Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Heathens on the BBC

Yesterday afternoon, I was contacted by the BBC's Richard Lawson. He was interested in the news that the Ásatrúarfélagið (“Æsir Faith Fellowship”), the organization that began the Heathen revival in 1972, is building what will be the first public hof (Heathen temple) in Iceland since the nation's conversion to Christianity in the year 1000.

He was quite friendly:
Could you talk to BBC national radio live at 8.50pm this evening, on Skype or the telephone? 
We're fascinated by the news of a modern shrine to Thor, Odin and Frigg being built in Iceland, and we'd be delighted to get your take on the gods involved, and on Norse paganism in the 21st century.
I later found out that Mr. Lawson had attempted to contact the Ásatrúarfélagið through their Facebook page. He wrote to me when he didn't receive a reply as broadcast time neared. Sometimes, the one who gets on air is simply the one who answers messages first. Such is the nature of journalism.

Photo from the Ásatrúarfélagið website

I'm a bit wary of the mainstream media's reporting on minority faiths since the broadcast of Public Radio International's problematic coverage of Ásatrú (“Æsir Faith,” the modern iteration of Old Norse religion). I've also had conversations with CNN's religion blog editor in which he was openly disrespectful and dismissive of the religious tradition. Unfortunately, this seems to be a common attitude among journalists in the English-speaking world.

So, I asked Mr. Lawson what sort of questions I would be answering on the air. He replied:
questions will be simple…
along the lines of
what's this temple
which gods are being worshipped
what's behind the growth of modern norse paganism
it's a general news programme -- so pretty basic, 'beginners start here' stuff
I then received a phone call from a BBC producer who told me that the interview would be broadcast live on the BBC 5 program “Up All Night.” She asked me the same questions as Mr. Lawson had sent, listened to my brief answers, and told me to be ready for the call at airtime.

Dotun Abedayo, presenter of BBC 5's "Up All Night"

Dotun Adebayo, the show's presenter, appears to have missed the memo. At the top of the show, he described the upcoming segment:
Do they know it's not fantasy – or maybe it is? Iceland builds its first temple to the Norse gods since the Vikings.
Over the course of the interview, Mr. Abedayo seemed determined to paint Ásatrú as a religion based on fantasy and violence. I attempted to answer his misrepresentations and falsehoods as best I could. You can decide for yourself if he treated this minority religious tradition with disrespect, and whether I successfully answered his assertions.

As always, I make no claim to represent Ásatrú, the Ásatrúarfélagið, or any other Heathen besides myself. I'm merely standing up for what I believe in – and for fair and balanced media coverage that treats small religions with the same respect that it gives large ones. I hope that this is something we can all agree on.

Listen to the complete interview by clicking the ► button in the player below.

For more information on Ásatrú, check out the articles in The Norse Mythology Blog Archive by clicking here.


Mjollnir10 said...

Great job at redirecting the conversation back to what it should have been and not falling into his obvious traps!

Just me. said...

I guess trolling isn't just confined to the internet! I think you handled it well, sir.

Unknown said...

Very well done. I like how you tried to make comparisons between Norse religion and Judea Christian religion as far as tales of unbelievable figures and the history of violence. It's not that they weren't violent but by comparison it was all about equal and would really depend on who you were asking.
You did a nice job trying to keep on subject and keep the religious bashing to a minimum.

Unknown said...

Good job! I love how we are the violent ones, but comparatively, Christianity is just as, if not more bloody - and they did those things in the name of their God... Baffles me.

Unknown said...

Did a very good job, I love how you connected Charlemagne's actions!

Unknown said...

Well done, Sir. You conversed with someone who was really more into being negative concerning his whole perspective of Northern European beliefs and theology.

Bára said...

I find the Dotun Abedayo insulting, ignorant and repulsive.
I'm not mad just sad for this person.

Good job Karl.

George said...

nicely done, the man's a buffoon.

A said...

Well done! I got the sense that the presenter was trying not to laugh during most of the interview. What a shame that he's such a disrespectful person.

Markus Nicklas said...

Very well done, Karl. You were present and did answer the questions. Good and upright. Thank you.

Brandon said...

You are a credit to academia and Heathens everywhere. Thank you for representing us in such a professional way.

Unknown said...

Karl!!! You rock!!! What a great job and mentioning the christianizing of charlamegne was so important!!! Thank you

Unknown said...

You did not fall into the tricster's trap, you have shown wisdom. Good job.

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