The following is the full length version of the lecture: Words Of Power: Glamouring the Profane Media, a slightly shortened version of which was presented at Notocon X.
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
“The last time I got a feeler (pun intended) from the press, I referred them to our lovely PIO, and for some strange reason the reporter didn’t want to contact him! Like, do you think he wanted to write a snarky article after interviewing people who aren’t used to dealing with the press? Nah, reporters would *never* do that.”
“I don’t give press interviews about anything anymore. They have always wound up twisting words in the editing somewhere.”
The opening statements were pulled from Facebook – responses to some negative press coverage of OTO that had appeared.
This presentation is entitled “Words of Power; Glamouring The Profane Media.” We will discuss two duties that Order members should be concerned with, namely keeping their Local Body safe and secure on the one hand, and on the other, the Duty to Mankind, outlined in Crowley’s essay “On Duty,” to “Establish the Law of Thelema as the sole basis of conduct.” The latter can be accomplished the latter via promulgation.
These two duties might appear to conflict with one another but I hope to offer strategies to help accomplish both, effectively and painlessly.
We will be discussing:
1) current Grand Lodge policies and preferences regarding dealings with profane media as well as IHQ preferences
2) avoiding negative media coverage
3) using the media for promulgation purposes
We’ll have a lot of material to go over so I’ll ask you to make notes of any questions you may have and I’ll take them at the end of our session – or even afterwards outside the meeting room.
In the U.S. Camp, Oasis and Lodge Master’s Handbook, 2014 Revision: Section 8, subsection B.1.c titled” Violation of Official Trust” gives as one definition of such a violation “public misrepresentation of The Order.’ Section 9, subsection E, titled “Confidentiality” forbids revealing a member’s membership in OTO, discussing one’s degree except with members of the same Triad, making public the proceedings of any official meetings or making public any of our initiation rituals – certainly never performing them publicly.
Subsection “O” titled “Audio and Video Recording of Official Events” notes that any recordings need the permission of the Master and of ALL the persons being recorded secured in advance.
So Grand Lodge policy directly instructs us to accurately present the Order’s beliefs, aims, history and policy and protect the confidentiality of our initiation rituals and of members’ affiliation with us.
Beyond the written policy it’s informally suggested that Local Body Officers consult my office regarding any possible media coverage either positive or negative. Among my primary duties are advising and empowering Local Body Officers, by helping them to understand OTO’s perspectives on such issues and offering techniques likely to produce positive outcomes. This is not mandatory but it is encouraged. I can also be of aid in clarifying the preferences of IHQ in some such matters.
Now a long time concern of our Order has been dealing with negative media coverage. This goes back to Crowley’s day when he was regularly vilified and misrepresented in the tabloid press who regularly took quotes from his public statements and writings out of context to support the most outrageous and sensationalistic claims about his beliefs and behavior – the notorious being the oft bandied quote about child sacrifice, taken from Magick In Theory And Practice’s chapter, “Of The Bloody Sacrifice” – For the highest spiritual working one must accordingly choose that victim which contains the greatest and purest force. A male child of perfect innocence and high intelligence is the most satisfactory and suitable victim. This being a cheeky reference to ritual masturbation as clarified in his diaries where he notes that Frater Perdurabo made this particular sacrifice on an average abou5 150 every year btween 1912 and 1928 .
Since the OTO revival of the 1970’s, the Order has been periodically subjected to unwarranted, unfounded and ill-conceived mischaracterizations. The most prominent, in recent years, followed the unfortunate passing of Peaches Geldof, shortly after she had been Tweeting praise of Crowley’s writings and being photographed with the small tattoo of the letters, “OTO” inside a simple heart outline on her inner right forearm. There were media claims that “She died under the influence of an elite secret society.” Before that, during the Satanic Panic of the ‘80’s Crowley was regularly cited as an influence on the rise of Satanism in America. OTO is still occasionally depicted as an evil Illuminati that covertly rules the world to dastardly ends.
Nowadays, most virulently hostile coverage stems from marginalized cranks posting on their own websites, blogs or podcasts. In more mainstream outlets what’s more common is snarky depictions of OTO members in lifestyle blogs and podcasts as somewhat pathetic kooks, or coverage in serious news outlets of criminal behavior by former members and others who’d participated in OTO and EGC events at some period in their lives.
To cite some instances of merely embarrassing coverage: there was report on Gawker describing a casual public outreach event held in a public park in a major city, a piece in Time Out magazine profiling a Local Body for a special Halloween issue and a posting at DangerousMinds detailing the writer fraternizing with OTO members before a performance of the Gnostic Mass… that he didn’t atend. These are all prominent, mainstream outlets and positive coverage could have had a significant impact.
Gawker said: “As it turned out the meetup consisted of two people brown-bagging wine and eating pretzels on the edge of the fountain. I only managed to identify them because one—Frank, a middle-aged dude with a greying ponytail—was holding a pamphlet. He was all in black, with a couple of silver earrings and a red and black tribal-looking tattoo down his forearm, which he described using phrases like “the line of God, broken.”
“Frank’s companion was a blonde woman in her thirties, wearing leather flip-flops and designer sunglasses. I failed to write her name down, because when I told her I was a journalist her face hardened and she jerked her hand from mine. “Those are not our favorite,” she said, shortly. “There have been some incidents.”
The DangerousMinds piece likewise focused on the eccentric but humble appearance of the Order members present and the strangeness of their conversations with him and each other.
In both cases our Brethren were dealing with writers who arrived with an agenda and were actively looking for elements of the situation easily ridiculed. And let’s be honest, every subculture or emerging religious or philosophical movement has elements that will appear odd to the mainstream and wind up being reported as such. The simplest means of avoiding this is politely but firmly refusing to participate. In the case of DangerousMinds, the writer was in fact invited to Mass; clearly a bad idea.
On the other hand, the Gawker correspondent showed up without warning. In this case preventative measures were called for. Since this was in a public park in a major city it would have made sense to select The Brethren who’d present best to the profane for the job, who look and act intelligent and professional. In addition, everyone should have been prepared to discuss the Order and some of the mysticism and magick its members perform in straightforward, easily comprehended, non-threatening language, avoiding occult jargon. If you use Enochian to call those Angels why not use appropriate vocabulary to communicate clearly and charm a mere blogger. Finally, all involved should have been ready to maintain a cordial demeanor. I think our Brethren did their best under the circumstances but dealing effectively with the media is NOT intuitive. Pop stars, in fact, receive formal media coaching as a matter of course, and this is a service I’m available to provide as well.
Another opportunity that’s been cropping up in the past few years is to participate in documentaries and TV reality shows. The members of Swirling Star participated in a program that aired on the History Channel, Alombrados Oasis had a film crew show up at a Gnostic Mass without prior notice, looking to film the Mass and interview members. And individual OTO members have been contacted about being filmed for reality TV style programs.
While there is no written policy on such matters, both IHQ and US Grand Lodge does prefer that all such opportunities are submitted to them for approval through me. And before submitting them the Brethren contacted need to do the following:
1) find out the outlet that will eventually be airing the finished program
2) details as to the theme of the program
3) details on other individuals and organizations participating
4) examples of at least 2 or 3 programs this company has produced and had released.
From watching regular reality TV programs, it should be clear that the aim of most of them is sensationalism often achieved through deliberate distortion and misrepresentation of facts as well as conscious manipulation of the participants to behave their worst. Meanwhile, the producers of such shows have polished their skills of persuasion and, like the journalists we’ve already discussed, put on an excellent show of understanding your concerns and interests and promising to portray you honestly, without bias and to your advantage. That’s how they reel in the suckers and earn their generous salaries. So if you or your Body is approached to be filmed please contact me via email@example.com immediately so we can discuss the matter.
We now move on to the matter to dealing with media coverage of more serious matters – criminal cases, catastrophes such as fire, civil cases involving members or former members. I’d suggest that in such circumstances the strategic actions to take are:
1) notifying all members that all media queries and requests get referred immediately, politely, but firmly to the Master
2) that the Master and Local Body Officers research the matter at hand as thoroughly but quickly as possible and create a chronologically ordered account of the events and issues involved. Once this is completed it should be reviewed and facts checked, holes in the narrative plugged and all the items included attributed to particular witnesses, participants, etc. THIS IS TO BE KEPT in strict confidence and NOT provided to media or circulated in any way. It’s strictly used as a reference document.
3) that the Master endeavors to handle all media requests for statements and interviews via email. Having sufficient time, absence of pressure and the opportunity to consult your reference resources allows you to frame the best responses. In this circumstance “best” does not mean most complete. In sensitive situations TMI can prove catastrophic. You’ll want to be strategic in your answers: accurate, truthful but selective. You’ll be telling them what YOU determine they should be told.
4) if for some reason, the Master agrees to an in person interview, they should chose a location that they feel very comfortable in. One classic gambit of reporters is put an interview subject off balance, in an uncomfortable environment, or saying something confrontational to provoke an unguarded, ill-considered response. Alternately, some reporters will go to great lengths to make a subject believe that they’re on your side and committed to telling your side of the story – likewise, to elicit unguarded remarks. There’s a great book called “the journalist and the murderer” by janet Malcolm addressing this relationship (Joe McGuiness/Dr. Jeffrey R. MacDonald,) But a reporter is NOT your friend, or your enemy – just a skilled professional out to get results they hope will make exciting reading – whether it serves your purpose, or is true to your vision — or not.
Notwithstanding the circumstances of how you do your interview or who it’s with, it’s critical to prepare conscientiously. You should do significant research into the matter being addressed, perhaps drafting up the reference document I recommended earlier. Then distill that into bullet points, the messaget YOU want to make. Then when being interviewed via email, on the phone or in person take a moment to really understand the question being asked and make a conscious decision of which of your points YOU want to make – which will not necessarily answer the question being asked – a strategy that public figures employ all the time. Try to keep your answers succinct and to the point – something best achieved by preparing ahead of time. Long rambling answers not only go off topic but can inadvertently reveal information you might not have wanted to share. Maintain a cordial demeanor at all times.
Now let’s move on to using the media for promulgation purposes. As I said earlier every nascent religious or cultural movement has aspects at odds with the mainstream that likely will be ridiculed by its media. I’d like to offer two solutions.
1) broadcasting your message directly via Local Body publications – most especially when you can distribute them outside of OTO circles – or a blog, YouTube channel, or podcast. You control the content, there’s no misinterpretation or deliberate distortion by a writer or editor
2) publicize events the involve the OTO or are sponsored by the OTO. In this case the coverage is primarily on the event itself, and OTO is mentioned in passing and most likely without any in depth reporting on the Order’s history or past controversy.
Some examples of appropriate events to pitch coverage to profane media would be:
The Australian Grand Lodge’s Art Guild Collective 777 mounted a gallery exhibit of its members’ work in Pitman NJ last year. There were a number of angles to entice the profane media without going into more problematic areas. There was an element of the exotic in this art being created in Australia and shipped all the way from there to a small gallery space in the humble town of Pitman, NJ. Additionally most of the artists themselves made the considerable trip up to be present at the opening of the exhibit. The artwork itself was consistently powerful, obviously skillful, striking and novel – no one needed to have committed Magick and Theory And Practice to memory to appreciate it.
Last Summer Rutgers University hosted a colloquium in association with Academia Ordo Templi Orientis titled “The Soldier and the Seer: J.F.C. Fuller, Aleister Crowley and the British Occult Revival” that addressed the life of Fuller and his relationship with the occult and Crowley over the years. Certainly the association with an institution like Rutgers lent proceedings an air of credibility and respectability few would question. Further, the details of most of Fuller’s career as a military strategist are fascinating, impressive and historically significant. Meanwhile the speakers’ treatments of the subject were scholarly, soberly presented and didn’t flinch from exposing some of the dicier aspects of Fuller’s later life. This was as distinguished a public showcase for Thelemic thinkers as you could hope for.
So, I’d suggest that if your Local Body organizes events like a mini-music festival, a public art exhibit, the premiere of a film by a local director, a lecture not specifically on OTO that these are all prime opportunities for exposure in local mainstream media. Such coverage should promote attendance at these events and the simple mention that the event was hosted or organized by OTO gets the name out there in an entirely positive light, connected to a noteworthy undertaking.
And you’d do that by doing some research into local print and online media – you can simply go online and search your town’s name + newspapers and then news-sites. Then you look over the home pages and look for the “contact us” button – usually found at the bottom of the home page. You can look for the religious reporter or otherwise for the features editor. And then call AND email them about your event. You’ll want to have all your facts straight and presented immediately. You state the name of the event, the day and time it’ll take place, the name of the location and give a one sentence description of the event. Then you can go on to describe it in more detail. And be sure to include your contact information so they can get back to you. In fact, when you call them you should have this release in front of you and basically read it. Reporters and editors are overworked, underpaid and stressed and you need to get directly to the point with them. Remember, you’re not trying to prosyletize here – just to get them to cover the event and briefly mention OTO. People attending the event then get the more extended introduction to our community.
I hope this presentation has been helpful in clarifying Grand Lodge and IHQs policies and preferences on dealing with the profane media, given you some strategies for dealing with possibly problematic media coverage and making use of the press for promulgation purposes in contexts most likely to produce positive results.
Love is the law, love under will.
Frater Lux Ad Mundi