February 20, 2015

Scandal Amongst the Pagans: Pantheacon fuckery and SMOWs

I've been very distracted the past couple of weeks, putting together my application for a developers' academy, getting it as right as I could. It's done now, and I'm trying to turn my mind back to writing other things.

Apparently, while I was busy, Scandals, Alarums, and Excursions have been brewing in the pagan community.

It seems like almost every year, some massive fuckery happens at Pantheacon. A couple years ago it was Z Budapest's transmisogyny, and apparently this year it was racism.

Not just your mainstream everyday aversive-racism-plus-microaggressions, or even people muttering nastiness under their breath. No. We're talking about white people standing there shouting at people of color that daring to have space for themselves was racist, white people bursting into the POC Hospitality Suite to try to stage some kind of confrontation, and pagans of color feeling that they needed to buddy up just to walk from panel to panel.

The worst of it, though, was friendly fire. And friendly fire isn't.

A satirical bit of writing called PantyCon is apparently a tradition at PantheaCon, a schedule of nonexistent events that means to skewer both some of the minor foibles of the community and event, and some of its major foulnesses. They slammed that Z Budapest ritual pretty hard, I'm told. This time, though, they missed their mark, and hit the very people they were trying to stand up for.

Ignoring Racism: A Workshop for White Pagans

Large Umbrella Pagan Group

Isn’t all this talk of social justice and racism just tiring? Don’t you wish you could just ignore it and put out meaningless statements of pure pablum? We’ll discuss how to ignore requests for consideration by pagans of color, cover up racist actions of high-ranking members, and pretend that you don’t understand the resulting outrage. Remember, #AllLivesMatter, except when it’s uncomfortabe or inconvenient.

Large Umbrella Pagan Group has been around for long enough that they think they can get away with this stuff.

This, to those in the know, obviously pokes at the Covenant of the Goddess for their shitty response to #BlackLivesMatter. But the danger of even the best satire is that sometimes backfires.

I doubt that most of the pagans of color who were hurt by that were unaware of COG's white-moderate-all-lives-matter racism, but that turned out to be the problem. This was too close too real, too much of a Poe. And indeed, there were white pagans at the event who were eager to go to such a panel. Oooops.

Now, this is just exactly what people mean when they say intent isn't magic. Because meaning well didn't keep people from being hurt, and badly so. Good intentions didn't stop racists from taking it seriously. Wanting to take a swing at the bad guys didn't change the fact that this heightened tensions and encouraged bigots to go harass people at the POC consuite.

Intent is essential in magic, but intent is not itself magic. Meaning no harm is not the same as doing no harm.

Fer fuck's sake.

At any rate, the PantyCon awfulness prompted the event runners to set aside a safe space for people to speak about how this affected them. People in charge specifically repudiated PantyCon and, per the harassment policy, threatened to eject the person or people who wrote it. There was a long period of sharing, and apparently only one white man had to be asked to shut up. There was a follow-up ritual in which pagans of color gathered in the center of the circle, ringed by white allies, and did some primal screaming. (Remember, I wasn't there, all of this is from other people's accounts.)

Post-con, a lot of people are blogging about this. Many white pagans are shocked, shocked I tell you, that there is racism in this religious community. Many white pagans are not. Many pagans of color are saying things along the lines of See, this is what we've been trying to tell you, look, look right here.

Jonathan Korman wrote an open letter calling on the author or authors of PantyCon to stand up, identify themselves, and apologize. <a href=http://miniver.blogspot.com/2015/02/an-open-letter.html?showComment=1424310179974#c7259495483806431786>At least some of the authors showed up and apologized, a proper apology that owned up and said they were wrong and gave an explanation but didn't try to excuse it. They did not identify themselves, but did say that they were a diverse group and that a POC had originally suggested the panel description. They still said they were wrong and fucked up. So that was a nice change of pace from the usual Waaaah, how dare you say I did something racist, I'm a good person, I meant well, you're the racist really bullshit.

More complete stuff by people who were actually there can be found here, here, here, here, here, and I'm sure many other places.

In other news, the Secret Masters of Witchcraft are telling everyone they're secretly forming a council to investigate murders and (re)write the Thirteen Principles of Belief of witchcraft. I shit you not. I cannot stop giggling over this. For extra hilarity, you can find, in the comments, one all about the Thirteen Bloodlines and nobody else can do magic because the umbras took it away from everyone else in the eleventh century, and another about how the American Council of Witches will become jackbooted thugs with the ability to Disappear people our of their beds in the middle of the night within ten years. I suspect both of being written as humor.

A lot of people are pretty upset about this, because this is basically a bunch of people who won't even give their names or background announcing that they speak for all Witches in the US, and that they will be the ones who get to tell the military what we all believe. It looks like a rather nasty power grab by what amounts to a secret society. People who ask questions about the council and its members on Facebook are deleted and banned. I totally get why people are up in arms. I simply cannot see these people as anything other than pretentious clowns. I mean, this is pure Illuminated Brethren of Ee crap. I simply can't. I'm all out of can. All I can do is laugh.

Laugh, and imagine the cozy murder mystery series where all the mysteries deaths are investigated by amateur sleuths who are anonymous members of a secret council of witches. They all keep their hoods up at all times and only use names like Lady Moonflower Opalsalmonclouddeer.