I am addressing this as myself, as a contributor to PNC-DC, and as a member of The Firefly House.
From Katrina Messenger's blog with my responses inline:
Last week, I had very different goals when I entered the fray concerning Firefly House and OHF. Last week, my colleague Eridanus and I were simply trying with various degrees of success to calm down the vitriol and testeria(1) that was rampant in the various social media channels.
But this week is a different week. And with folks on either side either licking their wounds or patting themselves on their collective backs, it is now time to unpack what actually happened. If we as a community are to truly heal, we must extract from this painful episode any lessons that would help us in the future should a similar crisis occur, and we need to collectively hold accountable the guilty parties.
There would have been no public discourse if the OHF would have at least responded to my June 7th email, been the neutral party they claimed to be, listened to the multiple people that asked them to address the situation, and/or then not treated me like a pariah when I showed up at the community center.
We are certainly not licking our wounds or patting ourselves behind our backs. I spoke up, because I felt there was no other place to turn, no neutral party to direct my ask for accountability, and I am proud to stand up for my values. We are proud to stand up for our values. Some of us are shaking our heads in horror at the scary things in the Pagan community under the rock we overturned. We are sad that in that we just wanted a safe place to participate at the community center that we helped create and wanted so badly to manifest, and the OHF wasn't maintaining that safe place. In fact, it was made very clear that they had not stayed neutral in this whole situation.
I framed my public statement incorrectly. We stopped the public conversation a couple of weeks ago when we realized that we asked for the wrong thing (Sean to step down), and even though we got what we asked for (Sean to step down), we did not get what we wanted (a safe place in which to participate at the Pagan community center), and that we could never have what we wanted. That what we wanted didn't exist. It should have been obvious to us that what we were hoping for was something that they weren't willing to provide. The local chapters of The Firefly House aren't just made of up people who used the center; we were people who believed in the center's mission and actively participated in almost every aspect of the center. We just wanted to be able to participate in a safe environment where we didn't have to worry about board members abusing other board members and other gross unethical misconduct while doing the work of the organization, but the failure to address this horrendous situation at all when it was brought up several times told us that we weren't safe there. And, it has been obvious from their reaction that they don't care if we or others don't feel safe there.
We are not safe there, because the booming message in this mess is that engaging in abuse while serving as an officer of their organization is okay. That the ethics of its board members don't matter and have no reflection on the organization. That instead of ever acknowledging that something should have been done when the issue was brought up multiple times, the OHF representatives involved in sorting out this issue on their end indicated that they would rather punch David Salisbury in the face than address it. Yes, we have proof.
We stopped the conversation a couple of weeks ago when it was clear that the only thing that would result is tearing down a community and a community center of which some of us no longer wanted to be a part. So, if you don't want to tear apart your community any longer, don't bring back up this conversation.
There is a lot of ground to cover so I am going to take my time in this effort since *I* am under no pressure to hurry my efforts.
So I am beginning with the Pagan Newswire collective and its Washington, DC branch, Capital Witch. Let us start with the recent statement from PNC in regards to the Capital Witch article that ignited the firestorm.
I am old school in many ways, and as an activist for over forty years, I have a long history of discerning what is hidden in plain sight. So my rule has always been if a group refuses to be specific and makes grandiose statements, something is hidden in the details. And vice versa, if a group provides way too many details, something is lurking in the larger picture.
PNC produced a statement that groups what happened here in DC with something unrelated that happened in a bureau in the Bay Area of northern California. The message here is that the PNC is diligent in policing their bureaus. “We are on the job!” This is the purpose of the Corrections portion of most daily newspapers as well. “We will hunt down all inaccuracies no matter how minor!”
But just like the correction section of the Post for example will never feature an admission of “I failed to do my job as a reporter and just parroted a press release only later to find out that a government agency is *actually* capable of lying!” Publishing a correction is not the same as having a culture of transparency, journalistic excellence, objective investigation, and attention to detail.
So now let’s take our time and look at what is published by the PNC as part of their reflective process. Three things jump out at me immediately.
1. If the DC bureau staff person, Jen Moore, was the one with the most objective stance, why wasn’t she the one to at least review the article?
What is missing here is that the bureau chief, David Salisbury, not only made the decision to not wait for Jen Moore to write the article, but he also made the decision to bypass the entire internal mechanism of the DC bureau in reviewing the article. Most of the other staff in the local bureau have substantial journalistic credentials. So the question becomes, why were these people in particular omitted from the process?
There are many aspects to this paragraph that are false.
1. The internal mechanism for reviewing articles was not bypassed, because there is no internal mechanism for reviewing articles at this time. PNC-DC has few processes in place. Sure, we are glorified bloggers who want to be Pagan news reporters. When we find a story that we want to write about, we just write and post it. I didn't even know that Jen was an editor until PNC National called us all into a conference call last Tuesday. One thing PNC National mentioned is that we have this opportunity at our meeting this week to sit down and develop guidelines and processes.
2. David wrote the article because Jen was perceived to be the slowest writer in the bureau. It would take her nearly a week to post an article about an event she attended, so David asked himself how long would it take her to post an article about a highly charged situation with multiple online sources, more comments pouring in every day, and perceived mounting pressure from the community? Two weeks? Could Jen take the stress of writing this kind of article? Especially if the story was changing every day with more and more sources?
Yes, Jen should have written the article, but David's decision to take the ball was not malicious. It was a mistake that has been addressed by the bureau and PNC National, and will not be repeated. End of story.
3. Jen herself was not unbiased. In the middle of coverage, even Jen called the OHF directly to express her complete support for them in this situation and to pledge a membership once they revamped the website. In speaking with some of the assignment editors at the news outlet at which I work, this action on the part of Jen creates bias when telling a story. None of us were without a great deal of bias, though some of us more than others.
4. Folks were not omitted from the process and Jen and Adam only expressed a problem SEVEN DAYS after the fact. David was very communicative with the PNC-DC bureau. He updated us several times per day on his conversations with Cara and Diana from PNC National. He told us where he was unsure, what he was doing, what PNC National had relayed to him, and what was going to happen. Before David talked to Cara, Maria expressed that she didn't feel that herself or David should write the article, but from subsequent emails to the bureau it was clear that PNC National didn't see a problem with David writing the article as long as he was careful to be as neutral as possible. He had the green light from PNC National, because the community is so small, we're not going to be able to avoid conflict of interest. I felt like there were many opportunities for me and the others to interject if we had more problems before the article was posted.
After reading the article, both Adam and Jen told David that the article looked good. Adam stated, "I want to take a moment to applaud David on writing an article that may have been difficult considering his involvement in the matter. Overall, the article was well written and presented the facts." Jen stated, "Looks good, David! I'm glad Cara and Diana were able to help you get it polished up."
It was only seven days later, on the conference call with PNC National, that either Jen or Adam indicated that they had a problem with the article David wrote.
5. Jen's continuing coverage was biased towards the OHF. Once David realized that it was really a big mistake to take the lead on this coverage, Jen was supposed to pick up the ball with any follow up articles. Well, the only follow up that was posted was one full statement by the OHF. I was told that this was preliminary prior to a more in depth follow up article. Even after the follow up statements by Firefly and myself were brought to Jen's attention, she stated that she would be doing no further articles about the situation.
1. David extended a bit leeway to the OHF when covering the article. They had more than 48 hours to make a statement after David requested one, and even after they blew their deadline, David still included their statement in the article. David agreed to accommodate their request to include their whole statement in the article, which made the whole article completely unbalanced. That is not standard practice when putting together an article from multiple sources. There were 14 pro-OHF voices in the article compared to 5 anti-OHF voices.
2. Sure, David and the rest of the bureau made mistakes in handling this issue. I have my list of grievances with how the coverage was biased towards the OHF. But, I'm not going to write a letter to complain to PNC National about our writers. These are volunteers who made mistakes of the non-malicious variety. We have a list of things to work on for the future, and we're going to address those within the bureau. We have things to learn, and the only thing that we can do is to learn and grow.
One possible theory is that the local folks would have recognized that all the sources were Firefly members or supporters.
This is false. Literata, Joel, and the people who signed the OHF statement are not associated with Firefly.
David did not maliciously leave out that some sources had also been involved with Firefly. In the original article, David had cited several people as OHF and Firefly supporters. The day the article was posted, I asked him why he changed that. He said something to the effect of after conferring with PNC National and being told that their support of Firefly wasn't relevant or that the OHF support was the only relevant part to their statements, he changed it.
The people who have associated with Firefly who were quoted or associated with the article as OHF members have put quite a bit more effort into the community center this past year than into The Firefly House. Most of us changed over to supporting the community center above Firefly.
I don't believe that Norma or LaVada have even attended any Firefly events in 2012.
That said, I do understand the community relevance to wanting to know who has been involved in what groups, especially when a situation turns from community perceived Iris vs. OHF to Firefly vs. OHF. From where I'm sitting, it feels like Community vs. OHF, because we're hearing so many voices outside of Firefly echo our feelings.
And not directly related to Katrina's blog, but based on this and other comments online, I am very sorry to Norma, LaVada, and Joel, whose roles in the OHF have been minimized in the effort to discredit their opinions in the online discussion of this situation.
They also would have caught that Literata was being quoted out of context.
I do not believe that this was done maliciously. And, this was corrected once pointed out by someone in PNC-DC (Adam).
They might even have taken the time to get quotes from other parties relevant to the article.
At the time of the article, David grabbed the only pieces of conversation happening in public. I agree that I would have liked to see more quotes from other parties relevant to the article. But, this is a "nice to have" and not a requirement.
They could have definitely corrected the biased tone by adding actual facts about OHF funding and fiscal health.
OHF funding and fiscal health aren't relevant to the topic of the article unless addressing the number of people who canceled their donations or initiated new donations as a result of this situation. If the OHF wanted to address that, they had the opportunity in two full statements published by CapitalWitch.com. It was their responsibility to say what they wanted to say. They chose to make a couple comments in their 2nd statement.
And, it's not PNC-DC's responsibility to paint any organization in the way they wish to be painted. David messaged the OHF and Sean for comment. Jen messaged Sean for comment. If everything being said was rainbows and roses, then there wouldn't be any negative comments to include.
The first article was just soundbites of what was going on before more in depth continuing coverage. Of course, follow up articles should have included more comments from OHF supporters that favor the OHF in this situation, but Jen has made it clear that she's not writing anything else about the situation. Most of the article was copied and pasted from other people's online statements. At the time of the article, those comments included where the only ones about the situation that I had seen. I felt like David had rounded up everything being said by OHF supporters at the time. I didn't see anything else posted online about the situation by OHF supporters, save maybe Peter's comments. I don't believe that any of the OHF supporters that spoke out in favor of the OHF had done so by the time the article had come out, and David can't just make stuff up to paint the OHF in a positive light. And, we're all biased, so I think that anyone could find problems with any article written.
And, I want to point out that David included nothing that Peter Dybing said, who is a nationally known and notable Pagan leader. Peter is also a former member of the Open Hearth Foundation whose comments were not supportive of the OHF in this situation. Peter is in no way associated with The Firefly House.
At the very least someone could have checked whether Iris actually complain to the OHF before launching her public article(And the answer is ... no).
This is false. I wrote an email to the OHF on June 7th to alert them of what happened. The board ignored my message. To accompany this post I wrote a blog detailing my contact with the OHF, as well as other people's contact with the OHF, about this situation. Exposing OHF false statements about the situation will only tear down the community center. And, that's why we stopped the conversation when we did. There is no accountability to be had with the scary things going on under that rock.
2. So the PNC Managing Editor was receiving calls and emails asking for the issue to be covered. Why would any local disinterested party contact the national bureau to ask that a local issue be covered?
What is missing here is the identities of the folks calling for coverage. I highly suspect that they were all Firefly people. Why? Because who else but the creators of a press release would ask that someone in a perceived position of power to pay attention to it.
Cara covered this in her comment.
This is a tactic straight out of both grassroots organizing and the music business. Write a press release then call the editors of the newspaper asking them to cover the issue. Or sending a demo tape to a producer then call radio stations asking them to play the record.
And really, how come this did not occur to the Managing Editor that it could have been a possible ruse to get publicity? Do they not ask for organizational affiliations from their sources?
This is false. I certainly didn't write PNC and ask them to cover the situation. I don't care if PNC covers it. I am pretty sure that no one associated with Firefly wrote PNC National to ask them to cover the situation.
I, myself, and the people (not just Fireflies) who chose to disassociate themselves with the community center as a result of this situation had nothing to gain by media coverage of this event. It became clear the day after I posted my blog (nearly two days before the PNC article went up) that what we wanted did not exist. It wasn't revenge. It wasn't for Sean to step down, as I stated. It was to be able to safely participate in the community center. Media coverage would only further tear down the community center, which is not what any of us wanted. We wanted a safe community center, and if we couldn't have that, then we were just happy to walk away and take care of ourselves. We knew at that point that it didn't matter if Sean stepped down. No matter if I had blogged or not blogged, walked away or tried to internally force the OHF to address the situation, it would be a very long road before we would ever be able to use the community center again.
I did ask PNC-DC for fair continuing coverage, that if the 2nd OHF statement was going to be published that at least our 2nd statements be referenced. This did not happen.
3. “The article was presented to the Executive Editor as a group-written piece ...” and “This was not written by three or more journalists. “ Okay, this is painful say but when something is presented as being written by a group and it is discovered that it was written by an individual, there is a word for that. It is called a LIE! And calling it unacceptable is ... basically ... unacceptable.
But more to the point, why was it called a group piece when it clearly was written by an individual, one David Salisbury? This is another question that the PNC failed to ask.
Initially I thought that the only reason I could see for pretending the article was a group effort was to hide behind Capital Witch instead of taking the heat personally. But I now think that something else was amiss in this process. But before I go into that with more detail, let’s keep unpacking this issue.
So now we see that there is a legitimate set of questions that it appears that the PNC failed to ask or worse probably did not even realized was needed to be asked.
David did not maliciously pretend that the article was a group written piece.
Despite the concerns with the term, David still believes that this article was created through "group collaboration" as he understands it. When David said this, I replied that I didn't think that it was created by group collaboration, as I understood group collaboration to be. He replied that there had been multiple rounds of edits by multiple people, and that is what he meant by group collaboration. This is true. Diana, Cara, and Adam all looked at the article and suggested changes. Jen also looked at the article and said that it looked good. This is where David's "group collaboration" comes from.
I will certainly say that no other article had as many people look at it before and after posting with many edits in an effort to address the concerns that came in. It certainly had more collaboration on it than any other article written by PNC-DC.
But we are left with these questions and what they could possibly mean in the context of this article? Well let’s restate the questions as statements.
The Washington, DC bureau chief bypassed all local processes to send a controversial article to the national bureau for review. He also lied about the process that produced the article (or to be generous, he failed to correct a misunderstanding). At the same time, members of the religious/spiritual community who authored the press release and of which the DC bureau chief is a High Priest are sending emails and calling this same national bureau asking that this issue be covered.
This is conjecture, not fact.
So let’s step back and ask ourselves what this looks like to the average person?
I tell you what it looks like to me, and that is a concerted campaign by Firefly House to get the PNC in general and Capital Witch in particular to join in their libelous campaign against Sean Bennett.
This is an accusation by you of malice on our part. This is false. There was no campaign by The Firefly House.
This right here perpeutates what we're discovering is part of the Pagan culture of abuse. For it to be libel, what I say has to be false. Are you accusing me of lying? Are you seriously accusing me of making up this story? You don't know me. You don't know anything about me. You didn't watch me whither away. You didn't watch me give up everything about myself until there was almost nothing left. You didn't watch him manipulate me into stepping down from the OHF board and then use the OHF to further emotionally abuse me. Into feeling as if I had nothing to contribute to the OHF or the Pagan community. You didn't watch him agree with me for months and then when I was dependent on him, tell me that almost every decision I made for the OHF was wrong. And then later, do those same things in the OHF he told me I was wrong for doing and I be so scared that he would leave me pregnant and alone feeling so worthless that I couldn't open my mouth to point out the discrepancy. You didn't watch him deconstruct every vibration of energy I put into the OHF as if I meant nothing. As if everything I ever did for the OHF was wrong. He blocked me from having anything to do for the community center, and when I wanted to volunteer, when I wanted to contribute, I had to ask him and watch him tell me no over and over. Do you know what that (and so many more things) does to a person? No, you don't. He knew what he was doing when he took my work in the OHF away from me. It was intentional, and it is a long story.
The people around me in my support network that watched what he did to me while serving on the board of the OHF. And, that is why they immediately spoke up when I said that I was done. They were waiting for the OHF to do something about him or for me to have had enough of the way the OHF treated the situation. I am not sorry that I actually developed relationships with the people around me by caring about them and serving the community.
So, you have no business commenting on whether or not what I say is true or false.
It was bad enough that Firefly jumped all the way to Def Con level 1 by withdrawing their funds from OHF without seeking internal measures of solving any problems or concerns.
The OHF was internally clear that it wasn't interested in addressing the situation at all when brought to their attention by several people on different occasions.
The OHF had no ombudsman at the time I blogged. It was a position only reinstated after my blog. And, it's pretty clear that the ombudsman is not an unbiased party. And, even though it was nice of you to offer to mediate the situation in the last blog, it's also obvious that you are not an unbiased party.
But to endanger an entire community center because Iris Firemoon was angry at her husband and so manipulated national and community resources to get back at him is contemptible on a good day.
This is false. I am not angry at my husband. I was so emotionally abused that I am still unable to be angry. I could care less about what happens to him. I am not a woman scorned and looking for revenge. I wanted to be able to participate in the OHF in a safe space. When it was clear that they weren't willing to provide that safe space, I was just going to walk away, but then I discovered that they were supporting his behavior. And, it's wrong from an organizational standpoint, as well as a community standpoint. I wrote that blog to stand up for what I believed to be right. I was doing the right thing according to my ethics and values.
I am the former chair of the Open Hearth Foundation who was manipulated into stepping down from the organization and the OHF was a mechanism that was used over and over to emotionally abuse me while my husband was serving in the context of the organization. I am a former member, who after she contacted the organization about the manipulation and abuse within the context of the organization, and then made public references to the abuse and unethical behavior, was treated poorly at the community center.
I am a woman who is watching one of our Pagan organizations condone the behavior of an abuser within the context of their organization's work.
People in this community worked hard to get this center. Iris was a part of a long history of individuals and groups pulling together to make it possible. And to literally treat the center and the people who run it as fodder for her intra-marital battles is beneath contempt.
Iris Firemoon, David Salisbury, and the entire Firefly community owes the rest of us, and OHF in particular, a huge apology.
I will never be sorry that I stood up and did what I felt was the right thing to do. We are not sorry that we spoke out when we had major grievances with the OHF's internal response to the situation.
I am sorry that:
- You opened this discussion back up by posting this conjecture on your blog.
- We discovered the values and ethics in the Pagan community are so very different from our own that we're not sure we want to participate in that community.
- We discovered a culture of abuse in the Pagan community through organizations and people trying to silence a victim of abuse.
- A good portion of the Pagan community feels that the physical community center is more important that the health of the community.