thanks to relatives, it's just... Well, it's Fox News. They pander to people with bigoted opinions all the time, while failing to do even the most basic fact checking or research on the matter. It's a problem, yes, but at this point it's not a surprise. 

Now I also want to talk about the backlash a bit. It's understandable that this is making some people angry, it really is. However, taking it totally in the other direction and stereotyping and insulting all Christians is just as stupid as what was done here. So could we not do that? That said, there is a petition over on calling for an apology. If you want to sign it, do so. (Personally, I'm not sure it will do much good. You're not going to get an honest apology, and it's not going to fix the problems over at Fox.) If you want to speak out, do so.

Please, though, really think about what you're saying first. Do not use this as an excuse to jump on the "all Christians suck!" train that's rolling around. Some Christians are willfully ignorant bigots - but you know what? So are some pagans. Bigotry, failure to fact-check (especially when delivering 'news'), cognitive dissonance, stereotyping - these are the real problems with what was said, let's do our best not to add to them.

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