Recently, there has been a sharp rise in SRA reporting in South African print media surrounding various crimes being incorrectly linked to various religions and subcultures by the press, misinformed public servants and so-called “interfaith groups” who co-incidentally just happen to agree with all the SRA misinformation and add fuel to the hysteria it causes.
We’re currently experiencing SRA in South Africa as well, although ours is perhaps moderate when compared to the rampant fiction and scaremongering in Zimbabwean “newspapers” who seem to think every day is April Fool’s Day, with all the utter rubbish about “Satanic cults”, “blood drinking” and cannibalism and supposed “confessions” from captured “Satanists” popping up in their press like turds surfacing in a fetid river of sewage, which the public – and the world – are expected to swallow as “truthful, factual and honest journalism”.
Over a number of years, in different capacities, I have been interviewed by journalists or asked for official comment on various issues, and I must admit that expectations are not always lived up to by the newspapers they represent. This is not always the fault of the journalist conducting the interview, just as it sometimes IS. Some journalists are objective and open to learning the facts for themselves. Conversely, some journalists have ulterior motives, and some news agencies have pre-existing policies and mindsets on various issues, and again, certain viewpoints are maintained effectively by the Editors regardless of the viewpoint held by the original article.
Most people make the mistake of thinking that newspapers are sources of factual information, with an ethical obligation to tell the truth without bias or spin. Well, technically, at least according to various ethics and standards which the industry sets for itself, they ARE supposed to be. Time and again, however, journalists, editors and newspapers throw ethics out the window – and prove the public fatally wrong. Newspapers are BUSINESSES, and like any business, they are in the business of making as much money as possible. Nothing sells like sex… AND Satanism – or in the case of SRA, ACCUSATIONS of “Satanism”. Many papers in SA maintain a Christian readership, and cater for a Christian viewpoint – and even a Christian fundamentalist viewpoint.
The Press Ombudsman has proven himself to be a bigot who has repeatedly refused to engage with occult religions in South Africa on matters of libelous SRA reporting in SA press, and some newspapers with a specific religious bias – and others more motivated by increased profit, have declared “open season” on alternative religions and lifestyles. This despite the detail that this is a SECULAR country – at least, according to the increasingly ignored Constitution which promotes freedom of religion and equal treatment for people regardless of their religious beliefs or affiliations.
Journalists and Editors don’t always understand the topic of an article, and they don’t always CARE enough to. It’s an assignment that needs to be done before they get to do more important things in their own time. They don’t always want the “truth” – they want sensation. Modern “news” is often nothing more than skillfully re-packaged advertising, presented as really attractive propaganda that happens to fit a particular viewpoint and influence public opinion to create a desired effect.
Journalists don’t always want to know how it REALLY IS in a targeted religious minority group or subculture, what they REALLY want is material to reinforce the SRA viewpoint – and the controversy around the religious fundamentalist hysteria that boosts their sales.
SRA – or Satanic Ritual Abuse – in the media is not about news, or the reporting of facts. It is about deliberate MISINFORMATION about a targeted group or religion with the intention of creating misunderstanding, mistrust, fear and hatred of a specific minority – in the case of South Africa (and the USA), by Christians – and to a lesser degree, Muslims. In many cases this is perpetuated also by many atheists and agnostics also, who may have been members of other religions, but who still carry that same misunderstanding of the targeted groups. SRA is at heart, religious warfare in print, audio and video media, in societal norms and civil conventions. The danger is that SRA creeps into legal, law enforcement and lawmaking aspects as is currently the case with the SAPS and its ORC unit. Together these all create fear and incite hatred against minority groups.
In recent weeks I have answered a number of questions from the Press after being approached for email interviews, two of which were lengthy and detailed responses to two different newspapers, the Citizen (of the SAPA group), and the Daily News, based in KZN. It’s worth mentioning that of these interviews, one didn’t appear at all, and the other was cut down to two whole lines which were used in a quotation across at least four associated publications. There are of course numerous reasons for this, aside from the reasons provided by the interviewing journalists themselves – being time and space constraints – and being in competition with other publications.
If I were to speculate, interviews on particular matters are often not published “as is”, but form a reference for the journalist to use in order to write an article about the subject, sometimes without even quoting the person being interviewed. Sometimes these interviews – or even any resulting articles, are not published at all, most likely because come printing time, the Editor feels that the interests of the readership have moved on, the topic has passed its sell-by date, or because (as is typical in most places where SRA is rampant) the answers provided by the suspected “satanic group” in the spotlight, are too ‘on the money’ and far too direct, honest, demystifying and clear to publish – that is, if the paper in question is part of the SRA problem.
In South Africa I think the biggest SRA problem is uneducated journalists and editors, who simply DON’T KNOW the facts and eat up the SRA stew dished for them by self-proclaimed “occult experts” – frauds like former policemen who now run their own “warfare ministries” which specifically target religious minorities and who have such OBVIOUS BIAS it surprises me nobody else seems to have picked up on it before. This sort of journalism simply perpetuates ignorant and presumptive viewpoints on the basis of “it comes from the experts, so it must be right”, without bothering to check facts, or consult with opposing viewpoints as a professional journalist SHOULD, and does in most other instances. Often the personal prejudices of the journalistic staff plays a role in how something is portrayed in the media.
This was not the feeling I got from the two interviews I conducted with the journalists in the past 2 weeks however – but since these interviews never made it to the papers, and since the questions and their answers are relevant to public interest, and for the sake of accuracy, I have decided to post the complete interviews here on SAVN.
On Mar 18, 2013 at 4:17 PM, Elaine Swanepoel from The Citizen wrote:
“Good afternoon Octarine
The department of Education today took hands with various Faith orginisations to take action against dangerous satanistic and cult practises in schools. We are doing an article on this and would really like your input.
1. Do you think people are sometimes too quick to blame cults and satanic rituals for certain violent crimes?
2. Is it not every person’s right to live out his or her religion or belief?
3. I’m am sure you receive a lot of prejudice because of your specific belief?
If you could please get back to me before 18:00 today I would appreciate it very much.
Thank you for your contact.
As part of a group which I feel is often unfairly mislabeled and targeted for prejudicial accusations and statements, I feel the need to ask “what ‘faith groups'”? If these groups are all of one particular religion, you have a possible answer to the rest of your questions – this sort of grandstanding and ‘crusading’ is nothing more than one religion persecuting and scapegoating others who conveniently are left with no voice to defend themselves.
Allow me to state for the record that I am not a Satanist, I identify as a Pagan.
1. Do you think people are sometimes too quick to blame cults and satanic rituals for certain violent crimes?
Yes definitely. Most people do not even know the correct definitions of what makes a “cult” – the use they bend the word to is not the actual meaning of the word in the dictionary. In their usage, a “cult” is something not Christian and which is religious, and which is often secretive and hidden. Often the same people who scornfully label any other group a “cult” for these reasons tend to forget that members of religions targeted and persecuted by a majority or mainstream religion have little alternative but to conduct their meetings and practices in secret – and that they are partly to blame for this.
Most people never bother to do a little research to find out about the “Satanism” they fear so much, and instead choose to swallow everything they are told about it by their own religious leaders in good faith. If they did, they would discover to their surprise that Satanism is not at all what they think it is. For example:
Often other religions or groups (other than mainstream Christianity) are portrayed as being “Satanic” or conflated with Satanism out of ignorance about both these – OR because those who do so, act out of the belief that though their victims may not identify as Satanists, their beliefs or practices or lifestyles indicate to them that they are somehow “trapped in a form of Satanism” and “are simply ‘lost’ or deluding themselves”. Thus the mis-identification, and any potential actions against their victims, is “justified” in the context of their grouping.
Some groups are identified as being “Satanic” while nothing could be farther from the truth. In truth these allegations are false, but because the general public (and often those making the allegations) do not know anything about the label they are applying to a group, action or crime in order to discern for themselves. This is because they don’t know anything about
a) the group they are targeting,
b) the differences between it and Satanism,
c) Satanism itself –
Even though under the law provided by the new Constitution of South Africa which guarantees freedom of religion, and even though there is absolutely NO EVIDENCE to back any claims made in the media or even by self-proclaimed “experts” in “the occult”, even those in the SAPS – every time a cat disappears, a child goes missing, a pentacle is drawn on a wall in an act of random vandalism, or something in that line, then Satanism is defamed and slandered in the mass media – and largely from a Christian perspective. There is never an onus placed on the press or any other agency to provide proof that “Satanism” or any other religion was involved in the purported crime, in the form of evidence or even a conviction.
Even other religions, such as Paganism – which is similarly misunderstood by the mainstream, are mistakenly if not deliberately mis-associated with Satanism in an attempt to discredit or defame them, and to incite hostility against them. This in itself results in hostility in the target group towards both the accuser and the religion of which they are being accused or mis-labeled as – and regrettably so.
To my mind this is all part of a deliberate campaign on the part of Christian fundamentalists working to turn members of non-Christian religions into scapegoats in order to propel themselves into positions of greater influence while also elevating their own religion above others, when in terms of the Constitution, all religions – as well as those believing in them, should be treated equally before the law REGARDLESS.
2. Is it not every person’s right to live out his or her religion or belief?
Naturally it is. The Constitution does NOT specify that every person has the right to freedom of religion EXCEPT for Satanists or those people accuse of being Satanists. Further, since belonging to any religion – even Satanism – is NOT a crime in South Africa, how do people – and especially religious bodies such as so-called “faith groups” get away with “accusing” people of “Satanism” as if it WERE a criminal act to exercise one’s Constitutional rights?
According to the law it is CRIMINAL ACTS (acts which do PROVABLE harm to others) which are categorized as criminal – NOT beliefs or religion. Otherwise Christianity would be a crime for all the crimes committed by its own followers and even many of its leaders.
At this time in South Africa there are groups who are increasingly dictating to others what they ought to believe and inciting others to enforce a system of prejudice against those who do not comply. A key tool of this system is propaganda, and the association of what is called “warfare ministries” which literally wage wars of attrition against those groups which are painted as scapegoats and with deliberate misinformation.
The average Christian for instance will not know that there are no less than 5 different independent religions within the umbrella group bearing the label “Satanism”, each with different beliefs and practices, and most of them do not even believe in Satan as a living being or deity, but venerate the self. Not even the minority which identifies as Theistic Satanists advocates violent practices or beliefs.
True, there are people among them crazy enough to do harm to others in the name of their religion, but what is just as true is that every religion has people among them crazy enough to do harm to others in the name of their religion.
Is it logical and reasonable to blame the tiny number of real verifiable crimes committed by people who just happen to be members of one religion on the vast majority who go through life without ever contemplating similar acts? If so, then what about all those crimes committed by people who are also members of the religion of those doing the blaming?
3. I’m am sure you receive a lot of prejudice because of your specific belief?
Yes. Most people make assumptions without asking questions of me to clarify what it is that I believe. Instead, they make assumptions and even accusations without taking the trouble of even using something as simple to use and easy to access as Google or Wikipedia.”
The article appeared the following day, and presented as reasonably unbiased and objective.
Only one portion of the interview was used in the article:
“Octarine Valure from the SA Vampyre Alliance was particularly adamant about this.
“Since belonging to any religion, even Satanism, is not a crime in South Africa, how can religious bodies get away with accusing people of Satanism as if it were a criminal act to exercise one’s Constitutional rights?”
He said most people make assumptions and accusations without asking questions to clarify what it is he believes in.”
Elaine sent a follow-up request for a response on 19 March:
The pagan alliance will be laying a complaint regarding yesterdays meeting. Please see the link and let me know if you have a comments: http://www.paganrightsalliance.org/mec-creecy-says-occultism-and-satanism-harmful-
O, and the article did make the paper today, don’t know if you saw it?
I saw it – very disappointed that it was so short, and that so little of what I said was used. Incidentally, I am female 😉
However, here is my statement, should you have a use for it:
‘I have been following with interest the tale of two Abrahmic religions, being Christianity and Islam, and their involvement with the so-called “interfaith group” working with the Dept of Education. Since when is a conspiracy of TWO like religions of the same root an “inter-faith” group? Why is it that only Christians and/or Muslims are worthy to be considered either trustworthy or credible by the government of South Africa?
Self-proclaimed “experts” in “Satanism” and “the occult” who have a) no first-hand experience with the groups they target, b) clear bias in that they are evangelical Christians (such as Kobus Jonker) attached to or in support of so-called “warfare ministries” are chiming in to spread their ignorant personal observations on things those whom they slander and persecute understand very well that they know nothing about, and are being encouraged in this farce by the eager Press and Media who give these frauds and fear-mongers a platform to spread their misinformation and propaganda from, thereby advancing their agenda to oppress the religious freedom of minority groups in favor of their own religion.
The implications of the MEC for education’s ill-informed and unfortunate utterances are far reaching. She has made statements in an official capacity inciting hostility towards a religious minority which she clearly does not understand or know anything about, which encourages prejudice and intolerance towards them and to those suspected by others in the case of witch hunts – and which may even contribute to violence against those whose dignity and right to religious freedom is being made out to be a criminal offense.
At the end of the day, I believe this is NOTHING MORE THAN AN EXCUSE to facilitate the creep of Abrahmic religion (Christianity or Islam) into our public school system, obliterating secular structure and constitutional respect and social tolerance for diverse religious beliefs. I am surprised nothing is being said about this from a CONSTITUTIONAL perspective!
Taken together, this is indicative of a rising “Satanic Panic” hysteria, with uninformed people running around in circles, spotting “Satanists” in their soup and spreading the fear of something which does not in fact exist – and even worse, being agitated into a frenzy by people in positions of authority who ought to know better! I am in full support of Damon Leff and the SAPRA in taking legal action in this matter. This has been a long time in coming. It is high time the alternative religions and sub-cultures of SA stand together on being maligned unfairly by these people, and take this to the Constitutional or Equality Court.
South Africa is constitutionally a land of diversity and mutual tolerance and respect – but the actions of certain parts of our society, and whose influences are seen in government – appear to be working to strip our nation of that very diversity which defines us, working to make us all believe the same thing, look the same, and act the same. I will never agree with that – and I sincerely hope that every other South African who values their own identity and the view that religion and state ought to be separated, feels the same way.’
To my knowledge, of the second statement, just half a sentence which was actually written by me, was used – and the rest of the statement being attributed to me being “contracted” from the rest of my statement:
“Octarine Valur of the SA Vampyre Alliance told the paper Creecy’s statement was creating hostility towards religious minorities.
‘This encourages prejudice and intolerance towards these groups, and may even contribute to violence against those whose dignity and right to religious freedom is being made out to be a criminal offence.'”
I do agree with this presentation. Elaine did respond to my comment on the lack of inclusion of my response in my first interview:
“O my goodness! So sorry about that! Yes I know, would have loved to use more but space is always a problem! Although I will be using some of your other quotes for tomorrow’s story as well…but thank you so much!”
While not everything given was used, the experience I have of the Citizen interview and the journalist, is that the general spirit and meaning of statements that WERE used, were conveyed as intended, unobscured and in an unbiased manner – which is exactly what counters SRA in the press, and what we need more of.
Moving on to the second interview, conducted by the Daily News, Barbara Cole sent me an email on March 22, requesting an interview. She wrote:
“Thanks for coming back to me so quickly. I have to write a story on Sunday and was worried that I would not get hold of you then.
As I explained, I am doing a follow-up to the story about “Pagans Lay Complaint Against Creecy” (SA Press Association yesterday) which quoted you.
I have been asked to look at the issue of Satanism in KZN schools (as that is where our paper is based) and apparently the Zulu king has touched on the subject recently.
Could you please expand on your quote that you gave SAPA?”
I agreed, and she sent me a series of questions, which I answered and sent back to her the same day.
First I wish to clarify that I am not a Satanist, nor do I in any way claim to represent Satanists or the Satanist religion. By religion I am a Pagan. It simply irks me to see so much misrepresentation and hysteria in the press and coming out of the mouths of government ministers and other authority figures who are simply showing their ignorance and prejudice without knowing what they – or their audiences – are talking about.
Could you please expand on your quote that you gave Sapa?
“Currently there is a perceived rise in cases of so-called “Satanic Panic” or “Satanic Ritual Abuse” being alleged and sensationalized in the media and even by representatives and officials of the South African government.
Broad generalizations are made in the form of accusations of “Satanism” being applied to violent crimes NOT related to Satanism, and against other minority religions, sub-cultures, and in extreme cases, against anything which is not perceived to be Christian or part of or in line with the Christian religion and its dogma.
Satanists as a whole are tarred and feathered as a “threat” and a “danger” by other mainstream religious entities in the same all-encompassing way that all Christians are portrayed as being opposed to the human rights of those they are taught and encouraged to hate. These are stereotypes, and like most stereotypes, these are both absolutely false. The problem is that there is not much opportunity for these stereotypes to be debunked, or the flaws in the arguments used against them to be exposed.
Because of the perpetual mis-identification of religions, subcultures and lifestyles which are misunderstood by the general public (ignorance) at the hands of those who perpetuate these misunderstandings and who do so in line with their personal and institutional agendas to advance their own religion(s) by oppressing or persecuting other groups by using them as scapegoats and targets for hostile action, Satanism as a religion is VERY widely misunderstood by the general public, who are broadly ignorant of the various differences between the factions within Satanism as a religion in as much as a Muslim might be ignorant of the differences between different denominations of Christianity. There are no less than 5 known distinctly different groupings within the global umbrella of Satanism, and each of them is vastly different from the next in terms of belief, tradition, ritual and practice – and possibly even more that are unknown to us.
While there may be elements within any religion which may encourage or partake in violent cult-like behavior (for example human sacrifice, or persecution of perceived “child witches” or forced “exorcisms” as recently resulted in the death of a child in Humansdorp at the hands of a pastor and his congregation), it is simply not accurate or reasonable to place the blame for such acts on the entire religion and all those who identify with it as is being done with Satanism.”
Has your organisation also laid a complaint against Creecy?
“No, my organization, that is the body of which I act as administrator and spokesperson, has not laid any formal complaints against anyone. However, we fully support the SAPRA in doing so and agree with their reasons for laying a complaint.
As a subculture our community is diverse and does not identify with any particular religion, and we do not identify or function AS a religion, but as a subculture. Therefore any claims that the Vampi(y)re subculture is “a form of Satanism” or tries to link it with the practice of Satanism or any other religion is sadly misinformed.
However, where matters develop to affect critical issues in the Bill of Rights, such as the freedom to identify, the rights to dignity, freedom of religion, belief, speech and expression etc, we feel this justifies our support of relevant roleplayers such as the SAPRA.”
How many members have you countrywide…and in KZN?
“Our organization is a community body which has a closed and selective membership policy. To clarify, we are not representative of the ENTIRE community of self-identified Vampyres in South Africa, but we exist in order to develop and grow the sub-culture in terms of interaction in real life and online and to encourage social events and meet-ups. We do not determine how people live or what they believe. We are NOT a religious group – that is, our members identify with various different religions or faiths, including Paganism and Christianity to name the two largest components. We view what we are and what religion we ascribe to as two separate things entirely. We simply maintain educational and information resources and facilitate interaction between broader participants in our region and with the international community. As such we have several members in most of the provinces of South Africa.”
Is your membership growing?
“Yes, our membership is steadily growing as a community based organization, though quantity is not preferred to quality.”
And do you have any school children in your membership? Are there any in KZN? (I ask this as a I was informed that teenager was murdered in Gauteng in “an apparent Satanic ritual.”
“As a rule we do not permit anyone under the age of majority, that is, 18 to join or participate in any of our groups, both online and offline. In an online scenario it is hard to tell who is what, as anyone can lie about their age and other particulars behind a facebook avatar. In general, practices within the community are not considered harmful, but we prefer to exclude anyone under this age for reasons that should be obvious. Regardless, internationally, our community or subculture has its own internal guidelines or laws if you will that firstly encourage participants to keep within the laws of their land. This said, the harming of others is NOT something that is encouraged within our culture, and if any such harm were to occur, the community would be encouraged to hand over those responsible to the authorities.
Safety of our participants is foremost in our culture. We rely on others close to us for help – and nobody wants to help someone whom they know will harm them – so the best thing for us to do is to make sure that nobody is harmed. That should be the common sense approach when looking at our community.
Again I must emphasize that the SAVA and the Vampyre subculture are separate entities from any religion. Therefore, while critics may point out what they perceive as similarities between A and B, they will be off the mark.”
Could you please spell out what it is to be vampyric and tell me something about the uniqueness of your culture.
“Most different types of self-identifying Vampyres – that is, individuals who identify themselves as being vampyric people, will admit to having a need that ordinary food or drink cannot satisfy, and that should they not feed this need, they will grow sickly both spiritually and physically. There are different sources that Vampyres feed from, and I won’t go into that here – those who are interested can look on our culture site for that. http://vampyreculturecenter.wordpress.com Most Vampyres tend to view their nature as vampyric people as being something natural, a biological or physical condition not yet isolated or identified by medical science, and they are quite adamant about that.
Our culture is as diverse as any other. Most people think we all dress up like goths and run around the countryside at night wearing plastic fangs! While there is always the small element that IS gothic and likes heavy metal music and wears black nail varnish (every group has those somewhere) most participants in our community do not fit that stereotype. They are regular people, working regular jobs and looking like everyone else.
What makes us special and unique in South Africa is that it is our nature and our need for companionship and mutual understanding that brings us together – and that no matter what our race, language, culture or religion, we all get along without the drama and nit-picking about these same issues as in general society. It is from this need that the SAVA was founded in 2011.”
What is it that the general public think you do?
“The general public seem to think we are teenagers who have been watching or reading too much Twilight. Meanwhile, most VC participants actually hate Twilight. It hasn’t been very flattering to the subculture to say the least. Most participants in the international VC appear to be in the mid 20’s to early 40’s, with some in their 50s and older, so while there are always teenagers on Facebook either looking for Edward or Bella, or even self-identifying as Vampyres themselves, they are typically not involved in any real Vampyre Community activities or associated with the community in any way.
Those who over-react think we are Satanists, stalking people, cutting people to drink their blood or stealing blood using creative means like conveniently getting a job at the blood bank etc. Meanwhile in reality MOST Vampyres do not consume blood at all, they feed on other forms of energy absorbed using different methods involving psychic means. If viewed in this sense it is easy to see why some people jump to conclusions and label us Satanists without knowing a thing about our subculture, and our reasons for doing what we do. Relatively few Vampyres actually consume blood – and when this is done it is with the participation of voluntary consenting adult donors, usually within the context of a private and romantic relationship and not in the form of any ritual and most certainly excluding violence of any kind. People refer too much to the fiction we see on TV these days and they judge and condemn on assumption without making the effort to find out for themselves what the truth is.
Please do not hesitate to contact me with more questions. Thank you.”
Sunday came and Sunday went, and no sign of the article appeared. When asked about it, Ms Cole responded:
“Unfortunately, after all your effort, it got subbed out. It was going to be a huge story, but the Sunday Tribune which came out before the Daily News went big on it and virtually took a full page on the issue, with colour picture, so while we ran a story, it was scaled down, even though the news editor particularly wanted me to get your comments. Sadly, that’s what happens a lot of the time.”
I’m a little confused here. Her interview was ABOUT the Vampyre Communty, subculture and the SAVA. Did the Tribune do an article about these as well (without getting any material from us via an interview)? Or in the mind of the journalist (or editor) is “the issue” all about “Satanism” INclusive of all the questions asked by her about the South African Vampyre subculture and community? What was the “colour picture” of? A self-identifying Vampyre? Was it sensationalist reporting?
Once again, at least in this instance, it seems that in the minds of journalists, who apparently do not know much about their subject material, “Satanism” is being conflated with a great many OTHER misunderstood and clearly sensation-provoking issues. Truth and fact – and getting the views of those being maligned is not what interests many of them – but beating other papers to getting the more sensational headlines (with color pictures) is.
What should occult-related community groups, subcultures and alternative religions look for in media and newspapers that ask for interviews with them? I would suggest the following:
1) Judge the intent of the journalist/paper/media by the sort of questions they ask. Don’t answer leading questions that attempt to trick the interviewee into providing information that can or will be used to put the group/community in a bad light, or to imply that reason does exist to doubt sincerity or honesty on the part of the interviewee or the group/community.
2) Check on the sort of articles on this or similar topics done by the journalist in the past to verify that they write objectively. It is relatively pointless to do an interview with a “newspaper” that only posts SRA rubbish as “news” and “fact” – they will not change their sensationalist run just for you.
3) Many papers do restrict space for articles which are very controversial, or if they are biased, for the opposing viewpoint. If they only use small select portions you should be able to gauge their intent by whether they use tracts that work for you, or against you. If they don’t use your statements or interview material at all, it is more than likely that the content a) wasn’t sensational enough to boost their sales on the SRA ticket, or b) wasn’t what they were looking for anyway.
This is yet another chapter in the ongoing lesson that is the interaction of the Vampyre subculture with the general society that surrounds it. We experience, we learn, we share our experiences and knowledge with others.