Quick Note: Pagans in the Air Force Story

In yesterday’s link roundup I mentioned that the LA Times did a feature on Pagans in the Air Force Academy, I thought it was merely OK, but it turns out that the piece had been edited from a far more mocking tone according to Star Foster at Patheos.

Cadet Chapel Falcon Circle at the Air Force Academy

Cadet Chapel Falcon Circle at the Air Force Academy. Photo by: Jerilee Bennett / The Gazette

“Because I’m an idiot, I didn’t take a screenshot of the article, which has now been edited for tone. (I will always take screenshots going forward, just in case.) Her previously snarky piece is now much calmer, yet still complains that the Air Force is spending money to be inclusive of non-Christians. While I’m glad they removed some of the cheap jokes, I don’t think you should edit an article that much after publication without an editor’s note explaining the change.”

Lest you think the alleged earlier version was simply in Star’s imagination, Mark Thompson at Time’s Battleland blog also picked up on the LA Time’s anti-Pagan snark and calls them out on it.

“The Air Force then earnestly tries to deal with – and encourage – religious diversity, and they get stung by stories like this in Sunday’s Los Angeles Times [...] It’s tough walking that careful line in don’t-offend-me America. If you hew too closely to one religion, you’re criticized; if you welcome all, you’re zinged for that, as well.”

On a more positive note, if you click that link on the word “welcome” from the Battleland blog, you’ll notice it heads to part one of the two-part PNC-Minnesota story on Pagans in the Air Force and Air Force Academy. That piece, which was reprinted here at The Wild Hunt, and was written by Cara Schulz at PNC-Minnesota, deserves that attention its getting, and I’m glad Time’s Battleland blog linked to it. While I’m not going to jump to some of the conclusions that Star did, I do think that the Pagan Newswire Collective’s piece did act in some small way to jump-start the current rush of coverage on this story, now running at places like The Telegraph in England. So kudos to Cara, and here’s to Pagan media influencing the narrative!

About Jason Pitzl-Waters
  • Ladyn Miraselena

    Before reading Star’s and this entry, I noticed the incongruity in tone between the relatively uninteresting news piece in the LATimes and the Time’s blog post. I didn’t understand why the blogger would make accusations when the LATimes write up was so, well, boring…now it makes sense.

    But, curiously enough, why hasn’t anyone mentioned Bob Barr’s quoted in the Telegraph? I know he’s old news and expected to make such remarks but, did he just speak out against this recently OR is this an old quote? Why isn’t it in any other paper? Hmm… gotta check our GA papers…

    • http://www.wildhunt.org/blog/ Jason Pitzl-Waters

      That’s an old quote from Barr’s “greatest hits”.

  • http://www.patheos.com Star Foster

    I’m not much for conspiracy theories, but something is rotten in Denmark here. I read the original LA Times story and confirmed with someone else that it has indeed changed. If anyone has a screenshot, I’d love a copy. The WayBack Machine is failing me, and I can’t find a cached version of the article.

    • http://www.patheos.com Star Foster

      Correction, the cached version on Google dates from today. So either it took Google 2 days to cache the article, or the article was updated in such a way the cache was updated. I don’t know enough about how Google caches articles to know for sure.

  • kenneth

    It’s not just the LA Times. There is a whole crop of stories about this that seemingly broke in today’s feeds. Every one I pull up seems worse than the one before it. They are shoddily done opinion pieces disguised as new stories. The whole premise is that the falcon circle is an example of a runaway financial boondoggle mandated by political correctness to cater to almost no real pagan service members who are only after all playing Harry Potter fantasy anyway. It really is that raw and thinly veiled in several of these “news” organizations. Then they use a Bob Barr quote that’s 12 years old with no reference to that fact, and they’re reporting this whole thing as if it were a breaking news story. This circle was dedicated what, seven months ago? I’ve only been out of the news business myself for three years but it seems like the industry has just completely gone over the cliff. Whatever it is they’re doing in these newsrooms today, it bears no resemblance to anything I remember as journalism.

    • http://www.patheos.com Star Foster

      That’s why I’m saying the timing is curious. There’s no new news, outside of Cara’s story. I think Cara’s story popped up in Google religion news feeds and gave folks an idea for filler on slow news days.

      • Baruch Dreamstalker

        Oh, I’m sure the coverage flurry is due to Cara’s story. These things don’t happen in a vacuum.

      • http://www.magickal-media.com Alice C. “A.C.” Fisher Aldag

        Cara’s story was released for Veterans’ Day, and it hit the news feeds a couple days later. Two weeks later the “LA Times” story comes out. Bet me the reporter looked into the matter and took that long to write something about it, and it’s prolly linked to some type of military-spending expose.

    • http://www.facebook.com/TommyElf Tommy Elf

      Interesting. A financial boondoggle? Me-thinks they didn’t check with USAFA to find out the history of Falcon Circle. The stone that are up on the hill where it is located, where originally down on the walking path that runs between the Chapel and the Visitor’s Center. Those stones, which I remember from my visit to the Academy six years prior, were removed because erosion in the area was making things dangerous. The moving of the stones to the top of the hill to their current location was done as a cost-cutting measure, as permanent removal would have been far more pricey. Prior to my visit to Falcon Circle earlier this year, I knew none of that back-story – until I met with Stephen “Pete” Peterson, the Cadet Chapel Public Relations Director, who was kind enough to escort me to Falcon Circle during my visit. During that time, he relayed the back-story on Falcon Circle. Boondoggle? Financial issue? Only for those who don’t know the story behind the creation of Falcon Circle – and most likely don’t realize that Falcon Circle is also used by groups who reserve the space through the Chapel for events such as unit picnics and group events. Sheesh….that’s really poor reporting on behalf of the Times…especially when they don’t know the back-story….

  • http://www.facebook.com/rapture.hoax2011 Roy Linford Adams

    And so continues the right-wing, christian war on Pagans.

  • http://blog.dianarajchel.com Diana Rajchel

    Here’s what this is telling me:
    1)Screenshots are good as policy. You can install some automatic, right click screenshot tools in Firefox – makes it go faster and is easier to do on reflex.
    2)Google feeds are potent. I am not the only blogger that relies on Google feeds for finding stuff to cover.
    3)Addressing the editors directly when they demonstrate bias via letter writing is generally a good policy.
    Also, 4)if PNC is appearing in Google feeds, this is a big step towards establishing as a legit news service.

    • http://www.magickal-media.com Alice C. “A.C.” Fisher Aldag

      PNC regularly appears on Google and other news feeds. So does Patheos.

  • Cara Schulz

    My favorite from the Telegraph article: “The air force says the site is to help to protect the constitutional right to religious freedom.

    But some think it is an attempt to attract more Wiccans to the army.

    Someone please tell the Telegraph that the Air Force separated from the Army back in 1947.

    • http://www.patheos.com Star Foster

      Or maybe you don’t see the subtle reverse psychology behind such a strategic ploy… LOL

    • http://www.magickal-media.com Alice C. “A.C.” Fisher Aldag

      Lots of folks who’ve never been involved in service state “Army” when they mean “any and all military”. Good catch.

  • Kilmrnock

    Gotta love the way our xtian biased society treats us outsiders , we being outside thier norm. I prefer the USAF stance , its a matter of princible as thier religion office said a matter of 1st amendment equality. well said . Kilm

  • Kilmrnock

    Aye , Bob Barr , changed his strips when he ran as a libritarian last elelction .

  • http://www.paganawareness.net.au Gavin Andrew

    The (Murdoch-owned) Australian Newspaper ran this here:

    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/us-army-says-wiccan-work-it-out/story-e6frg6so-1226208546523

    …complete with a few scare quotes around certain phrases and a tacky green-skinned Elphaba stock pic for a thumbnail.

    If the piece Star Foster identified was edited after its release to make it less offensive, it may mean someone kicked up a fuss – one of my jobs as media officer for the Pagan Awareness Network in Australia is to hound local reporters over bad stories. A pointless endeavor with most hacks at News Corp, but it can be a very useful tactic elsewhere in terms of educating the media.

  • http://www.magickal-media.com Alice C. “A.C.” Fisher Aldag

    It was not Star’s imagination about the “LA Times” article being snotty; both versions are still on the Internet on various blogs and news sites. Unfortunately I didn’t capture the first version, either, as I just publish links, which lead to articles that could be changed. My impression of the snark wasn’t making fun of Pagans, so much, it was more like “Gee whiz, they’re spending $80 large to satisfy 3 people — political correctness gone too far!” The original article did not mention that this stone circle will last for generations and can be used for ALL cadets for things like weddings, memorials, and non-religious meetings. They also didn’t mention that part of that $80 grand went for grounds cleanup which was necessary if they’d built a temple or not. And yeah, Cara’s article was awesome.

    • http://www.facebook.com/TommyElf Tommy Elf

      Exactly…the ORIGINAL intent of the Circle was as a picnic area under the control of the Chapel services. It didn’t become “Falcon Circle” until a short time later – as relayed to me by “Pete” Peterson. Again, it would only take a Times reporter a few minutes on a phone call or an Email to the generic Chapel Services to get that back-story. All those “generic” Emails for information requests would be routed through Pete, who is one of the most helpful and personable people I have ever encountered in the Chapel Services.

    • kenneth

      It’s interesting that nobody thought to ask how much the other religious accommodations on that base cost ie the chapel. Well I did and a bit of rudimentary digging gave the answer: $3.5 million, and that was in 1963, which equates to about $25.2 million in today’s money.

      Over that time there have no doubt been some millions more in upkeep, renovations etc. It’s an amazing piece of architecture, but it’s clearly far more ornate than needed to simply house worship space for busy cadets. It’s a monument to the Air Force itself. Nobody loses a lot of sleep over that fact, including me, so how does the Falcon Circle cost rate such a stink? Some native boulders that needed to be moved anyway versus Italian marble for the Abrahamics. The only “fancy” features at all seem to be the firepit and some security cameras which had to be installed due to the actions of some local bigots, not the cadets who actually use the space.

      What’s the upkeep costs? A few hours here and there to empty a trash barrel and replace the propane, maybe some very occasional landscape trimming? What’s the long term capital replacement costs of a stone circle? I suppose one might have to replace the boulders every few million years as they wear away from rain and wind!

      Maybe the most pathetic thing about the LA Times piece is that the writer seems to think $80,000 is real money to a defense budget. It’s not even equivalent to the old change stuck in your couch cushions. It’s more like the lint balls and gum wrappers stuck to those pennies. Being just enough of a geek to have a TI-83 in reach at all times, I crunched a few more numbers to give a sense of scale for what $80,000 buys in today’s military budget. We currently spend $80,000 every 24 seconds in Afghanistan.

      • Baruch Dreamstalker

        “We currently spend $80,000 every 24 seconds in Afghanistan.”

        It takes us 24 seconds to burn through 80K? Must be the reduced pace of the drawdown…

        • kenneth

          That, and the allied troops don’t hide so much under the rocks, so they’re easier to hit from the air with smaller munitions!

  • Kilmrnock

    A.C. my comment was aimed at how the mainstream media deals w/ pagan issues . The snark and nonsense about how the USAFA spent so much money on a site[Falcon Circle] for pagans . This reporter evidently is not fond of pagans by the tone of her article

    • http://www.magickal-media.com Alice C. “A.C.” Fisher Aldag

      Saw some of those articles today… the ones yesterday were more about, “You spent HOW MUCH for WHAT?”

  • kenneth

    It gets better. The Family Research Group has taken the story’s premise of runaway spending on political correctness and used it to spin the old yarn about how a Christian can’t get a fair shake by our government.

    http://www.opposingviews.com/i/religion/christianity/air-force-academy-spends-80000-pagan-worship-center#comment-120757

    I made sure to put in something to counter this nonsense. It pays to not let this stuff go unchallenged.


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