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[repost] Read This Before Patheos Deletes it.

The following is a repost of an essay deleted by Patheos Pagan detailing the changes they’ve made and their intention to censor their writers. The essay was written by John Halstead on his Patheos-hosted wordpress blog, Allergic Pagan.

We are republishing this because it was deleted by Patheos and the author was locked out of his account, effectively censoring it from the internet.

Please consider reposting this widely, and even hosting it on your website in case of legal threats to us.


I’ve been writing at Patheos for 4 years now (blogging for 6 years in all). In that time, Patheos has changed in some significant ways. The three editors of Patheos Pagan that I’ve known — Star Foster, Christine Hoff Kraemer (who hired me on), and Jason Mankeywere each very different in their own way.

The biggest change, though, is that in the last couple of years, there has been increasing pressure to make Patheos profitable, and that has resulted in changes like increasing use of invasive ads (I still can’t read my own blog on my iPhone 4) and pressure (albeit of the soft variety) from the editor to post more frequently. Most recently, Patheos was purchased by Beliefnet, which is owned by an evangelical organization.

Today, the other shoe dropped. Our editor, Jason Mankey, gave me the heads up late last week that a new contract would be coming with a different pay structure, but what he didn’t say was what else was in the contract.

Under my original contract I make $50 a month. Twice in the 4 years I have been writing here, I made $100 because of especially high page views. (Incidentally, neither of those posts was anything to be proud of.) Fifty dollars is not much, but I know it is a lot more than most writers at Patheos Pagan make. I have it on good authority that only three of us at Patheos Pagan make that much. Under the new contract, I would make a little less, but since I’m not reliant on the income from Patheos, I really don’t care about that.

Others Patheos Pagan writers would make a little more, which I am glad for. But while five or ten dollars a month is more than nothing, it is still a pittance. Jason has repeatedly told me that Patheos is suffering financially, the implication being that we should be happy with what we get. Of course, we haven’t seen their books, so we don’t know how much revenue Patheos receives from ads and other sources, or where it is going. Needless to say, it is common for miserly employers to claim poverty when employees demand a living wage. (I do find it interesting, though, that Patheos can afford to fly its editors out to visit their corporate headquarters and to other events, but they say they can’t afford to pay their writers more than third-world wages.)

The new contract also requires writers to post with a certain frequency, two to three times a week. While I don’t care that I will be earning less, it does irk me to have my income cut and then be told I have to write more in order to earn it. Jason has assured us this provision of the contract will not be enforced, but in my experience as a lawyer, the only reason to include a provision in a contract which you say you don’t intend to enforce is so you can later spring it on the person. It’s a classic way for employers to fire someone for a discriminatory reason, for example: They decide to suddenly start (selectively) enforcing a contract provision which was not previously enforced so they can claim to have a legitimate nondiscriminatory reason for the termination.

But the real problem with the new contract is the increased editorial control. The new contract reserves the right to edit any of our posts, and even to change the format of the post or to use the content to create a quiz (?). We are explicitly prohibited from using profanity (with some minor exceptions) and the “tone” (a very subjective term) is expected to resemble that of other online media with which Patheos compares itself, like Slate or Huffington Post. The contract also prohibits advertising or self-promotion. We are also barred from posting a “farewell” post without approval, and even approved farewell posts will be deleted after 7 days. (What is that about?) And Patheos can delete any post it deems, in its sole discretion, to be “offensive”another subjective term.

Now, here’s the thing: In the contract, Patheos compares itself to Slate and Huffington Post. But I write for the Huffington Post, and I didn’t have to sign anything like this to write for them. Nor did I have to sign anything like this to write for Witches & Pagans. Or Gods & Radicals.

Finally, we are prohibited from “disparaging” Patheos “or any of its related companies”. This is potentially the most problematic part of the contract. For example, one of the other writers here brought to my attention that the American Centre for Law and Justice (ACLJ), a group founded by the televangelist Pat Robertson, is a partner with Affinity4, which is itself listed alongside Beliefnet and Patheos on the BN Media page. The ACLJ lobbies for the death penalty for gays in other countries. Under the new contract, ACLJ could be considered a “related company” that we’re not permitted to disparage. (And that’s just one related company that we’ve discovered in less than 24 hours.) Well …

FUCK THAT SHIT!

Oops, I used profanity. Actually, this whole post would probably be considered “disparaging” of Patheos. So don’t be surprised if this post is deleted soon.

[UPDATE: Here’s a list of some of the groups that may be considered “related” to Patheos and whom we cannot “disparage” under the new contract: National Rifle Association, Gun Owners of America, Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Focus on the Family, Promise Keepers, Concerned Women for America, American Family Association. Citation here.]

While some of these contractual provisions are common in the industry, I’ve learned that “standard in the industry” is code for “we can screw you over and there’s nothing you can do about it.” And while some of these changes might be dismissed if considered in isolation, the fact that it all comes at once, the fact that it was sprung on most of the writers with little to no notice, the fact that it was written unilaterally by Patheos corporate without input from the writers, and the fact that it goes into effect tomorrow, makes it all seem pretty suspicious (not to mention draconian).

It’s difficult to avoid the observation that the situation at Patheos is a microcosm of some of what has been happening on the national stage recently, with the power of corporations expanding and those same corporations (through their political lapdogs) trying to put limits on our freedom of speech. It makes me wonder if the timing isn’t coincidental: An evangelical company acquires Patheos. Trump is elected and sworn in. A number of Patheos bloggers are critical of Trump. And now, the new owners of Patheos want to exercise more editorial control. Coincidence? Maybe.

Jason has assured us that Patheos will not be censoring its writers. But you know, it usually doesn’t happen … until it does.


 

55 Comments »

  1. Thank you for this. I have shared it on my social media platform and hope others will, too. I’ve also bookmarked this and saved a screenshot – as I have done with lots of other information on the web that has mysteriously gone missing either permanently or temporarily. We need to hold all types of media accountable for what they do with information that is being disseminated to the public, no matter what that information is. And we need to support our authors and journalists.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Patheos is, was, and always will be a Conservative Christian playground that tokenises other religions and religious movements to give a vague image of “diverse”, with the intent to turn a profit. For the longest time, the editor of their “Hindu” portal wasn’t even Hindu, raised-in or converted-to. They’ve had non-Buddhists blogging about Buddhism, and so on… They don’t really care about religions and other paths that don’t conform to their owners’ (very narrow) definition of Evangelical Protestantism. Their Pagan portal has been their largest non-Christian portal, or at least among them, off-and-on for most of the portal’s existence — but that doesn’t mean it’s not expendable.

    And seeing as they’re THE largest blogging site for religion, right now, the idea that they’re “financially hurting” is utterly laughable.

    Liked by 5 people

  3. From time to time there were articles of interest on Patheos, one just the other day that I reposted. I have read some from a pagan perspective, some from a christian perspective. BUT, based on the author’s analysis of his new contract, I concur that it definitely sounds like Patheos plans on doing some ‘house cleaning’. It would not surprise me if, in a year’s time, it is solely a conservative, fundie christian site.

    Like

  4. I may disagree with A LOT of what you write, but this isn’t part of that. ods & Radicals for making certain this information is available. I tip my hat to you, sir. It appears Patheos will indeed be censoring its writers. I wondering what Jason Mankey will be doing about that?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Reblogged this on Swangrove Coven and commented:

    CENSORSHIP. The new White House Press Secretary Spicer told the media tp “shut up”. This after bare-faced lying (about voter frauud and inauguration attendance) at the command of his masters in his very FIRST EVER press conference.

    !984 is here. Fahrenheit 451 is not far behind! Every federal agency has been explicitly told to stop publishing (via Twitter, web site, email, Facebook, etc.) all information related to climate change. The mordant humor of the Twitter feed Mordor National Park (@MordorNPS) gets less funny and more poignant every day.

    CENSORSHIP IS HOW IT STARTS!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m one of the moderators of the Reddit atheism forum.

    If any Patheos bloggers decide to act on these changes and they need a little more help, they can make a request to the /r/atheism moderators here;

    https://www.reddit.com/message/compose?to=%2Fr%2Fatheism

    FWIW, I’ve already sent a note to Hemant Mehta’s Reddit account with a similar offer. We can’t do heavy lifting for you as we have our hands full, but we do have a forum with over 2 million subscribers … so … there’s that!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Thank you for this. Like you, I was hired by Christine Hoff Kraemer as a columnist and what you describe here, along with a few other very annoying and restrictive nuances, is exactly why I Ieft Patheos Pagan. Reading this tells me I made exactly the right decision. Glad it wasn’t just me.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I fought so hard to keep this very thing from happening when I was an editor at Patheos. I refused to budge on tone, or on the right of minority faiths to criticize mainstream religion. Remembering those battles, this new contract makes me sick. Thank you for taking a stand, John.

    Like

  9. Wow. I suspected the new owners of Patheos would be the death of it as a Pagan and diverse platform of any kind, but it’s happening faster than I would have guessed. I’ve never been shy about serving you a ration of crap when I disagree with a post, but I have to commend you for integrity! I also have to thank you for calling them out on this, because without this sort of information, I can’t make an informed judgement about what I’m reading from any author at Patheos. Now I know to take what I read with a grain or gram of salt. Going forward, if I see my favorite Pagan writers on Patheos churning out less political material, I will never be able to fully trust their motivations under a contract like this. Is the next post on arcane magickal theory there because that’s what the writer really wanted to put out, or is it just what was allowed through the net on any given day? From now on, I’ll always have to at least consider the latter possibility. I hope Jason and the Pagan bloggers follow suit, but I fear many will play the go-along-to-get-along game until events force their hand. I don’t know all of the ins and outs of alternative blog sites, but I do know that Pagans working for a fundamentalist Christian business is not a sustainable model. They will never maintain a truly “hands-off” editorial stance for long.

    And $50 a month high end? It shouldn’t be possible to hire someone who can read their own name, let alone write for that price. I knew nobody was turning a living at it, but this is pathetic. For the time you all spend writing these blog posts, you could pick up more in lost change and aluminum cans on the street. I don’t doubt that mismanagement or greed is to blame at some level, but I suspect the whole business model of “free content” is fatally flawed. There are billions of outlets for pop-up ads and the sales per page view has to be almost non-existent. I would rather pay a subscription and know that what I’m getting is Pagan-run and owned and editorially independent.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. This is awful. And no one should make such a little amount of money for writing such substantive stuff. Of course, there are even more evil editors, such as Arianna Huffington, who doesn’t pay anyone anything. Better to write what you want that be paid peanuts to write censored material. i’m so sorry to hear this.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Um… “The new contract also requires writers to post with a certain frequency, two to three times a week.” If you don’t like the contract, then don’t sign it. Or make changes and sign that and mail that back to them. Easy. If they tell you to get stuffed then you know where you stand.

    Like

  12. Thank you so much for this, John. I have also been with Patheos since Star Foster’s editorship; and was urged to move my blog there by Jason P, who later realized it was not a good move for The Wild Hunt, either. I stuck it out hoping things would get better. For the most part, they have not. These changes are unacceptable. I am moving my blog elsewhere.

    Peg

    Liked by 2 people

  13. If you’re interested, I’d love to have you come write for Spiral Nature! We also can’t pay much ($10 per post), but we’re not owned by a large corporation. It’s just me, and a few other editors, each of whom are volunteers paid an honourarium each quarter.

    In the interest of transparency, you can find our financials for the first two years we started making money here:
    http://www.spiralnature.com/about/finances-for-2014/
    http://www.spiralnature.com/about/finances-for-2015/

    I’m in the process of working on our numbers for 2016, but we lost a few hundred dollars. All of which comes directly from my (unpaid) pocket.

    I think our terms are pretty clear, too. You can find them here:
    http://www.spiralnature.com/submissions/writers-agreement/

    Anyway, I will be sharing this post on our social media, and include it in our links round up. It’s terrible that this has happened.

    If you’d like to contact me, my email address is editor [at] spiralnature [dot] com. We have a great team, and we’d love to help.

    Liked by 4 people

  14. Sounds like it’s “1984”. I wouldn’t, however, lay the blame solely on Trump; rather, i would blame the fact that we live in an Oligarchy and corporations have gotten far too powerful here in the U.S. Just look at how Yahoo censors the internet immediately after it buys up a new company in order to seem relevant! Corporations have long been trying to silence the media in order to keep the population uninformed. Look at how they control CNN and orchestrated a media blackout around Bernie Sanders with journalists writing 15 hit-pieces against him in less than an hour to manipulate public opinion!

    Like

  15. I stopped reading Patheos a couple of years ago. It had flavor at one time. Now, it’s mostly the same pablum peddled by HuffPo and USAToday, and it looks like it’s headed in to a me-too propaganda channel for the evangelicals. Good luck. Good luck too us all.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Apologies to all the commenters whose comments have been stuck in moderation queue. We moderate only-first time commenters, and the traffic to this article (20,000 people have now seen the post Patheos deleted) is a bit more than we’re used to dealing with in less a day. 🙂

    Like

  17. I’m delighted and somewhat surprised to see the issue being addressed at least tentatively over on Patheos. Check out Peter Dybing’s post. I think he’s being rather too dismissive of the issue, but at least he’s willing to talk about the eliphant in the room which everyone else so far is still sipping tea and talking around.

    Like

  18. The recent events at Patheos are distressing to us and we stand with you in shock and dismay at the turn of events. We are a small company, just beginning, but we would like to make you an offer. We ask you if you would like to grow with us.

    It is an invitation to help build a smaller company, owned by Pagans, into a larger voice. 
    

    True, we cannot pay you at this stage of our development, but we would sure love to have you walk with us as we grow. Our belief and mission to make a place for the wonderful and diverse voices and visions that are Paganism today moves us to offer our hand. We hope you take it and consider making this one of your virtual homes here at
    PBN News Network.

    Kenya Coviak,
    Editor | PBN News Network

    Liked by 2 people

  19. Notwithstanding the possible inaccuracies of the information in this article (we were not forbidden to disparage the NRA etc, only Patheos and BeliefNet), I just couldn’t bring myself to sign that contract. It gave me a queasy feeling just thinking about it.

    So I have moved my blog. I couldn’t delete my posts that were already published on there, but they did allow bloggers to export posts so they could be reimported elsewhere. (Here’s how to do it.)

    Here is the new blog address of Dowsing for Divinity: https://dowsingfordivinity.wordpress.com

    Like

    • I was especially cheesed off when they reposted one of my articles on the main page of Patheos, and altered the title, thereby altering the entire sense of the blogpost.

      Here’s what happened:

      In [a] post on cultural appropriation (Cultural Appropriation has nothing to do with “Race”), I made the point that the issue is about culture, not genetics and not “race”. People are part of a culture if they have been brought up in and immersed in that culture – it has nothing to do with their genetic background. Völkisch racists want you to believe that only people who are descended from Northern Europeans can worship Northern European gods, so they have taken the discourse around cultural appropriation and twisted it to their own ends.

      However, when the Patheos editors shared the post on the main page … they changed the title to “Cultural Appropriation and accusations of racism”. I wasn’t sure how they got to that title from the content of the post, but in the post, I was trying to deconstruct the notion of “race” as a biological or genetic characteristic, and to point out that people shouldn’t culturally appropriate, not because they are a different “race”, but because they are from a different culture. And cultural appropriation can be distinguished from cultural fusion (a respectful blending of cultural forms) by the power differential between the appropriating culture and the appropriated one.

      In both posts, I was making the point that cultural appropriation IS a form of racism – and that point was almost entirely erased by their change to the title.

      And that is why I was super-uncomfortable with the clause about moving blogposts around from one site to another “at the editors’ discretion”.

      I wonder if the above (fairly mild) criticism would count as “disparaging Patheos” under the new contract?

      Liked by 2 people

      • Dave Grega made an observation before he died that Patheos didn’t care nearly as much about facilitating dialogue as creating shitstorms because they usually result in more traffic than analytical commentary. Changing out words for more loaded or inflammatory ones will certainly accomplish that. I’m thinking some of my “No Kneejerking Off” T-shirts need to have “Dave Was Right” on them somewhere . . .

        Like

    • No-one is saying that “disparaging” criticisms of companies outside Patheos, Beliefnet, and Affinity4 is not allowed, only that this is how it can very easily be read and used as an excuse to fire someone. These technicalities are used to terminate queer and Of Colour employees in the States ALL THE TIME, and are inconsistently enforced, because it’s pretty much used as legal jargon that gives an easy way to utilise discriminatory firing practices in instances where there are protected classes of workers.

      So, if in the State where Patheos’ corporate address is, they can’t fire a writer for being queer, they can dig up an old or new post that’s getting a sudden surge in attention, and cos it’s critical of ACLJ, they can point to that and then the contract and say that’s why she was fired.

      Like

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