For many years I have stated that there are only two times you will read about magick and the occult in the media. The first time is around Halloween. The second time is when there has been some sort of crime that is even vaguely (or just supposedly) related to the occult. I think it’s important to understand what is going on in these media appearances and how best to deal with them.
I wouldn’t have seen it if I didn’t believe it.
In the past, reporters were supposed to be honest and objective. Unfortunately, many reporters today have abandoned that approach. Even in the past when objectivity was the rule, and perhaps more so today, each reporter “comes to the table” with preset notions. This is important to understand: What the interview subject has to say must fit into the predetermined narrative of the reporter. If the subject says something outside of that view, nothing they say will be included. Therefore, in order to be included in a media report, it is important to understand the attitudes of the reporter.
This requires what in legal terms is called “due diligence.” If you are listening to, reading or watching a news report, remember that the attitudes of the reporter will influence what is presented. Even if they think they are being objective, it is highly likely that reporters will at least have a “snarky” (sharply critical and snide) attitude or outright negativity toward you. If you are being interviewed, it’s up to you to look back at previous reporting by the person you are working with so you can understand and effectively work with him or her.
In 2004 a well-known occultist and writer came on an internet forum describing how he had been asked to be on a religious (i.e. fundamentalist Christian) T.V. show. A second person would be defending the “other side.” I made several suggestions, including warning him about the practices of this other person. Here were my suggestions,
- Do research and find out information on the people who are putting on the show and on the people who are going to be on “the other side.”
- Be prepared to interrupt with facts. If your opponent shares falsehoods (and in this particular case I knew he would) be prepared to show misquotes, misrepresentations, false concepts, and outright lies. Allow them to get away with one misstatement and they’ll get away with a dozen more.
- Don’t accuse any person of being a liar, hate-filled, etc. Instead, take an “you have inaccurate information so let me share the facts with you” tact.
- Remember that according to Marshall McLuhan, TV is a “cool” medium. So don’t lose your cool and remember to smile. This is how to influence “Joe and Jane Average” as they watch TV at home.
- Control the debate. Turn questions or comments that are against you or your ideas into questions about their ethics and beliefs or show how they contradict American ideals. Turn questions about you into questions about them.
- Be clever and witty. Remember to think in terms of brief comments or “sound bites.” These are things that will be shown later.
- Have fun. If you look unhappy or project unhappiness, people watching will think you and your ideas lack joy.
Having seen the person representing the “other side” before, I knew he would attempt to control the discussion and do anything to make the occultist look bad. Indeed, rather than discuss the issues, the show quickly devolved away from the shows announced topic and into irrelevant questions about the occultist’s lifestyle.
I don’t share these ideas from the point of view of an uninvolved bystander. I personally had an experience that revealed what happens with news programs. I learned my lesson about this several years ago when I was living in San Diego*. I had been asked to do an interview with the news department of a major TV station. I agreed. They interviewed me for 20 minutes. At the end, the interviewer asked, almost as a “throw away” question, if sexual abuse ever happens in the occult community. My response was simple and honest: “It does happen, but as soon as the community finds out about it the person is ostracized from the community and reported to the police.”
I knew they would only use a few of my statements. I’d be lucky if I was on air for 20 seconds. But the interview, I felt, had gone so well. As the time grew closer for the report to be broadcast I thought they might put on as much as a minute of my interview.
Unfortunately, I hadn’t done my “due diligence.” I didn’t look at the interviewer’s other reports. Nor did I think in terms of sound bites. I watched the report on TV which was mostly anti-occult. My appearance lasted about 2 seconds. The interviewer asks me if sexual abuse happens in the occult community and I’m seen responding, “It does happen…” and that was it! They had completely cut out the context of what I had said.
Today, I would have responded to the question in a way that could not have easily been edited to make the occult community look bad, such as “There appears to be plenty of sexual abuse and child abuse within larger mainstream religions. Shouldn’t your focus be there?”
Welcome to Halloween
I’m personally responsible for Halloween becoming such a huge holiday.
Well, not me alone, but years ago, Halloween was not as huge as it is today. In its second year as a concession in Sears, I managed one of the Halloween Shops. We sold costumes, make-up, and masks. The Halloween Shop in Sears had gone up from one store to six stores that year, and we were the single most successful concession for Sears. Over the following years, the Halloween Shop expanded to more than 20 and then more than 50 stores. It became so successful that Sears bought the business from the owner. The focus on Halloween at such a mainstream store as Sears made Halloween okay with middle America. The rapid and large growth of The Halloween Shop mirrored (or perhaps drove) the vast increase in popularity of the celebration.
During the time I managed the Halloween Shop, we would open on October 1. We had 31 days to make our sales, and the first two weeks were usually very slow. Thanksgiving products were put out when we left.
Today, in order to bring in more money, Halloween sales start early and Thanksgiving products are brought out long before October 31. As I write this it’s about 75 days until Halloween. Already there are advertisements for Halloween events and products.
Get Ready to See Yourself
So, as I wrote at the beginning, it’s one of the times when magicians, occultists, and Pagans will appear in the media without there being a supposedly “occult” crime. Get ready to see people who are like you. Get ready to see yourself.
If you want to represent the Pagan or occult communities, I hope you will consider my seven points above. When I see you on TV, hear you on the radio, or read about you in a newspaper, I want to be proud of you. After all, you will be representing me and all of our friends and metaphysical family. When I see you, I’ll also be seeing myself. So do a good job representing us!
*While I lived in San Diego I shared an apartment for six years with Scott Cunningham. Now I’ve written a brief ebook, The Magical Life of Scott Cunningham, that reveals his motivations, his ideas, and his magickal methods. It also shares stories of some of the experiences we shared. This short ebook is available at the Kindle Store (LINK), Kobo (LINK), Sony (LINK), and iTunes (through the iTunes store) for just $1.99. I think you’ll learn more about my friend Scott in this book than anywhere else. Besides, it’s less than $2.00. By now you know you’ve got to have it, don’t you?