Wednesday, December 19, 2007 

Bah, humbug.

Ah, the Sun. Like those England fans singing "Rule Britannia" when the team wasn't even winning against Croatia it will never surrender, especially not to the EU or to the "politically correct brigade". Joining one on and off campaign to another demanding fair treatment for our put upon troops, it earlier in the month announced that it was selling Christmas cards featuring all its columnists in the nativity scene, with the profits going to the "Help for Heroes" charity:

We’ve created the ultimate fun Christmas card that celebrates the pure joy of the Nativity story.

Our brilliant columnists have given their time FREE to recreate the scene 2,000 years ago in that lowly stable in Bethlehem.

They’ll love to see Lorraine Kelly as Mary, Fergus Shanahan as Joseph and Kelvin MacKenzie as their faithful donkey. Jeremy Clarkson, Ian Wright and Trevor Kavanagh are the three wise men.

The innkeeper is Jon Gaunt and his wife is played by Deidre Sanders. And the glad tidings are given to our four shepherds — David Blunkett, Terry Venables, Ally Ross and Chris Kamara — by the Angel of the Lord in the heavenly form of Jane Moore.

And David’s faithful guide dog Sadie is there to play the sheepdog.

It’s the perfect antidote to all those killjoys who try to downgrade Christmas by calling it Winterval, banning nativity plays or simply ban any mention of Christ at this holy time of the year.

These are no “season’s greetings”. The card proudly says Merry Christmas and inside: And a Happy New Year.

All in undoubtedly good taste and very wholesome. Except, as today's Private Eye reports, there was meant to be a DVD to go with the cards, until Rebekah Wade ordered that every copy of it be destroyed in an unprecedented act of killjoyishness from the Scum editor. She even warned that the DVD was so offensive that it would "sink the paper". To quote the Eye:

"A typical scene featured Sun executive editor Fergus Shanahan as Joseph, pretending to "shag" the Virgin Mary (Lorraine Kelly) while the donkey-suited Kelvin MacKenzie frolicked about on all fours, braying "If that's a story my prick's a bloater!"

Just what would those so disgusted by BBC Three's recasting of Mary and Joseph as asylum seekers think?

To blatantly steal another story from the Eye, it follows the emergence of the claims that the Healey Primary School in Rochdale had "banned Christmas cards" when they had in fact asked parents to send just one card to a whole class. A spokeswoman for the school added:

“The cost of so many cards is prohibitive for some families and we feel that children are often pressurised to act in the same way as their peers.”

Incredibly similar then to the story from last year about JobCentres in Tower Hamlets which had "banned" Christmas decorations when they had actually not put them up because they were concerned it might upset some of the families that weren't able to afford decorations themselves. A questionable decision perhaps, but not to avoid offending people of other faith as it was rapidly turned into. The Rochdale school hasn't banned the sending of cards, just gave a suggestion. The school is also putting on three Christmas productions and a carol service, so it's certainly nothing to do with political correctness either.

The Eye mentions how it was featured in the Express (which I can't find online) and in the Star which ignored all the facts with its front-page headline "Ban on Christmas cards in case they upset Muslims!", but the story was still working its way around Fleet Street up till yesterday, when the Daily Mail featured it alongside a quote from Nick Seaton, the chairman of "Campaign for a Real Education", whose pseudo-manifesto recommends that "Circle Time" (a more grown-up version of show and tell involving discussion, and completely harmless) shouldn't be allowed in schools and that drug and sex education, if provided at all, should aim at prevention, not harm reduction:

'I thing (sic) most sensible parents would be absolutely horrified by this decision.

"It strikes me as another attempt to remove Christmas from the classroom and the calendar altogether."

Even the Observer carried the story, proving that even the limp-wristed liberals can't turn away from a story based on very little facts whatsoever.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007 

The war against Christmas rears its ugly head once again.

For a while I thought we were going to get through the festive period without too much of the perennial "Christmas is being banned by politically correct jobsworths and idiots" spiel, but as seems to happen every year, pages in newspapers need to be filled and right-wing egos need to be massaged.

It's certainly not helped when useful idiots like Trevor Phillips, instead of pointing out that nearly every one of these stories has no actual foundation in fact (although he does state that some have a "silly season" vibe), feels that he has to reach out to other religious leaders and urge them to say it's OK to celebrate Christmas, as if any of them, or indeed any of their constituents had said that it wasn't. FCC has more. The impression I get, one of Christmas lasting longer and with more decorations and lights being hung with each year that passes, even if they look hideous, especially in villages and towns where previously there would have been none, is easy to brush under the carpet when a newspaper even gets the whiff of a "tradition" being broken or "killjoys" flexing their muscles.

Hence today's Sun, which has a "killjoys’ guide to Nativity play perils". Meant to be humourous, it's anything but, and instead just reads like a cynical curmudgeon bemoaning the state of the nation at large. Viz is usually best as pricking the pomposity of some liberals, with the strips Millie Tant and the Modern Parents amongst a couple of others, but the Sun and whoever wrote this certainly aren't subscribers. Most hypocritical is the typical reference to paedophiles who might be lurking in the audience, when it's the Sun and its infamous editor which have done the most to scaremonger about "the scourge of modern life". Trevor Phillips adds his two-pence at the bottom of the article, and helps along the grievance by suggesting that an "agenda" might even exist.

All this garbage about nativity plays was started by the Sunday Telegraph, which came up with a figure that suggested 80% of schools wouldn't be having a traditional nativity play this year. Only problem with that was, as so often, that it simply wasn't true. The UKPollingReport blog digged a little deeper and in fact found the survey actually said that 64% of schools would be having some sort of a nativity play, just not necessarily one that could be classed as "traditional". This was seized upon by the Tory MP Mark Pritchard, who then blamed the "politically correct" brigade. Far more realistic is that, quite simply, nativity plays are both old-hat and get stale year after year. Some schools put on pantomimes instead, to begin with. I remember one year at middle school we had an "Australian Christmas" show, which if it had got out might just have raised the ire of some who seem to find anything other than an exact replica of the nativity scene to be sacrilege. As Rhetorically Speaking also asks, just how many schools have ever bothered to put on nativity plays? All make a difference towards such potentially misleading figures.

In one way, Trevor Phillips is almost right. It is a concern that these stories about Christmas being banned could lead to community tension. It's hardly ever religious minorities themselves though that are blamed for whatever it is that's supposedly being banned; it's either health and safety fascists or "politically correct liberals" who
think that minorities might be offended. As has so often been proved however, it's not the supposed "bannings" that enrage opinion, but the newspaper articles that have little basis in fact that do so and then exercise the usual suspects into their peals of appall. The newspapers themselves though don't have any wider responsibility towards such communities, despite the effect that such journalism can have; it's left to the community leaders themselves to react to that which they shouldn't have had to in the first place.

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Saturday, October 13, 2007 

Is it me, or do the Christmas is being banned stories keep getting earlier?

It usually at least takes until November before the tabloids start printing their annual lies and distortions about how Christmas is being banned thanks to politically correct councils, killjoys with nothing better to do than moan and health and safety fascists. The Daily Mail then has to be congratulated on being first out of the blocks this year, only two months and twelve days before the actual event:

Health and safety killjoys are threatening Britain with a Christmas blackout, council bosses warned yesterday.

Crippling insurance costs and absurd safety requirements mean many local authorities have abandoned their traditional lighting displays.

And so forth. You know the drill. Massive costs, compensation culture, elf 'n' safety rules, it's all here.

Know how that says "many" local authorities? The Mail article provides 3 examples, one from Clevedon, another from Sandwell and finally from Bodmin. Only the Bodmin case is backed up by a statement from a council spokesman. The other two quotes are from the Federation of Small Businesses, which laughably suggests that "Christmas lights excite consumers", and from the Association of British Insurers, neither of which set out any evidence that this going to be replicated across the country, even if the examples are accurate, which, going by past related articles, seems unlikely.

Let me, if I may be so bold, make a prediction. Your local town/city will still have the same familiar, gaudy, depressing, garish lights put up in the first week of November by the same familiar burly men. They will look exactly the same as last year's, except slightly less bright. No one will take any great notice of them. Half the time they won't be turned on. The council will have spent an inordinate amount of money putting them up and buying Christmas trees that would be put to better use elsewhere. Repeat until we're all dead.

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Wednesday, December 13, 2006 

Scum-watch: So why isn't the tinsel up on MySpace?

Ah, Christmas. Family get-togethers, mass consumerism, parents getting into debt to buy presents for their little darlings, Christmas tree rash, Only Fools and Horses, people wearing tinsel and fucking stupid hats, horribly gaudy flashing lights on houses that make the Blackpool illuminations look sophisticated, and of course, the tabloids screaming that the whole event is being banned by politically correct idiots, despite all the evidence that suggests the event is constantly growing and lasts longer every year. The Sun has been no exception. Oliver Burkeman from the Grauniad has been eviscerating the numerous claims from the daily scandal sheets, but today's Sun claims that the Prime Minister supports their soporific campaign:

Sanity Claus

TONY Blair yesterday backed the Sun’s campaign for a Merry Christmas.

He blasted “misguided” jobsworths who want to ban Santa in case he offends Muslims.

And he took aim at killjoys for turning it into just another public holiday. Surrounded by twinkling lights and gaily decorated Christmas trees, he said: “I just think the whole thing’s daft.

“People of other faiths don’t in the least mind that Christians support and regard Christmas as a very important part of our year.”

Sour Scrooges should pipe down — and enjoy one of the few times of the year when the nation unites as a family.

Naturally, this isn't exactly what our Dear Leader said. He didn't back the Sun's predictable campaign, and he questioned whether the whole thing is being invented and vastly exaggerated. Here's the transcript from the 10 Downing Street website of his press conference:


Prime Minister, Gordon Brown and John Reid made it very clear last week that they are sick and tired of political correctness, they were particularly talking about Christmas. What is your message on that?

Prime Minister:

Well I am always amazed when I hear these stories about people saying that someone has gone and banned Christmas. I read something today in preparing for this that some vicar doesn't want to support Christmas or something. Look you never know whether these stories are true or not to be honest, because every time you look at them it turns out to be slightly less than it appears. But all I know is that as far as I understand it, people in Britain are very happy to support Christmas, that people of other faiths don't in the least mind that Christians support Christmas and regard Christmas as a very important part of our year, and I think that if there are misguided people out there who think there is something wrong with celebrating Christmas, certainly if you are of the Christian faith, then I don't think they should be taken as indicative of some great movement towards political correctness. I just think the whole thing is daft. And I tell you, if you look round this building I don't think I have ever seen so many Christmas trees as I have in this building, which is very good incidentally, he says quickly.

[party political content]

Blair in not agreeing with the Sun shock? Who would have thought it!

Elsewhere, it's time to plug MySpace, one of Mr Murdoch's recent acquistions:

MEET Tila Tequila, the bisexual former Playboy model who has become the quirky queen of MySpace.

The Hollywood 25-year-old was the first person to notch up a million mates on the hit social site earlier this year — now she has 1.6 million virtual friends.

She says: “I have been in the ‘top eight’ lists of Pamela Anderson, Britney Spears, Paris Hilton and Snoop Dogg on their MySpace sites, which is cool.”

Yes, this is the breathtakingly pathetic news that sad lonely people on the internet add celebrities and bands as "friends" on the site from hell. And amazingly, people who post photographs of themselves in few clothes and talk "frankly" about their "sex lives" tend to attract a lot of attention. I can't imagine why.

It's also worth noting today's front page, which gets very excited over the amount of murdered sex workers. If whoever's responsible continues their killing spree, are they going to being updating the body count in the same clearly unsensational and completely non-tasteless way?

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