Monday, October 04, 2010

Just Stop!

Kali Fuck, Could we PLEASE stop doing media interviews where we go on about how we don't do human sacrifice and worship the xian devil?

I stay on this point for a reason.

If you start every public interaction (or allow the media to begin each of your public interactions) with your own version of Richard Nixon's "Your President is not a crook!" all that does is ensure that every damn time people think of you or hear about you, they think, "Oh, yeah, those are the people who 'say' that they don't worship Satan." Guess what image stays in their mind? As Lyndon Johnson is once supposed to have observed, "If you're explaining, you're losing."

As I've said before, your neighborhood rabbi doesn't begin the interview about the synagogue's new charity project by asserting that Jews don't make matzoh with the blood of Christian babies. Father Flannigan does not pipe up during the interview about beatification of a new saint and announce that "Lots of Catholic priests have never sexually abused a child," and there's even a genuine basis to wonder about Catholics and sex abuse.

And there's a reason why they don't discuss those things.

As Wiki explains about George Lakoff:

Lakoff further argues that one of the reasons liberals have had difficulty since the 1980s is that they have not been as aware of their own guiding metaphors . . . . Lakoff insists that liberals must cease using terms like partial birth abortion and tax relief because [those terms] are manufactured specifically to allow the possibilities of only certain types of opinions. Tax relief for example, implies explicitly that taxes are an affliction, something [from which] someone would want "relief". To use the terms of another metaphoric worldview, Lakoff insists, is to unconsciously support it.

Pagans have GOT to quit unconsciously supporting the Abrahamic terminology that controls the dominant paradigm. Instead of Lakoff's "Don't Think of an Elephant," here's Hecate's new rule: "Don't Talk About Satan." What was it about Druids in England that got them "certified" as a charity? What cool things were they doing? Which important Druidic leaders can you cite? What charitable things have Druids done? What neat bit of Druidic history can you relate?

I get that members of the press have a story they want to tell. That makes it even more (not less) important to go in understanding what story YOU want to tell. There's a world of good things that you can say about, for example, who Druids are, what Druids do, what Druids believe. Start there. If the reporter is gauche (and being gauche is pretty much a job requirement for reporters. I know; I was raised by a newspaperman) enough (as Thorn Coyle says, at the Wild Hunt, that the reporter here was), to say, "Well, do you burn people like they did in the WickerMan?" then -- and only then -- do you explain "No, and, as a recognized religion, we find questions like that pretty insulting. In fact, Druids, who worship all forms of life, are engaged in a tree-planting ministry here that . . . ." How difficult is that? Leave mischievous quips for when you're talking to your friends, not the media.

Discipline, people. It matters.

And do NOT try to carefully answer their question! Move immediately to the point that YOU want to make. Really, is this complicated? Have you not watched a thousand news interviews? Here's basic Law School 101: Judge: Isn't X, which loses the case for you, true? You: Your Honor, Y, which wins the case for me, is important for the following three reasons. First, . . . ."

When did the use of rhetoric stop being important for magicians? It didn't.

Here's one thing you can count on: If you do a 20 minute interview and spend 5 seconds of that interview talking about human sacrifice in the WickerMan, how some Pagans look "weird," and how we don't worship Satan, THOSE ARE THE 5 SECONDS THAT WILL SHOW UP ON THE EVENING NEWS! That's because the evening news is about selling Viagra and SUVs, and a 3-second teaser showing a Pagan saying, "Human Sacrifice" will get more people to tune in and watch (the SUV commercial) than will a teaser showing a Pagan saying, "Tree planting ministry." Here's another clue: The press is not your friend, nor are they in the business of telling people important facts. Again, they are in the business of selling Viagra. When you deal with them, you are dealing with Viagra salespeople who want to use you to sell Viagra. You, meanwhile, want to use them (and their Viagra sponsors) to get out the truth about, say, Druids. Kali Fuck, Pagans, start to act as if you understood that fact! Quit pretending as if the reality were otherwise.

Seriously, has any Pagan group out there got a good press kit or a good training manual for dealing with the press? Cherry Hill Seminary? WitchVox? Lady Liberty League? Because this shit has just got to stop. Don't make me do this myself.

I'm sorry; I know that all the Pagans involved, week after week after week, in this practice are honorable people who are quite well-intentioned. But please, please, please JUST STOP. And even if it strokes your ego to get a press request, if you aren't prepared for dealing with the press, please decline. Get some training. Have a prepared statement. Role play before you get on tape. This shit matters.

Update: Just as you would never (I hope) walk into a circle and begin doing magic w/o a clear objective, you should never walk into the media circle and begin shooting off your mouth w/o a clear objective. (If you don't have a clear objective, refer the media to someone who does.) There are two fairly common objectives. One is: I'm going to use this interview to promote my book/class/Pagan Pride Day event, etc. That's fine. When they say, "So what about the way that movies portray Druids?" you say, "Sensationalism may sell movies, but, as I explain in my new book, Druiding the Druid Way for Druids, . . . ." Another is: I want to use this interview to communicate one important truth about Druids: That they respect all forms of life. That's fine. When they say "So what about the way that movies portray Druids?" you say, "Sensationalism may sell movies, but Druids respect all forms of life. For example, one group I worked with began planting new groves of American chestnuts . . . ." The one thing you do NOT want to do is go into the interview with the objective of answering all of the nice reporter's questions.

This is why we practice attention and presence and focus.

Don't make me come up in there.

Picture found here.


Anne Johnson said...

It sure does. Wonderful post.

Cari Ferraro said...

Kali Fuck! I love you. I can't wait to be 81.

Hermgirl said...

All I can say is, "Kali fuck, that was well said."

LittleIsis said...


Aquila ka Hecate said...

Can we make this required reading for Pagans talking to the Press? Please?

Makarios said...

It's called "staying on message." And the use of appropriate phrases to direct interviews to what you want to get across rather than what the reporter wants to hear is called "bridging." It's not an occult art, and it can be learned.

And, yeah, if Cherry Hill or Lady Liberty would put out a self-study guide for media relations, I could get behind that. A quick search of Amazon found over 9,000 books on media relations. Surely at least one would be appropriate for this purpose.

T. Thorn Coyle said...

Agreed overall and to add in, here is what I wrote at Wild Hunt earlier today :

The other thing to keep in mind is that some reporters actually think they are doing us a favor by asking things like, "what about they way you are portrayed in films?" or "some people think you worship the devil, do you?" by giving us a chance to 'set the record straight'. These questions are not our friends, but they are also very hard to get around. So it isn't that we think, "hmm, in telling the press who Pagans are and what we believe, we will talk about silly movies and devils!" It is that we have just given them 5-10minutes (to an hour's worth) of what we think is great footage about what we believe and practice, broken into short sound bites even, and then we answer that little question in the middle of it all, just to get it out of the way and get back to our talking points, and they cut everything else.

I don't think I did too badly, all in all, and tried to use humor to diffuse the question, but what I would have done differently - were I more TV savvy - was to give them half an answer to the silly question, and made sure the sentence itself ended in another talking point. This is very hard to do, but next time, I will make a concerted attempt at it.

So, all in all, I *have* thought about what I want to say. I *do* have my elevator speech down. At the end of my interview, the reporter even said, "You are a public speaker, aren't you?" But he didn't use that stuff at all. This is why I've avoided the TV shows I have been asked to do in the past. I don't trust that the good stuff will get out there.

But perhaps it is time to try harder. I will likely take it on a case by case basis.

Kate said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Teacats said...

Perhaps seminars could be given at some of the major Pagan conferences -- including role-playing exercies and video examples.

We do need TWO types of "Media Kits" -- one that gives ideas to OUR community members (especially festival organizers) -- and one to give OUT to media outlets. So that both ends of the conversation are covered! Especially at this tricky time of year!

Jan at Rosemary Cottage

scurvy dog said...

We need to scam you into comeing onto the pcp podcast to do an PSA on this.