Thursday, March 10, 2016

On the Responsibilities of Conference Organizer to other Speakers in the Occult Community

To begin, I'd just like to say, Jake Stratton-Kent is always getting me into trouble, and this, as usual, is actually ALL his fault. And that's one of the reasons I love him so much.

He posted a link to an article on his Facebook page recently with the comment "douchebag" about how a known racist with fascist tendencies is going to be speaking at an international "Left Hand Path" conference.

I recognized the guy, he pulled a huge nutty in 2013, couldn't handle some initiatory stuff/Enochian Aethyr Scrying he was going through, and declared himself the Second Prophet of Thelema, and the Successor to Aleister Crowley in a massive email to just about everyone he could think might care (they didn't) with an attached 2-meg PDF file of his "proof" which he claimed was Class A material, as in, on par with the Book of the Law, Liber 65, Liber VII, etc.

Standard implosion that you basically can expect narcissistic megalomaniacs to go through if they get the urge to use Occultism to express their mental illness?

Perhaps.

Harmless nutter who shouldn't really matter?

Yea, probably.

Except... Wait for it.... Wait for it... A couple of years later, he's running for the Senate... As a Libertarian... In Florida... To replace Marco Rubio... And he's so toxic Canada wouldn't let him in to speak.

CANADA. Wouldn't let him in. To speak.

You couldn't make this shit up if you tried.

So apparently, the organizer of the conference saw "controversial occultist running as a libertarian with racist-fascist views" and thought, oh YEAH, that's what I want to see! And then she got all bent out of shape when people were like, dude, no, don't give fascists a pulpit, that's how we got WWII, remember?

Now, as an occultist who's been invited to speak at this conference in the past, [Edit: Apparently, they are denying ever inviting me to speak at the conference, AND SENDING THE POST TO THEIR LAWYERS FOR REVIEW, but I remember being invited to speak in Indianapolis, I was looking forward to it because my friends would be there, but then I couldn't make it because of kid visits and other issues and had to decline, but I can't find any proof that I was invited at this point, so it might never have happened, or I just didn't think I'd need to keep that kind of thing, so ... whatever] I was like, oh my gosh, no way. I checked the other speakers attending and was like, guys, do you know what's going on? In retrospect, I should have not tagged them publicly in a post on FB that gets broadcast to a couple thousand people who are in our shared circles of magician friends, that may have been a dick move, but it was sincerely about, "Hey, you know what is going to happen if you go to this with him, right?"

Because I happen to know the value of our reputations in the occult community. Basically, that's all we've got. I spent years building up the "RO Brand," and when I was making a decent income off my magical studies and practices, that reputation is all I had to make my sales. It was my brand's integrity that got me invited to speak, publishing contracts, book sales, and a decent supplementary income on the side.

Even more importantly though, I'm all about making Hermetics available to people to change their lives for the better, mostly because I want to live in a better world. The people I want to reach care a lot about things like racism, fascism, and not being part of a plot to establish a megalomaniac's dictatorship over the American people.

No one is going to listen to me if I get associated with racist fascist douchebag.

But it's not just personal loss that matters. When we attend these events, we are giving an implicit blessing to other people who show up to speak at the event. When Fr. Lux ad Mundi of Thelesis lodge invited me to speak on angel magic the first time, he was saying to his lodge members that Rufus Opus knows his shit and can teach us things we need to know. He was putting himself on the line, saying my presentation had value to the community. Had I shown up and made a spectacle, it would have reflected poorly on him.

Likewise, Arthur Moyer put his reputation on the line for Crucible by inviting me to attend, and Jason Miller's support of my work had a lot to do with that. They were both condoning and supporting whatever I had to say, one by inviting me, and the other by speaking with me.

But when you go to one of these things and there's one person who is, for example, publishing things about neo-masculinity and "men's rights," and another whose senatorial campaign twitter feed is 90% racist posts, and the other 10% is a furthering of his goals to become the next Mussolini, it starts to look less like an occult conference and more like a gathering of douchebags.

And your name is on the list, right up there with them.

Fortunately for me, I had some friends let me know that I was on a list of people to speak at a conference with a known stalker who had a history of domestic violence and abuse towards women. He'd been expelled from at least one Order, if I remember right, and the first thing I did was tell the conference organizer that I wasn't going to speak with him at any event. You lay down with dogs, you get up with fleas, after all. This organizer was like, oh crap, yea, didn't know that, he's off the list. And it was done.

And that's the way it should be. Conference organizers have the responsibility to know and understand that they are representing the brands of everyone attending the show. they need to do the vetting of their guests, know what they represent, and understand how that will impact the reputations of everyone else at the event. They need to have some standards about what it is they will accept, and let people know what that is.

When you find out that someone on your guest list has been, for example, barred from entering Canada because they are fascist trouble makers, you need to let the other conference speakers know what they're getting into. You need to make updates to your event, and send emails to the speakers as the speaker list changes, letting us know how our topic will fit in overall, and giving us the opportunity to decide if we really want to associate our Work with the intent of your thing.

And if your intent is to give people with racist and fascist agendas a podium to speak to people who are paying to hear this person speak, you need to make sure that's clear in your description of the event in the first place. Not just for the speakers, but for the attendees as well.

So, since I'm planning on putting together some conferences in the future, my "lessons learned" from this situation is:

  1. Define up front the intent, theme, and standards of the event.
  2. Invite only those speakers who will aid and abet the accomplishment of the intent of the event.
  3. Research the histories of the speakers to ensure they won't smear the reputation of my events, or the other speakers presenting at my event. Controversial speakers aren't to be avoided, per se, but they need to be noted as such so other speakers can make informed decisions about their attendance.
  4. Send out the list of speakers with the results of that research to the other speakers, with updates as the list changes. 

Now I know that's actually a lot more work than it looks like. I'm on a staff of people working on an event right now, and honestly, putting together a conference is hard. Venues, contract negotiations, budget, speaker proposals, travel reimbursement, registration coordination, web site development, online social media promotions, and managing the inevitable crazed haters who will try to use your event to further their interests is a lot of work. Adding on researching your presenters to see if they are nut jobs and letting other presenters know about potential impacts to their reputations is just adding a lot more work.

But it's necessary, and fair to the presenters.


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