Via Wren’s Nest
Religion Dispatches has a story on a character that can only be called “interesting” — at least, assuming you are unwilling to call him “bat-shit crazy.”
We have a man named Jonathan Sharkey, who identifies as a Satanist, a “Hecate witch,” a vampire, and calls himself “The Impaler” based upon the belief he is descended from Vlad Tepes. He has been involved with the law multiple times, and has a bad habit of calling for all of his enemies to be impaled. And he has run for political office multiple time in multiple states, in gubernatorial and presidential elections.
Sound crazy to you? He sound crazy to me. So why is he of interest?
Well, he’s trying to run for president in 2012 on the Republican ticket.
My initial reaction was simply: “So what?” And really, why is it a big deal if a nut wants to run for office? Would he be any less crazy or outlandish is he ran as a Democrat?
Apparently so. Because instead of addressing what seem to be as the real issue here, that there is a crazy guy pretending to be pagan, and hence is misrepresenting paganism and making a mockery of it, Religious Dispatches is taking the opportunity to do something completely unoriginal: slam the Republican Party.
It is very easy to mock Jonathan Sharkey. But while the media has treated his exploits ultimately as a fairly standard human-interest piece, perhaps we should take Sharkey more seriously as an index of what American politics have become. Increasingly polarized and ugly political rhetoric, along with a partisan willingness to win at any cost, has changed our idea of what a viable political candidate is. Toss in some populist outrage and the ability to have all news filtered through liked-minded pundits and bloggers and you get the toxic environment from which Sharkey emerged.
“The Impaler” arose during the Bush Administration, seeking popular appeal by promising to kill an unpopular president. And while he has continued this strategy during the Obama era, sadly he no longer seems nearly as crazed and peripheral next to the extreme fringes of the Tea Party movement. Simply put, violent rhetoric has become more acceptable. Progressives have criticized Sarah Palin for a political “hit list” on her Facebook page that features gun crosshairs over the home states of targeted Democrats. Sharkey and Palin are in effect both catering to the same sentiment. While Palin has never called for the impalement of Harry Reid, her supporters might not take offense if she did.
Seriously? Is that really how these people are trying to spin this? That this guy is somehow indicative of conservatism because he’s calling for people to be impaled?
This bothers me on multiple levels. The first, which is most obvious, I have already mentioned: shouldn’t the article be focusing on the crazy being linked to paganism, instead of desperately stretching to link the crazy to conservatism?
But the stretching also bothers me. Was his call for impaling President Bush somehow okay? What extremist and fringe rhetoric has been coming from the Tea Party to make our intrepid author suspect them of wanting to impale people? Does anybody with a ration mind really think that Sarah Palin marking key political districts with crosshairs — something both parties have done for decades — means that she want to impale her political opponents?
I’m not wanting to spark a political debate here. What I want to spark is a debate about just how far out your rhetoric can get before people call shenanigans. This is a perfect opportunity to have a discussion on how to deal with crazy people that appropriate the names of legitimate religious movements to gain notoriety. Instead it turned into a baseless attack on a political movement that is completely unrelated to said crazy person, using rhetoric that said crazy person might find reasonable.
Follow the argument:
- This person is crazy
- He wants to impale his enemies
- He says he is a pagan
- He says he is a Republican
- I am not a Republican
- Therefore, Republicans are all crazy, and Sarah Palin wants to impale her enemies.
The article closes with this bit of wisdom:
This raises a critical question: Is it anachronistic that Sharkey has modeled himself on a grim 15th-century monarch or has America regressed to a more medieval idea of law and order? Like the vampire of legend, Sharkey could not have entered our political arena without an invitation. When we abandon civil discourse in favor of vicious polemics, we summon The Impaler.
What? he couldn’t have entered politics without an invitation? Does the author of this piece understand how politics works? You fill out forms, get some signatures, and you’re on a ballot. Where is the “invitation”? Thousands of random loons run for public office. What is telling here is that this particular nut has never won a race.
And the last line I quote cracks me up the most. Is this what he imagines to be civil discourse? The whole article is nothing more than “vicious polemic,” which again is a shame, since it wastes an opportunity to address a legitimate issue in the pagan community.
I’m not sure which bothers me more: the fact that this article was written, or the fact that Wren found it so noteworthy.
And quite frankly, a couple of the comments at Wren’s Nest don’t get much better:
So everyone, including all the die-hard Republicans here, thinks this “vampire” is just a huge joke… Well, put this into your brains and set ’em on “Stop And Think About It For More Than One Minute”:
The only REAL difference between him and the rest of the Right-wing Republican Conservative whack-nuts is that this guy ain’t afraid to PUBLICLY state what he really wants to do to everyone he don’t happen to like.
That’s right — a lot of the RwRC whack-nuts want to be able to execute “illegal aliens”, gays, queers, “traitors”, “commie sympathizers”, “socialists”…and everyone who “dares” to not toe their politico-ideaological line.
Oh, did I say there is only one real difference? Sorry, there are two, actually…under the rule of any of the other RwRC whack-nuts, the “Vampire” would be executed, too — for not being a “Christian”.
I can only assume that this statement is based upon an exhaustive representational survey, in which the majority of Republicans answered “Yes, I would love to execute my political opponents.” I am extremely bothered that this kind of rhetoric can be found on a website frequented by people who use magic to attain their goals. With such beliefs about Republicans, would this person feel justified in using magic to attack them?
Fortunately, most of the responses were much more reasonable:
What puzzles me is that this idiocy makes it onto religious news sites. Why is he on RD? Why is he on Witchvox? He obviously won’t be nominated!
Focusing on Sharkey does three things:
1. It reinforces his own self-importance, and I think we all agree he’s had enough of that.
2. It makes it look as though we take him seriously. This can do some very serious damage to our cause of acceptance–people don’t want to live around the insane, or around pedophiles, and if they equate Sharkey with Wicca or Satanism, both groups will be universally derided as twisted, perverted freaks by outsiders.
3. It forces us to look at his ridiculous dramatic posing, which resembles the Highlander or Dracula far less than it does a 12-year-old LARPer with a Nerf sword. I don’t see how even the most desperate teenager could have ever found this man attractive.
Amen and Amen. So mote it be.
I’ve had enough of Mr. Sharkey, and from others’ comments, so have they. He’s a nutcase, and a potentially dangerous one. And every word of publicity he gets just feeds his delusion that he’s ‘An Important Person.’ Including –especially– here on WitchVox. Here’ he can not only delude himself that he’s Important, he can delude himself that he’s part of the Pagan Community. Even, that he represents us.
Please, can we stop feeding this man’s ego? We know what’s going to happen to him — he’s eventually going to wind up either in prison or the loony bin. I’d like to see a moratorium on articles about him here.
Another brilliant point. Not only is this distracting from more important issues, but it is giving this tool the popularity he wants. Of course, I’m here talking about him, too, but I see it this way: 1) I’m bringing him up incidentally while trying to discuss another issue, and 2) I firmly believe that stupidity needs to be fought, and that this guy should be ridiculed openly and often. Yes, he wants publicity, but he wants to be taken seriously. He should be laughed at. Constantly.
Someboby tell me that the Pagans in his area have made it VERY clear that he is not representative of any pagan faith and does not speak for “US”. Blessed Mother, why don’t they lock up people like this. He’s a danger to young women and apparently on the radar of Homeland Security! Although, I don’t actually know how difficult it would be to have that distinction! 🙂
And I think this is where the ridicule comes in. Let the world know he has no legitimate place.
And again, this isn’t about politics, or at least it shouldn’t be. It’s about the fact that a person who is obviously very disturbed and potentially dangerous is using religion to gain attention — and this is being spun by an author at a religious website as a political concern.
As for Sharkey, he should be ridiculed and laughed at anywhere he appears, and then dismissed and forgotten.