I’ve been engaging in something that may be an exercise in futility, working to improve (read: keep from being deleted) an article on Paganistan on Wikipedia. The article has been tagged for deletion for not being note worthy enough. Not enough sources they consider ‘reliable’ have written about Paganistan, which is short hand for saying the mainstream press hasn’t written much about us and the other sources listed aren’t reliable for one reason or another. From the discussion on the Article For Deletion page, it’s looking like this article, as the one on Sacred Paths Center which was already deleted, is on the fast track to non-existence.
So why have I been tilting at this particular windmill? Because too many articles on Paganism are being deleted on Wikipedia. Because this action on Wikipedia highlights the difficulties Pagans face gaining acceptance and inclusion in mainstream society and how the rules are discriminatory in practice, if not in intention. Because Wikipedia matters and is used as an initial stop for information gathering for the Average Joe and for media, like it or not. Most of all, because Pagans and Paganism are noteworthy.
One of the reasons Pagan articles get put onto the fast track to deletion is that they lack sources Wikipedia considers reliable, which then makes the entire topic ‘not worthy of note.’ After all, if it was worth noting, people would write about it, right?
On the face of it, there’s nothing wrong with this policy as it helps ensure that the articles and sources are solid. When this policy is put into practice with under-reported minority groups such as modern Pagans, that’s where the unintentional discrimination happens. Mainstream media simply doesn’t cover our news. When they do it is usually for a Halloween story or a hit-piece like what was on the National Post. So finding mainstream news articles about the important people, events, and places within Paganism is difficult. We were able to find several mainstream articles that reference Paganistan, but these were deemed not significant enough. The goal line moves again. This difficulty and lack of primary reporting of Pagan news is what lead to the creation of the Pagan Newswire Collective and the Minnesota bureau.
…without original reporting coming from the local level we become overly dependent on a news industry that increasingly doesn’t have the time or inclination to cover what we feel is important. Without our own journalism we miss newsworthy events that aren’t covered by traditional media, and become over-reliant on editorial, rumor, and rants. We need to build a new Pagan journalism from the grass-roots up, and PNC-Minnesota is a first step down that road. – The Wild Hunt, Building a pagan Ecosphere and Why That’s important
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. So are experts involved in the environmental movement not reliable sources for information about environmental issues? Are experts who write about Christianity who also happen to be Christians not cited as sources on Wikipedia? Experts are usually associated in some way to the topic they research and write about, it’s what drives them to devote so much of their life to a particular topic. Are first hand accounts of the community in question using the term allowed? No, they are also not reliable enough for Wikipedia.
I don’ t believe Wikipedia is engaging in some secret mission to wipe out all references to Paganism. There are many articles on various Pagan topics on Wikipedia and many of them are poorly written and need a helping hand. But there is a shift in editing philosophy that is hitting newer Pagan articles harder than mainstream religious articles. The editors and administrators seem to be moving away from allowing articles plenty of time to be expanded, sourced, and improved (inclusionism) and are now deleting articles much more quickly(deletionism), mainly for not being notable. This speed to deletion along with lack of mainstream media coverage of all things Pagan and disallowing sources such as books, experts, and news media if they happen to also be Pagans themselves puts us at an extreme disadvantage in following Wikipedia’s content and article guidelines.
I think there are individual editors who look for content on Wikipedia they don’t like and specifically target that content for removal. Anyone can nominate an article for deletion so this makes it easier for Wiki bullies and deletionists to ply their trade. Once a nomination for deletion is made, a deletion discussion page is created and editors (anyone with a Wikipedia account) can vote to ‘delete’ or ‘keep’ the article and comment on why the article should be kept or deleted. An administrator than counts to votes and checks for group consensus. For Paganistan, as it has for many articles on Pagans and Paganism, the consensus is leaning towards delete. New people are allowed to vote, but their votes seem to carry less weight than people who have been there longer. Also, asking people to join a deletion discussion is no-no. The Paganistan article is being worked on, new sources are being added. It has also been tagged for ‘rescue.’
This editorial isn’t just about one article on Wikipedia, or even about Wikipedia, it’s about pushing back at the idea that what happens in our communities isn’t noteworthy. Making sure that good, solid information about Paganism can be found in the places that people go to look for it, like Wikipedia. This is especially needed whenever there is another article reprinted in a newspaper that uses a tragedy as an excuse to warn readers of the “the risks involved in neo-pagan worship and certain New Age practices.“