Feb 27, 2013

Fox's War on Paganism

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

The news network that every, bleedin' year goes on and on about the "war on Christmas" has never had much interest in the religious holidays of other, non-Christian faiths. As Jon Stewart famously said to Bill O'Reilly, "If you think Christmas isn't celebrated in this country, walk a mile in Hanukkah's shoes."

Fox did, however, go out of its way to marginalize Wiccan and Pagan holidays. In fact, they were outright derisive.

The trouble started last year when the University of Missouri added the eight sabbats of the Pagan year to the university's holiday guide. Graduate student Christopher White was not amused by the move towards inclusiveness and took to The College Fix to complain

The Wiccan and pagan festivals are listed right alongside major religious holidays such as Easter, Christmas, Ramadan, and several other Jewish and Buddhist observances.

Their inclusion in the religion guide may be considered an indication by some of the mainstreaming of Wiccan and pagan beliefs in America.

. . .

While the percentages of Mainline American Christians have declined over the past twenty years, from 86.2 percent in 1990 to 76 percent in 2008, they still, in terms of percentage, dwarf the 1.2 percent of American Wiccans and Pagans, according to the American Religious Identification Survey of 2008. These statistics beg the question: why put both Christianity and Wiccans in equipollency?

Not only does the, ahem, graduate student misuse the phrase "begs the question," he apparently doesn't understand that here, in these United States, our rights aren't contingent on majority status. And even if they were, one wonders why Jews at 2.1% of the population deserve to be in the university guide, but Pagans at 1.2% don't. Yes, Judaism comes in at a very distant second to Christianity. Wicca, by the way, is the fifth largest religion, putting it ahead of Buddhism, which White also considers legitimate enough to be in the holiday guide. So I don't know what Mr. White is studying there at the University of Missouri but one assumes it's requires no working knowledge of Constitutional law, logic, or statistics.

Fox News, which has apparently given up fact-checking entirely, took the ignorance wide. They erroneously deduced that this meant that these would all be vacation days and students would no longer need to "cram for exams" on Pagan holidays, prompting a stern correction from the university. From there it was pretty much open season on the "fringe belief systems" that those kooks in Missouri strangely consider legitimate enough to be in a calendar.

Tammy Bruce described the decision as "beyond political correctness; it's almost like an excuse to do nothing. It's like social nihilism, where nothing matters."

Honoring Pagan holidays, according to Bruce is "less about elevating other religions and other individuals and more about diluting the dynamic about what's important in people's lives," which I think is her way of saying that including Pagan holidays is all part of the "war on Christmas."

If you can suffer through the video above, you'll hear Bruce explain that respecting Pagan holidays is exploitative... of Pagans. Pagans and Wiccans "should be very angry at how they're being used by the establishment," says Bruce, "to downgrade what's important to the majority of Americans."

Dizzy yet?

Tucker Carlson seemed to find the whole thing too trivial and geeky to be threatening.

"Any religion whose most sacred day is Halloween, I just can't take seriously," Carlson said on the Feb. 17 broadcast of "Fox and Friends" weekend show that touched off the controversy. "I mean, call me a bigot."

"Every Wiccan I've ever known is either a compulsive deep Dungeons and Dragons player or is a middle-aged, twice-divorced older woman living in a rural area who works as a midwife," he said.

Two petitions totaling more than 40,000 signatures, a Facebook page demanding an apology, and outrage on the Missouri campus later, Carlson apologized... twice.

Once on Twitter:

Two days after the Feb. 17 show, Carlson apologized on Twitter: "To Wiccans and pagans: Sorry for my pointlessly nasty remarks. Your holidays still confuse me, but you seem like nice people."

And later, on the show:

"Comments in the story offended a number of people -- that was never my intention," Carlson said on the show Saturday (Feb 23). "I also violated one of my basic life rules, which is live and let live. The Wiccans have never bothered me or tried to control my life. I should have left them alone. Sorry about that."

To my knowledge, no one else from Fox News has apologized.

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