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Magick and the Media

This post was written by Donald Michael Kraig
on June 17, 2010 | Comments (5)

I attended Daniel Webster Junior High School (now Middle School) for 7th–9th grades. The school had a student newspaper. While I was working on that paper I learned a lot about journalism, from the “6 Ws” that need to be covered (Who, What, When, Where, Why, hoW) and the technique of writing (cover the most important concepts first and give details later), to how to paste the final copy on boards (now obsolete thanks to computers). I furthered my training in journalism while working for the UCLA “Daily Bruin” newspaper as a reviewer and columnist. Although I didn’t take any college courses in journalism, I learned it from working with experienced and ethical journalists, editors and publishers.

Later, I used this experience as the Editor-in Chief of Llewellyn’s “New Times” and later  at FATE magazine. FATE deals with true stories of the strange and unusual, and we often did not include fascinating articles that could not be documented. It’s what is called journalistic ethics and integrity.

Unfortunately, the world—including the world that passes for what is called “journalism”—is changing. This has been going on for some time, and perhaps nowhere can this be seen better than in the relationship between the journalistic media and the world of magick.

Outright Lies

Several years ago, a tomb in Michigan was desecrated. It turned out to be a tasteless act by a couple of male teens. In my opinion the response to such terrible acts should have been community service for the boys, repayment for all damage to the tomb from the boys’ families, and both individual and family counseling for the boys and their parents.

The police found some occult books in the rooms of the boys. One was the classic Buckland’s Complete Book of Witchcraft. A TV news reporter held the book up to the camera and claimed that a on a certain page there was a ritual for dedicating a knife to Satan.

This was an outright lie. Not a mistake. Not an error. It was a lie. The page mentioned did have a ritual for dedicating an athame to The Goddess. But there was absolutely nothing about Satan there. The reporter lied. The editor who allowed it to go on did not verify the facts of the claim. The producer allowed the lie to go on the air. I repeatedly sent in protests to the station, and it took three weeks before they apologized for the error. But by then the lie was out there and the people watching three weeks after the lie was broadcast, in most instances, wouldn’t even remember the story.

Journalism—A Lost Art?

That was my introduction to the increasing lack of journalistic practices and ethics by supposed outlets of journalism. Since that time I’ve observed a decrease in the quality of what passes for journalism. I’ve had to read newspaper articles to the end to find details that should have appeared within the first three paragraphs. Sometimes the full 6 Ws aren’t even included. I’ve seen headlines that are totally misleading. I’ve seen rumor and innuendo presented as fact. On television this has become even worse where being “fair and balanced” is considered more important than truth and fact. The head of News Corp. (a massive purveyor of “news” in Australia, the UK, the U.S., and Asia), Rupert Murdoch, wrote, “media companies need to give people the news they want” and not what is important for them to know.

I predict we will see more false claims about Wiccans, magicians, occultists and others who follow non-mainstream spiritual paths. They will be presented as “facts” by individuals and groups on websites that are opposed to anything non-tradition and want to follow Mr. Murdoch’s advice of giving people the “news” they want, including outright lies that support their mindset. They will supply what comedian Stephen Colbert calls “truthiness,” a so-called truth that seems to be intuitively true without regard to evidence, logic, intellectual examination, or facts.

A Media Fact Clearinghouse

What is needed is a type of clearinghouse that can stand up to false information about occultists, occult practices, Paganism, and magick. In the past, I’ve said that the only time the media calls on occultists is around Halloween or if there is a crime with “occult overtones.” With the proliferation of media and internet “news” outlets trying to outdo all the others, this is changing.

There are people who will endlessly repeat lies and old claims. I would leave refutations of such things to others. However, if you see a report on something new that involves the media and the occult, I will be glad to post information about that here. Please contact me at DonK@llewellyn.com .

Have you seen something obviously false about magick and occultism in the media? What, if anything, did you do about it?

Reader Comments

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#1 
Written By Elysia
on June 17th, 2010 @ 2:09 pm

Donald -
There is already an initiative in place to get Pagans more involved in reporting, and hopefully this will positively influence the media that comes out about us. It will help connect “real” reporters with experts in our fields as well. Check it out, it’s called the Pagan Newswire Collective, and they already have many projects up and running. It’s a work in progress, so feel free to join up and lend your experience!
http://www.pagannewswirecollective.com/

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#2 
Written By Kyle
on June 17th, 2010 @ 7:13 pm

Good post and I will forward you any untruthful commentary I hear on paganism/magick/alternative beliefs. It’s distressing what is happening with journalism. It’s not just Mr. Murdoch’s stations, though. Most stations today are very politicized, promote the news they want to get out, and talking heads dominate the news to bring in angry news that gets the ratings. People gravitate towards news that agrees with them. The news sources that are pretty straightforward and give you the news as is tend to be the least popular ones and need to be sought out. I think the public is to blame for this, too, though. We don’t demand any better. Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are clear that their programs are comedy shows, but many polls show a large portion of Americans get their news from them. And sometimes neither the media nor the public is at fault. Reuters has had several scandals in the past few years where employees acting alone (presumably without the knowledge or consent of their employers) have doctored photos they’ve released to the public. That’s not even bending the evidence to your will but is tampering with the evidence! The internet has been a positive and a negative. Positive in that more news can get out, and that there can be more watchdogs out there (it was a blogger who caught Reuters several times doctoring their photos, resulting in apologies in firings; it was not any traditional news outlet, or even the staff at Reuters, that discovered the photoshopping/editing of photos). Negative in that any one with an ax to grind (or an untruth to spread) is all the more empowered to do so. After the Haiti earthquake this past January, I saw so many ridiculous commentaries in major media outlets claiming that Voodoo is a major reason why Haiti is so underdeveloped since so many people spend time with “superstitions” and that they leave things up to the stars and the gods, and therefore do not use their energy and their own ingenuity to improve their country. What can a casual reader do about this?

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#3 
Written By Donald Michael Kraig
on June 17th, 2010 @ 11:44 pm

Thank you, Elysia! We need more people to get involved with groups like the Pagan Newswire Collective and more outlets for information.

Kyle, I agree with you 100%. More and more “news” outlets are broadcasting opinion but implying it’s news. No matter which side of the political spectrum they are following Mr. Murdoch’s advice. So what can a casual reader do? Contact the Pagan Newswire Collective and let them broadcast the information. Send information to me so I can get it out, too. Send sources and your activities can, if you wish, be kept anonymous.

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#4 
Written By Douglas Gueydan
on June 18th, 2010 @ 4:42 am

Dear Donald,
Thank you for the excellent post. It is a travesty that such ignorance still goes on. I remember in the early to mid 90′s when I was in middle school trying to defend my beliefs and those of the few other Witches I knew. I educated my teachers and asked that they include more information about the old religion when going over Religions. With the media I have generally just sent polite emails asking them to enlighten themselves before spreading false “truths”. After Haiti it was terrible indeed some of the horrific accusations being thrown out by the media. Nice to hear about the Pagan Newswire Collective. I’ll have to keep my eyes and ears peeled.

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#5 
Written By Samuel
on June 18th, 2010 @ 6:02 pm

I have to agree with you 100%. The media in general has lost a great by loosening the standards for what passes for news.

Education is the only method to combat this sort of disinformation and political spin.

The sad truth is that the majority of the masses do not care about spirituality or if it is different from the mainstream – they do like to think that all practioners of magic are evil to some degree, and it is extremely difficult to get the more correct information out there so that the facts can be checked and verified.

All that any of us, regardless of magical bent or religious leanings, can do is to live by example and educate where possible. Hopefully, in correcting the blatantly false political information often presented by the media, more of the people watching the “news” will begin to question what is going on (at least I would hope they would).

In LVX,
Samuel

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