Apr 28, 2012

Rob Kerby's Pagan Kerfuffle

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

Oh, the things I learn when I remember to check my stats! I was somewhat heartened to see, this morning, that the Rob Kerby article I referenced here has graduated to a genuine kerfuffle. I have been writing about the Rob Kerby problem for a while now, notably here and here. And despite having been assured by another staffer at Beliefnet that there would be changes, any change seems to have been for the worse.

In the past couple of days, there have been reactions from The Wild Hunt, About.com, Star Foster, and Beliefnet's Pagan blogger Gus diZerega. And yet, for all the brouhaha, you know what I notice? There is still not one single comment on the article in question. As I've already addressed in my previous posts, comments that conflict with Kerby's world view tend to disappear and my IP was apparently blocked so I can't even leave comments anymore. Well, why would I bother when they're just going to be deleted? But either the programming was changed or Kerby's gotten sloppy because the number of comments is still recorded. As of this morning, there were seven invisible comments, as you can see in the graphic above.

Dare I hope that now that Beliefnet's Pagan blogger has addressed this head on, there will finally be changes at Beliefnet? I'm not optimistic, considering that Beliefnet is now owned by BN Media, which has ties to a swath of Christianist organizations. Their other properties are Crossbridge and Affinity 4. This is something I noted with dismay when I first began to notice the shift in tone on my Beliefnet News feed. I see now that The Wild Hunt was on it from the start and saw the writing on the wall when the acquisition was first made.

When you do click to see what groups Affinity4 supports, it’s a who’s who of conservative Christian organizations. Focus on the Family, Massachusetts Citizens for Life, Trinity Broadcasting Network, Promise Keepers, Concerned Women for America, and Christian Broadcasting Network, to name just a sampling.

And we were all worried that Murdoch would destroy Beliefnet. Clearly he was too busy ignoring (???) all the phone hacking at his hotter media properties.

DiZerega has called on Kerby for an apology and signaled his intent to leave in the absence of one. Whether or not one is forthcoming would give some hint as to the future of that site's editorial direction. But, as I say, I'm not optimistic. My sense for some time has been that the new management at Beliefnet is giving its non-Christian communities the Milton treatment. If you're familiar with Office Space, you'll know that I mean they're letting the problem "just work itself out" while avoiding direct confrontation. So poor diZerega and the Pagan community he represents on Beliefnet's pages may be looking for their red, Swingline stapler for a very long time.

It's not just the Pagan community, either. Kerby is an equal opportunity offender. The only articles he posts about Islamic faiths are scare pieces like this one. The closest thing to respect for Muslims I've seen is his seeming admiration for Saudi Arabian persecution of sorcerers and those who consort with the djinn, in the Pagan-bashing post in question. He's a garden variety bigot, whose standard seems to be, how does this story relate to the truth that is Christianity. He lauds stories of Christian faith through adversity and their struggle against atheists, and, as discussed, expresses unabashed disgust at gay people. He's also turned the news section into a politics beat and a platform for his Christian Right, anti-liberal views.

I will say again that I would be bothered by none of this if Kerby were simply blogging as Kerby on one of the Christian sections of Beliefnet. But he's a Senior Editor, and he's taken over the operation of the News section, which makes him, in many ways, the public face of Beliefnet.

Sadly, I think Beliefnet has finally jumped the shark.

Note: An earlier version of this story left an assurance of change from a Beliefnet staffer anonymous and unsourced, but I found the tweet and linked it above.

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