San Francisco Peaks Update, Pagans on Wikipedia, and other Pagan News of Note

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  May 23, 2011 — 45 Comments

Top Stories:

San Francisco Peaks Update: I have written at some length concerning the battle over a ski resort on the San Francisco Peaks in Arizona creating snow from treated wastewater, what a coalition of local indigenous groups and Tribal Nations see as a desecration that would be like putting death on the mountain.” It seemed to me like Arizona politicians didn’t believe there could be sacred land in their state. Now Indian Country follows up on this story with the latest insult to the beliefs of Native Americans living in Arizona.

“The Forest Service has scheduled a meeting to hear Hopi Tribe objections to wastewater-enabled snowmaking for a ski resort on Arizona’s San Francisco Peaks at the same time it has approved the start of construction on the snowmaking’s infrastructure. A former Hopi Tribal chairman and the grassroots group of which he is a part of hope an upcoming meeting on the San Francisco Peaks (Nuvatuqui) will provide a voice for tribal members who oppose the use of wastewater for the snowmaking at a resort on mountains sacred to a number of area tribes. But at about the same time the Forest Service planned the May 31 “listening session” with Hopi tribal members it also authorized construction to begin on a pipeline to convey the wastewater used to make the artificial snow.”

An emergency injunction appeal to construction was denied, despite there being an active appeal on environmental grounds underway. The “listening session” with the Hopi Tribe will be the only forum at this point that includes Native voices, it looks like Coconino National Forest supervisor M. Earl Stewart won’t be much different from former supervisor Nora B. Rasure, who doesn’t see any issue with desecrating a sacred mountain for the purpose of a prolonged skiing season. As indigenous leaders tell the United Nations that respecting their beliefs will help preserve the environment, the Forest Service in Coconino has seemingly decided that money and politics trump everything else.

Pagans on Wikipedia: Over at PNC-Minnesota (and reprinted at Patheos.com) Cara Schulz writes an editorial concerning a snowballing trend of Wikipedia deleting Pagan-oriented articles. She cites the a policy of goal-post shifting regarding what sources are deemed acceptable. For instance, the Pagan Newswire Collective doesn’t meet guidelines, nor do the published writings of Pagan academics.

“PNC has staff with formal journalism degrees, experience working as a reporters, producers, and editors in mainstream media, and PNC-Minnesota follows an editorial process similar to most any other newsroom in the country.   Yet PNC-Minnesota is dismissed as  “a self-published group blog which isn’t going to meet guidelines for reliable sources.” Discounting sources is a common theme in the Paganistan deletion discussion.  A paper by Dr. Murphy Pizza, an anthropologist who spent five years studying the Paganistan community, is also considered not a reliable source because she is a Pagan. I’m assuming this same standard would then apply to The Pomegranate:  The International Journal of Pagan Studies, Chas Clifton’s book “Her Hidden Children:  The Rise of Wicca And Paganism in America,” and is probably the reason Ronald Hutton will not publicly say he is a Pagan.”

Schulz wonders if there’s a double-standard going on where papers and articles published by Christian academics are accepted as reliable sources on Christian articles or if the work of environmentalist-minded scholars pass muster on climate-related articles. I personally think that much of this problem can be solved by having a more engaged team of Pagan-friendly editors at Wikipedia who are willing to go to bat for these articles, and work to constantly improve them, not just when items are flagged for deletion. The rest of the problem will only be solved once we take our media seriously, and move collectively forward in building institutions and reputations that pass muster.

In Other News:

That’s all I have for now, have a great day!

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Jason Pitzl-Waters

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  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    The Minnesota Independent site noted that the latest GOP Great White Hope Tim Pawlenty (just announced for Prez) has been a guest on Dean's radio show. Where do the Republicans dig up these fascinating friends?

    • Crystal7431

      I know this isn't particularly important, but did anyone else notice Dean was wearing a track suit to give a speech in the MN House? On another note, the Repubs are working hard to go down on the wrong side of history. Their grandchildren if not children will be completely embarrassed.

  • Ray

    Forgive me if I take the position of Devils Advocate (pun intended) What is difference between people like David Barton, and the people who are promoting the Pagan agenda in our society, other than most Pagans agree with the Pagan folks?

    • Jason Pitzl-Waters

      Differences:

      1. Barton claims Pagans aren't protected under the Establishment Clause of the Constitution. No Pagan has claimed Christians aren't a protected religion.

      2. Barton has the ear of several Republican presidential candidates. Pagans have the ear of zero potential presidential candidates, nor do politicians seek our favor.

      3. Barton has actively worked against modern Pagans receiving equal rights. No notable Pagan or Pagan organization has worked to disenfranchise Christians.

      4. He isn't simply peddling a viewpoint, he wants to mold our society, and has already succeeded in some cases thanks to his influence, and his work in changing the history sections of school textbooks. No Pagans that I know of has launched a campaign to revise history in public schools.

      Those are some pretty big differences. Even a "Devil's Advocate" would have to agree.

      • Baruch Dreamstalker

        Item (2) is happenstance. If I had the ear of a potential presidential candidate — in the sense of having his/her attention, not of keeping the ear in a jar — I have a number of policy suggestions I'd whisper into it.

        Item (4) is a bit iffy. I don't know what the public schools are teaching about the people who were on this land before we were, but I daresay I'd want to modify the treatment. But the basic point is correct; what Barton and his ilk want to do is falsification, not revision.

    • http://kauko-niskala.blogspot.com kauko

      Woah there's a Pagan agenda now? I so must have been absent on the day we all voted on that one. I also missed the day when the gay agenda was voted on. I must suck at being present for these important decisions.

      • Baruch Dreamstalker

        When I was a "baby Pagan" (at age 45) I went to my first Pagan gathering, held in summer at a place that was a ski resort in winter. I was told the owner liked renting to Pagans "because we leave the place better than we found it."

        I had my tent set up when I discovered that, right where I had situated the entrance I'd be crawling in and out of, some fool had smashed a beer bottle and ground the pieces into the dirt. Thinking dark thoughts, I sat down with my plastic trash bag (everybody had been issued one) and commenced picking the fragments out of the earth. Partway through I realized I was unselfconsciously acting out what my friend had said: Leaving the place better than I found it.

        There is a Pagan agenda, but it's subtle and comes from within.

        • http://egregores.blogspot.com/ Apuleius

          For years, Pagans have been trying to change the official wikipedia entry for the Emperor Julian to be "Flavius Claudius Julianus Augustus" (which just so happens to be his name), rather than "Julian the Apostate", the epithet, meant as an insult, given him by the Christians. The status quo for Julian's entry is comparable to having the official entry for Jesus Christ as "Jebus (Jesus directs here)".

          • Jocelyne Berengaria Houghton

            Oy.

          • sarenth

            You know, I actually appreciate your "Oy"s. They time nicely with my reaction after some of these posts….though they could use a *facepalm* to go along with. ^_^

          • Amanda

            Wow, that whole wiki article is just awful. I don't even know anything about Julian, but I can tell they're trying to demonize him. Making all religions equal in the eyes of the law? Oh! The horror!

        • http://kauko-niskala.blogspot.com kauko

          Aside from my obvious sarcasm, there's 'agenda' as may well actually exist within any group of people, as you describe, then there's 'agenda' as a scare tactic that some people use to whip up their followers to believe that some group that is a minority or outside the mainstream has plans to destroy all this is good and right in the world.

      • http://sari0009.xanga.com KarenAScofield

        One could say that equality is a minority agenda because prejudice and majoritarianism exist — minorities and functional societies need equality. Equality is born out of a recognized, real and acted upon need. Every individual decides if they are present for this agenda and if they feel included.

        • http://kauko-niskala.blogspot.com kauko

          People seem to be taking my comment more seriously than was intended, which was tongue-in-cheek. Of course, things like religious equality would be foremost on the agenda of most Pagans. I was commenting on the use of agenda in the comment to which I was replying, a use which seems to suggest some sinister cabal of Pagans out to take over the country which is some how the equivalent of what people like Barton are trying to do. Similarly, when social conservatives talk about a 'gay agenda' it seems to suggest that all of the GLBT people in the US got to together and voted on how they plan to destroy family values and indoctrinate children into the 'homosexual lifestyle'.

          • Kullervo

            It's the equivalent of "asking a bunch of people who seem like they might know about the topic." Which is a fine thing, but don't confuse it for more.

            The problem is that for bajillions of people (me included), it is the first place to go to get information or to be steered in the right direction at least. Google searching doesn't do the trick because there are massive amounts of useless totally content-free websites out there that will pop up on a Google search but tell you nothing.

            So regardless of what people think Wikipedia should be, what it actually is is important, and it's why quality and content matter. People wanting to know about paganism are going to go to Wikipedia first.

          • http://egregores.blogspot.com/ Apuleius

            I mostly agree with both Kenneth and Kullervo. I use wikipedia all the time. One of the first things I look for in a wikipedia entry is the sourcing. If anything smells fishy I always take a look at the "discussion" and "history" pages to see what's going on behind the scenes. Only in very rare and extreme cases (like that of the entry for Julian) will I even consider getting involved with any kind of controversy associated with a wikipedia entry. In most cases it's just pure madness.

          • http://sari0009.xanga.com KarenAScofield

            Okay. Thanks for clarifying.

            Yes, of course people invested in inequality want to package any drive towards equality as the product of a sinister cabal, a corrupting ____ (fill in the blank the fashionable-to-hate minority of the day) agenda, or evil indoctrination.

            They want everyone to have a blaming focus on the opposition (the problem) in a clash of political or religious **identities** instead of any necessary sustained and productive focus on telling patterns (today's underlying class war) and issues that concern us **all** (functional equality, what it is, what it isn't)…and why they concern us all.

            They don't want us to find ways to create alternative realities that aren't anchored on the unnecessary and abusive mentality that assumes one must abusively confuse and disempower others in order to gain or maintain power.

          • Brendan Myers

            Yes, Wikipedia wants to delete the entry about me too. I thought it was because the entry about me doesn't have a long enough bibliography. But I see it might be part of a larger trend.

          • caraschulz

            The bio needs more citations to secondary sources – magazine articles, radio interviews, links to the books, etc. I removed the delete notice (meaning there is an objection to it) but these sources need to be added very soon. So if you have them, get them on there, or it will be erased. They don't need to be linkable online, you just need to be able to cite.

            Also – folks there are MANY very well known Pagan authors who are or already have been deleted. Don Frew has survived a deletion twice, I believe. Become part of the pagan wiki project and help re-write the bios and add citations.

          • Crystal7431

            I still can't imagine Wikipedia or its editors deleting an entry about an important figure within some minority Christian sect. In fact I may have to look into that later this evening. I like a good topic hunt.

          • Brendan Myers

            Point taken; and thank you for removing the delete notice.

            I do have such sources, although I cannot place them there myself. Wikipedia doesn't like it when people create entries about themselves (and for reasons I well understand, and am happy to support). I'll have to enlist a few friends to help me there.

          • caraschulz

            Good deal. I found a few…but then Wikipedia started up its maintainance so I couldn't do anymore. Also…add interesting things like your work with the Aboriginal Policing Directorate. Nice work!

          • Brendan Myers

            Thank you!

    • http://aWorldQuiteMad.blogspot.com aWorldQuiteMad

      "Pagan agenda"? Really? Where? I'm totally on board with this. Oh, wait. One has to have a lot of clout and followers to have an "agenda."

      You know, I hear a lot about minority agendas, like the "gay agenda" for example, which *if* they did exist would have a difficult time making headway when the majority of people in this country are Christian and are vapidly opposed to anything that does not fit in their little box of a world view. What we never hear about is the "Christian theocratic agenda". Now, that agenda is very real, and very much a threat to our secular democracy.

      "When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace." –Jimi Hendrix

      • Nicholas Farrell

        I say we go to the streets against the right wing christian theocratic agenda.

        • http://twitter.com/magickalrealism @magickalrealism

          What are our alternatives to Wikipedia right now?

          • Nicholas Farrell

            Nothing that I can find.

          • Pitch313

            Coconino National Forest–Of course it makes good sense to approve the construction of the pipeline before all the public comments on the overall project are done. When the fix is in!

            Wkipedia–Do we Pagans now require a Pagan-o-pedia site?

          • http://sari0009.xanga.com KarenAScofield

            Not that the wikipedia problem doesn't need to be addressed, but I did find:
            http://pagan.wikia.com/wiki/Main_Page

      • Baruch Dreamstalker

        aWorldQuiteMad, parton my obtuseness but did you mean "vapidly" or "rabidly?"

    • http://quakerpagan.blogspot.com/ Cat C-B

      Ray? No offense, guy, but do you actually know any Pagans? "Pagan agenda?" We can't even decide for certain if we're a religion or a religious movement at all, half the time (as opposed to a heterogeneous collection of religious movements. Or something like that. I lose track.)

      • http://www.modemac.com Modemac

        I don’t think there’s a bias against paganism on Wikipedia.  Rather, the online encyclopedia itself has become a victim of its own success: there is far more politicking, “discussion,” wrangling, arguments, and outright flaming going on rather than actual editing of articles. Furthermore, the “notability” requirement has become an albatross around its neck. In the old days, it was a lot of fun to cruise around on Wikipedia, finding articles at random, and adding a sentence or a paragraph to help make it more interesting and informative. Now, you need to provide a definitive reference for every piece of information you add, no matter how trivial. It’s not as easy as it used to be to add a reference, either.

        Furthermore, the editors at Wikipedia now frown upon the pieces of trivia that used to spice up the articles there, deleting many of them because they are not notable. Everyone has their own mental storehouse of assorted facts that they could use to add to Wikipedia, and we used to be able to; but now, if you add something to an article you are likely to find it removed almost immediately due to lack of “notability.”  This has led to the deletion of *many* articles on Wikipedia due to their lack of “notability”, and pagan-related articles are included among those.  It’s not that pagan authors’ edits are being censored by anyone with some kind of agenda to push. Rather, the incessant politics and hand-wringing over what is “notable” and what is not are making it harder and harder for anyone (other than the hardcore Wikipedians who thrive in this environment) to edit Wikipedia at all. Why would you bother editing your favorite article on rum punch, the Webcomic Freefall, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, or cast iron cauldrons if you knew your contribution was immediately going to be removed because you did not bother providing a “verifiable reference” for it?

        Wikipedia is still an outstanding source of information for just about any subject imaginable. (We fought hard to make the Church of the SubGenius article accurate and “notable.”) The sad part is that it isn’t as friendly to casual users as it used to be. This is why the number of hardcore Wikipedia fanatics may be dropping slowly…but everyday users are less likely to contribute to Wikipedia. And this, in turn, is causing many articles to disappear there as a result of the internal politics…including pagan-oriented ones.

        • caraschulz

          I agree, I don't think Wikipedia has an intent to discriminate (although there are editors who do have a curious trend on what topics they look to delete) but I think their policies result in unintentional discrimination due to the combination of 'notability' and a much faster tendency to delete, rather than give articles time to improve.

        • Veracity

          Modemac, I agree with you. This is why my edits to Wikipedia have for quite some time been limited to grammar and spelling, which is truly a sad thing. Another sad thing is seeing many of the "discussion" pages reduced to a couple of people having an argument that basically runs: "Did not!" "Did so!" "Did not!" "Did so!"

      • http://ianphanes.livejournal.com/ Ian Phanes

        All real paganisms are spaghetti. :) http://ianphanes.livejournal.com/56232.html

  • http://egregores.blogspot.com/ Apuleius

    Wikipedia is very close to completely useless when it comes to anything remotely related to Paganism. And this has been the case for years, probably from close to the beginnings of Wikipedia. It's mob rule, pure and simple, and that has always been a game that Christians excel at. Pagans should put up our own websites and take responsibility for our own content. We will never get a fair shake from anyone else. Of course we should scream bloody murder when crap like this happens, but we should also learn to avoid the bloody murderers.

    • Crystal7431

      "Wikipedia is very close to completely useless when it comes to anything remotely related to Paganism." I have noticed this when looking for quick reference materials. You can't find anything, even some of the most basic works.

  • caraschulz

    much of this problem can be solved by having a more engaged team of Pagan-friendly editors at Wikipedia who are willing to go to bat for these articles, and work to constantly improve them, not just when items are flagged for deletion.

    Want to get involved? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:WikiProjec

  • http://twitter.com/rodneyorpheus @rodneyorpheus

    I've fixed a few of the references in that article and added my vote to KEEP on the deletion page. Some of the other references still need cleaning up, hopefully I will get to that over the next days, time permitting. But yes, it would be good to have some other pagan-friendly editors involved.

  • http://kallisti.writingkaye.com Kayleigh

    Well, Wikipedia is notoriously bad at covering minority religions. That's why Ruadhán created one for Hellenic Polytheists. http://wiki.hellenistai.com/

  • caraschulz

    Yeah – I was along for the ride when we tried to create new and add to existing Hellenic Polytheism. What ever we typed, even when cited with very traditional sources (like history texts), was deleted as fast as we could submit it.

  • http://www.hecatedemetersdatter.blogspot.com Hecate

    OT: Here's a survey on what you'd want in a Pagan retirement community: http://bit.ly/iUshP0 Feel free to repost.

  • http://www.bryonmorrigan.com BryonMorrigan

    For the record, I spend/waste a lot of time editing on Wikipedia, and if anyone needs reputable sources on things, they can find me here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Bryonmorrigan

  • caraschulz

    excellent. I'm just getting going, but it's good to know other people on there. I'm http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:CaraSchulz

  • http://norsealchemist.blogspot.com NorseAlchemist

    Sadly, this is an ever growing phenomenon over at Wikipedia, which used to be a wonderful site dedicated to knowledge, and now has been taken over by people who insist on "notability." It's not just Pagan articles they are wiping out, it's any article they don't like or see the point of.