Capitalist Extortion in the Pagan Community

“Whatever the agenda of the extortionist, their victims are left with little to no choice: become an unwilling party to unethical, harmful conduct or try to opt out of the system entirely.”

Cultural and political commentary, from John Halstead


 

Twice in the past month, capitalists have tried to extort my silence.

That sounds dramatic.  But it’s what happened.

Corporate Extortion

The first time, it was a media corporation, BN Media, which recently took over the blogging platform, Patheos, where I used to write.  BN Media/Patheos has been withholding an electronic backup of my writing (almost 1000 posts) for several months now without explanation.  They recently let it leak that the reason for the delay was that the corporation was trying to keep me from writing negative things about them.  My writing was being held hostage, and the price of its ransom was my silence.  (That’s what prompted my recent snarky “Help Wanted: Patheos Pagan Writers” post.  Suffice it to say, I don’t respond well to coercion.)

BN Media’s attempt to shake me down was not surprising, considering how they had already attempted to extort all of the Patheos writers.  When BN Media acquired Patheos, they stepped into the corporate shoes of Patheos’ prior owners.  Writers who had formerly contracted with someone else now found themselves in an involuntary contractual relationship with an evangelical organization with a history of censorship and which had previously chased Pagans out of the Beliefnet platform.  BN Media then unilaterally rewrote the contract with the Patheos writers significantly expanding the editorial control and restricting writers’ freedom of expression.  Patheos Pagan writers now had the choice to abandon their exiting writing to BN Media or sign a contract which would give BN Media even more control over their writing.  When Pat Mosley and myself raised the alarm and attempted to build some solidarity among the Pagan Patheos writers, BN Media made an example of and summarily terminated us (which is how corporations often treat labor organizers).

Perhaps even more disturbing than the actions of BN Media were the excuses offered by the Patheos management.  The actions of the corporation were defended in terms of the profit motive (“They have to make money.”), without any regard to the people impacted–neither the Patheos writers, many of whom were unwittingly signing away control of their writing to a for-profit corporation for minimal benefit, nor the people who continue to be harmed by the anti-LGBT propaganda purveyed by BN Media’s affiliates.

This, I was told by Patheos management, was “standard in the industry.”   Indeed, it is.  And yet, why that should be any excuse for unethical behavior confounds me.  Bad behavior is bad behavior, no matter how “standard” it might be.  But I’m beginning to realize that the key word in the phrase “standard in the industry” may not be “standard”, but “industry.”  In a capitalist world, the profit motive covers a multitude of sins.

Small-Time Capitalist Extortion

The second time a capitalist tried to extort my silence this month, it was a troll who owns a couple of occult bookstores (which he calls an “empire”) and courts the worst kind of publicity for the Pagan community.  This troll was upset that I would be presenting at a Pagan Pride Day event in his region.  (Apparently, among other things, he doesn’t like my anti-capitalist views.)  He made various threats, from the vague-but-ominous (“watch yourself at that event”) to the ridiculously specific (threatening to set up an anonymous domain in the Bahamas and a website in Iceland and then publish that I molest children).

Even more disturbing than his attempts to directly extort me were his threats to harass, and even fire, his own employee, who was organizing the Pagan Pride event. This troll person unselfconsciously describes himself as “someone who not only knows how to use capitalism, but also has plenty of capital” and routinely threatens to use his capital (which I suspect is less sizeable than he likes to claim) to harass and bully those he disagrees with. I was only the most recent of his targets.

When overt threats didn’t work on me, he resorted to disingenuous appeals to my sympathy for his employees, arguing that “attacks” on him would hurt the people who work for him, like the aforementioned Pagan organizers. (Later he contradicting himself by saying that any press, good or bad, helped his business.) We’ve seen similar logic many times in the past decade, as heads of corporations escape punishment for their unethical behavior because they employ so many people.  A parallel argument was used to justify bailing out corporations which were deemed “too big to fail.”

My troll even threatened to “hire an army of gutter punks” to protest me at the event.  I admit, I had to look up what a “gutter punk” was.  Apparently it refers to a homeless or transient person who displays characteristics of the punk subculture.  So, add to the list exploiting homeless and transient people, as well as abusing the First Amendment.  (I’m not saying doesn’t have the right to hire whomever he could to stage a fake protest, but having the right to do something and doing the right thing are not the same.)

Not surprisingly, my troll also defended the management of Patheos.

Part of a Larger System

In some ways, my two would-be extortionists could not be more different.  One is a large media conglomerate that funds evangelical hate groups.  The other is a petty troll who has delusions of capitalist grandeur.  But in another way, they are two of a piece.  Both are capitalists, meaning they have accumulated capital by exploiting the work of others.  Both believe that their capital earns them the right to a louder voice than those with less.  And both attempt to use their capital to extort silence from those they disagree with.

And they are not alone.  Consider the similarity between my troll, who threatened to fire his employee if I was allowed to speak at a Pagan event she was organizing, and General Motors and Chrysler, which threaten to move their business overseas unless the American taxpayers continue to subsidize their unsustainable business practices.  Both attempt to manipulate our sympathies for the victims of their capitalist exploitation, while expecting us to take that exploitation for granted.

Or consider the similarity between BN Media and the Big Banks, like JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and Citibank, which were bailed out by taxpayers in 2008.  BN Media held the writing of the Patheos bloggers hostage in order to coerce their agreement to a new contract which would give BN Media even more power, while at the same time sponsoring anti-LGBT groups.  The Big Banks hold the world economy hostage in order to coerce bailouts and deregulation, while at the same time funding the Dakota Access Pipeline.

It’s a difference of scale, but not of method.  And the end result in both cases is that their victims become complicit in their own subjugation and the subjugation of others.

“Capitalist Extortion” is Redundant

I think this reveals something about the inherent relationship between capitalism and extortion.  I say this as a capitalist myself.  I am the part-owner of a business that employs other people who are not owners.  That we business owners exploit the labor our employees is evident by the discrepancy between our salaries and those of our employees.  And there is a kind of extortion going on there, which arises out of the unequal bargaining power between the employer and the employees, caused by a surplus of labor, the lack of a social safety net, the weakening or absence of collective bargaining organizations, and so on.  This is where the concept of “wage slavery” comes from.

But some capitalists take this extortion even further.  For them, it’s not sufficient to exploit the labor of employees.  They also have an agenda to advance–whether political or personal–and they use their capital to extort our complicity with that agenda.  For the Big Banks, that agenda is neoliberalism, with its attendant policies of deregulation and globalization (so that capital and corporations may cross nationals borders freely even while people cannot).  For my troll, the agenda was the promotion of his own cult of personality–the less said about which the better (even negative attention feeds the monster).  For BN Media, the agenda is an evangelical one, part of which involves channeling of charitable contributions to hate groups like Focus on the Family, Promise Keepers, and the American Center of Law and Justice, which promotes the criminalization of homosexuality.

Whatever the agenda of the extortionist, their victims are left with little to no choice: become an unwilling party to unethical, harmful conduct or try to opt out of the system entirely.  The latter path is being forged here at Gods & Radicals.

What I have realized through all of this is that this kind of extortionist behavior is not aberrant–it’s a feature of a capitalist system.  Obviously, not all capitalists will resort to such obvious shakedown methods as BN Media and my troll did, but there are no inherent checks to prevent it when they do.  After all, it’s “standard in the industry.”  It even finds its way even into our religious lives, at interfaith blogging platforms and at Pagan Pride events, for example. We can condemn extortionist behavior, but its not a problem of a few bad apples.  We need to get to the root of the problem–the inherently extortionist nature of capitalism.  Until we do, extortion will be an unavoidable part of our lives–and our Paganism.


John Halstead

halsteadJohn Halstead is a Pagan activist and blogger.  In addition to his writing here at Gods & Radicals, at Huffington Post, and on his personal blog, AllergicPagan.com, John is a environmental and anti-racist activist.  He is one of the founding members of 350 Indiana-Calumet, which works for a just transition from fossil fuels to a renewable energy economy in Northwest Indiana, where frontline communities of color are facing the disproportionate impacts of industrial polution. John was also the principal facilitator of “A Pagan Community Statement on the Environment” (ecopagan.com), which has collected over 9,000 signatures from 90 countries, and has been translated into 16 languages. It represents the most successful effort to date to harmonize the diverse voices of the Pagan community in defense of the Earth.


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“Standard in the Industry”: Patheos and Normalizing Corporate Abuse

The recent actions of Patheos are representative of broader trends in our society which are deeply troubling.

A little background…

… in case you don’t know what happened. If you do, feel free to skip to the end (“the big picture…”).

Until this week, I wrote a blog at Patheos called “The Allergic Pagan.” I had been writing for Patheos for about four years. A few months ago Patheos was purchased by Beliefnet, which is owned by an evangelical organization. There were concerns over what this would mean for the Pagan channel, but our editor, Jason Mankey, assured us that nothing would change.

On January 30, 2017, the writers at Patheos, who are all independent contractors, received new contracts to sign—not because our contracts had expired, but because Patheos/BN wanted to change the terms. For many of the writers, they had no prior notice from their editor that the new contract was coming. I had been given a heads up by Mankey the Friday before. However, all he said was that there would be changes to the pay structure. He did not give any indication of any of the other substantial changes in the contract.

When I received the contract on the following Monday, I was shocked by what I read. I am a lawyer by profession and reading and interpreting contracts is something I do regularly. This was an egregiously one-sided contract. (Here is a link to the contract.) And the contract was due by February 1st, less than 48 hours later, giving writers little time to consider the contract or consult legal counsel.

What the contract said…

The most problematic part of the contact had to do with new editorial controls. The new contract allowed Patheos to edit any of our posts “without limitation.” We were explicitly prohibited from using profanity (with some exceptions). The contract required that the “tone” (a very subjective term) resemble that of other online media with which Patheos compared itself, like Slate and Huffington Post. The contract also prohibited advertising or “self-promotion” (another vague term). We were also barred from posting a “farewell” post without approval, and even approved farewell posts would be deleted after seven days. Patheos could move any of our posts to Beliefnet or any other site that it acquired in the future. And, finally, Patheos could delete any post it deemed, in its sole discretion, to be “offensive” (yet another ambiguous term).

The contract also prohibited “disparaging” of Patheos or any “related” company. A little research by Pat Mosley revealed that Patheos was related to a number of far right-wing organizations, including the National Rifle Association, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Focus on the Family, Gun Owners of America, Promise Keepers, Concerned Women for America, the American Family Association, and the American Center of Law and Justice.

The American Center for Law & Justice (ACLJ) for example, promotes conservative Christian laws in Africa, including support for a bill in Uganda that would have implemented the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality”. The connection between Patheos and the ACLJ is not hard to trace. Jeremy McGee is President and COO of Patheos, and also also on the Board of Affinity4. Both Patheos and Affinity4 are BN (Beliefnet) Media brands. Guess who else is on the 4-person Board of Affinity4? Jay Sekulow, who is is Chief Counsel for the ACLJ!

Under the new contract, the organizations could be considered “related” companies that Patheos Pagan writers not permitted to “disparage.” This interpretation of the contract was independently confirmed by another lawyer and by Gwion Raven, who also reads contracts for a living.

You see, lawyers thrive on ambiguous language like “related,” “offensive,” “self-promotion,” etc. Because Patheos can afford to pay for lawyers, and many of the Patheos Pagan writers cannot, and because the contract required that legal disputes be settled in the state of Patheos’ choosing, these contract provisions would most likely be interpreted to favor Patheos.

What happened next…

When some of us raised these issues with our editor, Jason Mankey, he told us to contact the President/COO of Patheos to discuss them. I repeatedly urged Mankey to act as our advocate and not just a messenger for the corporation, but he acted as powerless as we felt.

So, the following morning, on Tuesday, I wrote a post on my blog on the Patheos Pagan channel. The post was entitled, “Read This Before Patheos Delete It.” (You can read it here, where is has been reposted.) The subject of the post was the terms of the contract and my criticism. The title of the post was deliberately provocative (and I did use the f-bomb once), but it was otherwise an analysis of the contract (kind of boring as blog posts go).

screen-shot-2017-02-02-at-6-30-14-pmAfter posting the article, I was contacted by Mankey who asked what I wanted. I reiterated that I wanted him to renegotiate the contract for us. I also told him that I did not intend to sign the contract as written, but that neither was I voluntarily leaving Patheos. I told him I would await Patheos’ response. An hour later, the post was summarily taken down and my access to my entire blog (almost 1000 posts) was blocked. This was done without any further contact from Mankey or anyone else at Patheos. No request was made to me to remove the post (I wouldn’t have consented, but I should have been asked) and no warning was given before my account was blocked.

Now, all this was done before the new contract period began. This means that the terms of my original 2013 contract were still in effect when Patheos blocked my access. The 2013 contract (a link to which I have provided here) had no editorial limitations. There was no “disparagement” clause in the 2013 contract, and no right of Patheos to remove the post, much less block my access to my blog.

Rhyd Wildermuth offered to repost my original article at Gods & Radicals and I agreed. (You can read it here.) This apparently peeved Patheos off, and Mankey insisted that I amend the post to reflect his more generous interpretation of the contract. I refused. Mankey then blocked me from the Patheos Pagan Writer’s Facebook group, where there was an ongoing debate about how to respond to the new contract.

Pat Mosley, another Patheos Pagan writer, also wrote a critical analysis of the new contract, entitled “What the Fuck Just Happened at Patheos?” Pat focused on the relationship of Patheos, via Beliefnet, to the above-mentioned right-wing organizations. Now, Pat posted this on this personal blog, not on Patheos. Nevertheless, he was then banned from Patheos without notice.

The debate begins…

I won’t deny that I poked the bear. Of course, I did it intentionally. It was a test… one which Patheos failed. Patheos showed its true colors when they deleted my post and blocked me and Pat from our accounts. They said (actually in the contract) they wanted to be treated like journalistic institutions like HuffPo and Slate. Well then, they should act like HuffPo and Slate. They should act consistently with journalistic ethics. And that includes abiding public criticism in an opinion piece, even from one of your own writers.

Subsequently, Gwion Raven and I initiated discussions with Jeremy McGee, the President and COO of Patheos, to attempt to renegotiate the contract. I requested that my access to my site be restored as a sign of good faith, and I offered not to post any “disparaging” comments about Patheos during the contract renegotiation process. My request was ignored. Meantime, Mankey and McGee were telling everyone that (1) Patheos did not intend to enforce the terms of the contract and (2) we should all trust Patheos based on their “track record” and Mankey’s faith in their “intentions.”

First, it was irresponsible and naive of Mankey to suggest that we should sign an agreement under the belief that the corporation will not exercise the rights it has explicitly written into the contract. Mankey and the other editors have insisted that no one was trying to censor us, or alter our work, etc. Then why, I asked, include provisions in the contract which allow them to do exactly that? The President and COO of Patheos wrote that if we wanted to change the “without limitation” language, then the discussion was “done.” Why, if they did not intend to enforce the contract terms, insist on those terms? Neither Mankey nor McGee have ever answered that question.

Second, the notion that Beliefnet had a proven track record after only four months since purchasing Patheos is absurd, especially when you consider that those four months include their peremptory and punitive action against me and Pat. And if we look further back, we discover that Beliefnet does in fact have a history of censoring Pagans. I talked to Gus DiZerega, who used to write for Beliefnet. He told me that he left Beliefnet after they summarily deleted a conversation on his blog criticizing a Christian who had condoned the abuse of African witches by African Christians. When Gus complained, he was told it was their site not his, so he left.

And let’s not forget the contract itself. Just sending the contract to us, knowing that most people would sign it without reading or understanding it, was itself an act of bad faith and indicative of the attitude of the new owners of Patheos.

Mankey wanted us to believe the best of Patheos. I have no doubt about Mankey’s sincerity, but it would be naive to ignore the fact that he is paid by Patheos. And that does affect people’s judgment, whether they realize it or not. Mankey even told me that we should trust Patheos because they are flying him out to visit their corporate headquarters. That, in my opinion, shows an impairment of judgment.

Mankey has posted his response to recent events on Patheos (and you can read it here). However, he has closed the comments to the post, which is telling in itself.

The fallout…

2x7yURlGgqgp5p8lE0PIBgFAo1_250.jpgAfter the situation exploded in his face, the President and COO of Patheos did strike a slightly more conciliatory tone with us. A few changes were made to the contract, but Patheos still retained the right to remove posts it deemed “offensive” and to move posts to any other site it owns or may own in the future, and writers are still prohibited from using more profanity than Patheos likes or “disparaging” Patheos or Beliefnet.

Ultimately, several people left Patheos, in spite of the changes, including myself, Pat Mosley, David Dashifen Kees (who was the editor of the Agora hub on the Pagan channel), Cat Chapin-Bishop, Shauna Aura Knight, Yvonne Aburrow, Peg Aloi, Lupa, Dana Corby, Catherine Clarenbach, Laine Lundquist, Christopher Scott Thompson, Sam Webster, Starling Foster, Gus DiZerega, and possibly others I don’t know about—that’s more than a third of the active blogs at Patheos. There are still people deciding whether to leave. Now, I know some of you probably think I’m a loose cannon, and you’d be right. But anyone who knows anything about the people above who have left would have to conclude that there must be something really wrong at Patheos. (It’s also telling that quite of few people who have been consistent critics of my writing at Patheos have publicly expressed their support now.)

For some people, it was the relationship between Patheos and far right-wing groups that was the most problematic. The exact degree to which they are intertwined is unknown and difficult to suss out, but it was enough to make most of us uncomfortable and enough for some people to leave. Others who have left or are considering it were most bothered by the contract terms and/or Patheos’ censoring of me and Pat or a combination of all of the above.

The bigger picture…

Now I’m going to get to my point. Throughout all of this, we were told by Mankey and McGee that this is “standard in the world of online publishing”. Words like “boilerplate” were thrown around. First of all, there was nothing “boilerplate” or “standard” about many of the provisions in the contract. If I had sent that contract to another attorney, they would have considered it a slap in the face.

Not only was the contract extremely one-sided, it was also unusual. I write for the Huffington Post (with whom Patheos now compares itself), and I didn’t have to sign anything to write for them. I also didn’t sign anything to write for Witches & Pagans or Gods & Radicals. I did sign something for Patheos in 2013, but it contained no editorial controls. Christine Hoff Kraemer, my editor at the time, did send me a FAQ document (you can read it here) with editorial guidelines. But these were not included in the contract. They were offered in the spirit of creating a relationship, power-with rather than power-over. McGee claimed he wants a relationship with his writers, but he only knows the language of corporations, the language of power-over.

But, to a certain extent, Mankey is right: Patheos’ conduct was just standard corporate operating procedure. The thing is, that’s a problem. What happened 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, and with the swallowing of journalistic institutions by for-profit corporations.

When we hear the words “standard in the industry,” they should signal to us, not that everything is copacetic, but that there is a problem with the industry. It’s a problem when we normalize bad corporate behavior with words like “standard” and “boilerplate.” It’s a problem when we are so accustomed to bad faith and manipulation by corporations that we just shrug it off. And it’s a problem when we shame those who try to stand up to corporate abuse.

And most of all, it’s a problem when we think we have no power in dealing with corporations. That’s what the words “standard in the industry” and “boilerplate” are meant to do. They’re meant to make us feel powerless. But we do have power. We have power when we are informed. We have power when we use our voices, and when we use our feet. We have power when we act together.


John Halstead

halsteadJohn Halstead is Editor-At-Large and a contributor at HumanisticPaganism.com. He blogged about Paganism generally at AllergicPagan.com (which was hosted by Patheos) and about Jungian Neo-Paganism at “Dreaming the Myth Onward” (which is hosted by Witches & Pagans). He is also an occasional contributor to GodsandRadicals.org and The Huffington Post and is the administrator of the site Neo-Paganism.com. John was the principal facilitator of “A Pagan Community Statement on the Environment,” which can be found at ecopagan.com. He is a Shaper of the fledgling Earthseed community, which is described at GodisChange.org. John is also the editor of the anthology, Godless Paganism: Voices of Non-Theistic Pagans. To speak with John, contact him on Facebook.


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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.