The Fox affiliate in Chicago has done a short segment on the Asatru faith. The result ends up saying a lot about how journalists often decide what the story is going to be before they do the reporting.
“Ancient Viking Religion Finds New Worshipers – Including White Supremacists. Thousands of followers claim Asatru is a real religion. They swear it’s changed their lives for the better. But it’s also a faith that’s been linked to violence and hate crimes. Mark Saxenmeyer shows us just who’s worshipping ‘the race religion.”
That blurb and the accompanying video segment show the inherent bias held by the reporter and his editors. Asatru is defined as “race religion” even though that isn’t a universally held view within Asatru, and white supremacy takes up fully half of the report even though such movements are only found at the extreme fringes of the faith (and, as the report concedes, are denounced by all the major Asatru organizations).
You can’t have a “fair and balanced” view of a faith when you cut from an interview with a local Asatruar to newsreel footage of marching Nazis. In fact the report states that Nazis practiced a “variation” of Asatru, even though such a claim is completely anachronistic and hugely contentious. Perhaps the reporter wanted to do a sensationalist piece about new racist movements and was disappointed to discover that they were appropriating and distorting a larger faith grouping.
This may seem like a small thing, but it is news stories like this that can directly lead to growing FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) concerning Asatru and Germanic Heathenry. It can lead to innocent symbols being banned as “offensive”, and can cause problems for Heathens if a hysterical co-worker or family member suddenly thinks they may be a white supremacist. There is a way to responsibly report on racist movements that appropriate modern Pagan symbols, but conflating these small and isolated groups with our mainstream is irresponsible.
ADDENDUM: For a more positive story involving Asatru, The Northern Path reports on a Asatru man who helped save the life of a woman who had crashed her car.
“Siple, who was walking his Airedale terrier Dusty when he found Scott lying next to her car on the beach, said he was praying to Njord, the god of the sea, while awaiting rescuers. “I was just praying to him, ‘hold the tide back a little bit longer so we can get Diane out of here,’” Siple said Friday.”