Art Bell has returned to the airwaves. He has brought his unique brand of conspiracy theory, paranormal, and alternative belief coverage. I grew up listening to Art Bell and I’m sure that a lot of you did too. You never knew what you were going to get, and even now, you still don’t.
Yet last week something came to my attention. He was interviewing Blanche Burton, the Magistra Templi Rex within the Church of Satan. My opinions on Satanism aside, it was a great interview. Here’s what the problem was. Art asked Blanche the following:
“Do you really worship Satan?”
Blanche explained to Art that their beliefs were about worshiping the ‘Self’ and how they only use Satan as an avatar. It was a very succinct and clear answer that anyone could have understood. They went on to talk about magic and the life of Anton LaVey before the interview ended. The next evening though, things went south. Art was saying:
“You don’t sell Satan to people with chains and blood and fire and damnation and hell. That’s not how you sell Satan. You sell Satan with trickery.”
Except that she told you that she doesn’t worship Satan, Art!
It’s right there in all of their materials, if you’d bother to have read them. This kind of gross misrepresentation happens again and again. Art Bell certainly isn’t the first or last person to be guilty of this kind of malfeasance. It is very easy to misrepresent Satanism because it’s Satanism, and to some extent they even WANT to be misrepresented. The issue isn’t about Satanism though.
The issue has everything to do with Art Bell. Was he succumbing to puritanical social programming, or did he forget the answer Ms. Barton gave him? Perhaps he was just pandering to his audience. Art Bell is smart as a whip. He is incredibly open minded, articulate, and astute. It’s one of the primary reasons he’s been as successful as he’s been throughout his career. His ability to understand and coherently discuss even the most ridiculous, asinine, and challenging content is the reason he’s as celebrated as he is. This is why I don’t see how he couldn’t understand what Ms. Barton was telling him.
What I can see though, is a somewhat significant segment of his fanbase losing their collective shit over the content of that interview. Looking at the post on his page “warning” people about the fact that he’s going to be interviewing a member of the Church of Satan is greeted with plenty of excitement, but plenty of people replying with:
“Art, I will skip tonight’s show. To have anything to do with Satan is a warning to all.”
Now anyone is free to not listen to anything. That is fine. But should Art be plying them with nonsense to perpetuate this level of ignorance? Isn’t the purpose of his program to educate, or at the very least try to represent the truth when he is in a position to do so? When it’s black and white and clear over all, there shouldn’t be any misrepresentation. Not only was he insulting to the guest, but he was insulting to his listeners. He assumed that we couldn’t handle these ideas, even though he was the one presenting them.
Misrepresentation in the media is not a new thing, but at what point do we push back and demand that these entities not skew information? Art’s backpedaling the day after the interview served no purpose but to coddle a certain segment of his listeners while confusing the rest. It was disappointing and a little upsetting. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised by it at this point.
It’s possible that I’m expecting too much of Art Bell. Having been so excited for his return, I might have let myself idealize those nightly experiences, and in turn lost sight of what it really is. Art Bell is much more free now than he has ever been, but he is still beholden to his listeners, and he knows better than anyone to keep them happy. He’s going to take care of him. Therefore, we need to take care of ourselves and demand better. When need to speak up when a public figure misrepresents this kind of information.
It’s easy to forget that Art Bell is the media. He’s not among the monolithic entities that actively work to confuse and manipulate the country, but he still qualifies as the media. He is on a platform that many people pay attention to. While most of the information he provides is largely inconsequential, the occult community needs to hold him and others who capitalize on our various paradigms accountable for misrepresenting us. Living in the shadows has worked in the past, but this is the future, and there are fewer shadows to lurk in.
We must be clear about how we are presenting ourselves to the public, and not let others twist and confuse what we stand for.