Journalists love vampires. Partly this fascination comes about when they hear of individuals who identify as vampires. Imagine the front-page-potential that angle holds. It’s no wonder then, that often the Vampyre Community is viewed with suspicion by those who have only had a tiny glimpse into what is a tight-knit community, focusing on only a narrow part of what is really a rich and diverse subculture. Many times this suspicion is fueled by the application of assumptions and stereotypes, and a known tendency of the media to exaggerate and to sensationalize aspects of our culture in a manner that panders to those adept at stoking fires of “satanic-panic”, which has in the past led to witch-hunts and persecution for many closed communities.
Sometimes Vampyres will be approached by journalists who are genuinely curious, and who would like to present a more accurate and impartial view of the shadowy world of the Vampyre Community. Sometimes they may ask very intelligent questions, and even if we answer them diligently and honestly, the finished articles may not reflect the original intent – or claims of impartiality used to lure Vampyres into opening up at the start. Very often, the journalists do not hold creative control over their articles, and the final say lies with their Editor – and the end result may be something vastly different to any draft or previews sent to the interviewee.
Something that every Vampyre and member of the Vampyre Community should know, is that being part of this community is not an occupation – it’s not a position at a business, or any other mundane thing. It’s something that can place the individual under the spotlight of sensationalist reporting and has enormous potential for entertainment of the general public, while also holding immense destructive potential for the individuals concerned. Once anonymity is lost, it is lost for good. Once labeled by the public media as a “vampire” – that is not a position or occupation one can easily resign from.
With all the recent coverage in local South African newspapers about our community, a lot of interest has been generated, as can be seen in the many negative – and even hostile comments posted on these articles placed online. The resulting increase in interest in vampirism and our community has prompted more journalists to seek out and approach local Vampyres for interviews. Some in the community would like nothing more than to take the opportunity to educate the general public by expressing their own views on vampirism and their vampiric nature, with good intentions – often without fully considering the risks to themselves and to their associates and the broader community.
The South African Vampyre Alliance (SAVA) recently advised locals to be cautious when dealing directly with journalists on matters regarding vampirism. While it is hoped that all journalistic professionals would conduct themselves with integrity, one cannot assume that every request for an interview comes from good intentions, or that such an interview would work to the advantage of either the community, or the individual. It is advised that individuals dealing with public media keep all such dealings indirect and under the protection of their nightside names, email addresses not affiliated with their dayside identities, and without revealing dayside details which could compromise their anonymity.
When engaged with inquiring journalists via email, SAVA advises community members to not be tempted into agreeing to face-to-face interviews at this time. Interviewees may be asked to provide pictures of themselves, or to have a photographer take a picture during a face-to-face interview, “suitably obscured” to prevent recognition. In such a case, whether published “obscured” or not, the original picture would still be with the media agency, the photographer, and other members of the staff – unobscured. In the past, there have been requests to take pictures of a meeting of Vampyres, or even Vampyres and donors, to witness communion. The implications of this should be rather obvious – invasion of privacy, as well as massive potential risks to anonymity and individual integrity of all involved – multiplied tenfold if a camera is present.
South Africa is a country advanced in many ways in terms of civil rights protections, but currently there are still regular indicators that many of these “protections” and “liberties” remain firmly on paper, resulting in test-cases to enforce the provisions in the SA Constitution, quite often heavily opposed by public opinion. Individuals continue to be judged harshly by the general public on matters relating to race, religion, gender and sexual orientation, as well as freedom of expression. As yet, there are still no precedents in terms of the Vampyre Community in South Africa, and as a community we are breaking new ground.
SAVA appeals to local community members to use their common sense and to think carefully about the consequences before acting on such requests.