Monday, 6 December 2010

And your point is...?

The Daily Mail today carries this story;
Pagan prisoners given time off to worship the Sun God
The headline suggests, as we should be more than used to by now with the Fail, that members of a minority group are getting preferential treatment. That it's not Muslims or immigrants this time is incidental. The narrative of an "other" getting something above and beyond white, Christian, British people.

The article itself only labours this point;
Hundreds of criminals are to be given four days a year off prison work - to celebrate pagan festivals.

Prison governors have been issued with a list of eight annual pagan holidays and told pagan inmates can choose four to celebrate.

The festivals include Imbolc - The Festival of the Lactating Sheep - which falls on February 1 and is dedicated to the goddess Brighid.

Another is the festival of Beltane, which falls in early May, devotees are urged to celebrate the Sun God with 'unabashed sexuality and promiscuity'.

The Yule festival involves pagans 'casting spells' and dressing up as ghosts.

Pagan inmates may even be allowed special food and drink on their days off. Traditional pagan food include Ewe's milk for Imbolc, Simnel Cake and eggs on Spring Equinox and Roast Goose on Autumn Equinox.

On Samhain - celebrated on Halloween - pagans by tradition go apple bobbing.

It is the latest in a series of rulings to protect convicts' rights and ensure equality among different faiths.

New guidelines entitled 'Religious Festival dates for 2011' state that all prison staff must be made aware of the pagan festival dates.
The only problem with this is that the main thrust of the argument - that pagans are getting some kind of special treatment - is at best an error of omission.

The paper itself admit that the aim is "ensuring that prisoners from all religious faiths are given the opportunity and facilities to practise their religions." By definition, this is not exclusive to Pagans. The new guidelines (Word document) themselves "set out the dates in 2011 of the main religious festivals for the Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh and Pagan faiths."

Some of these festivals "require prisoners to be excused from work or to fast." But there is no reason to suggest that Pagans are in any way singled out or favoured. They certainly won't be allowed to travel to Stonehenge to engage in revelries, as the main picture and its caption imply.

In fact, I struggle to see the point of this article at all. It starts out with much promise as a "PC gone mad article," but it fails to provide a rent-a-quote from Outraged of Tunbridge Wells. The editorial point that prisoners might be getting treated too well is never explicitly stated. And, as an example of the "Us and Them" narrative so beloved by the Mail and its fellow tabloids, it is decidedly toothless.

Ultimately, I'm left wondering what the point is. If it is at all possible, the Daily Mail is becoming ever less coherent and less relevant to the reality of the world we live in. But maybe that is the point.