Heathen professor of mythology Karl E. H. Seigfried was recently asked to appear on BBC Up All Night, hosted by Dotun Adebayo, to discuss the new Pagan temple under construction in Iceland. Dr. Seigfried was presented with a specific list of topics beforehand, which were mutually agreed-upon, but when Adebayo began the live interview, he went off-script. In a tone that dripped smirking condescension, he called Northern European Paganism a violent fantasy and asked Dr. Seigfried a series of insulting questions designed to trip him up and tittilate listeners.
I thought Dr. Seigfried handled the man well, but this is exactly the sort of behavior Pagans and Heathens sometimes encounter when they make efforts to engage the public. For example, a couple of years ago a prominent member of the Gaelic community here - who by his own admission only knew about Paganism from YouTube - led me into just such a conversation. Afterward, I thought I had made a friend and helped to foster a sense of community, but he never spoke to me again after that day and treated me like a pariah every time I encountered him.
Let me make something clear. Adebayo was wrong to do what he did, and so was the man who engaged me in conversation under false pretenses. It isn't acceptable to marginalize religious minorities simply because 'everybody knows they're (crazy/disillusioned/childish/laughable/not following a 'real' religion/etc.)'. In fact, the only people 'sinning' in these situations are those who lie to create the trap and those who point and laugh at the well-meaning person who falls into it. That it was the BBC and its award-winning journalist who created this particular trap only compounds the error exponentially.
You can read Dr. Seigfried's blog entry and listen to the interview here.