Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Wishing you a politically correct Christmas...

This Christmas has, in some ways, defied modern trends. Simon Cowell's latest manufactured pop product faces a battle for Christmas Number One against "Killing in the Name," a song by Rage Against the Machine which features the refrain "fuck you, I won't do what you tell me!" sixteen times. At the time of writing, RATM are winning. Following betrayal by union bureaucrats, Royal Mail workers aren't going on strike. And articles decrying attempts by the architects of "political correctness gone mad" to "ban Christmas" have been thin on the ground.

They have not disappeared entirely, however. This is surprising, given the amount of articles published which point out that the whole charade is a myth, stemming from an unsuccesful commercial promotion called Winterval which had nothing to do with political correctness. It would seem that, whilst wild nonsense doesn't make quite as good copy as it once did, the truth is not yet in vogue for the right wing media. Though lesser in number, this year's offerings have seen no decline in sheer reactionary insanity.

Late last month, the Daily Mail reported that "David Cameron was facing a backlash from his own party after it emerged the Conservative official cards have the message 'Season's Greetings'." This after "he derided politically-correct Christmas cards which do not mention the word Christmas as 'insulting tosh'" two years ago. Thus, the paper is given occasion (not that it needs an excuse) to throw out clich├ęs about "pandering to the extremists of the PC brigade" and "white middle-class Guardian-reading left-wing do-gooders with a misguided guilt complex and too much time on their hands." That the "controversial" cards actually contain a greeting which originated with the Victorians and attained its modern form in 1920 goes unmentioned.

That same day, the Daily Express told us with considerable indignation that "Britain’s biggest Christmas cracker factory has ditched dozens of risque gags in favour of more politically-correct alternatives." Forgive me if I'm wrong, but I've never come across anything other than tame, cheesy, and utterly godawful cracker jokes. I've certainly never had the pleasure of those "about mother-in-laws, transvestites and animal cruelty," which we're to believe have been replaced by "a new selection guaranteed not to offend."

John Midgely, of the rent-a-quote organ Campaign Against Political Correctness asks us "shouldn’t Christmas be the one time people can be free from PC in their own home?" One might be tempted to answer that we would be, if people like Midgely and the Express would stop rehashing old nonsense as an excuse to moan.

But, perhaps in the interests of keeping journalists who can't do basic fact-checking employed, the circus rolls on. The latest offering comes from yesterday's Mail, with the headline "Council renames Christmas festival 'Midwinter Celebration' sparking PC row." The author, one Chris Brooke, alleges that Bradford City Council "face[s] accusations of being oversensitive to ethnic minorities by keeping the reference to Christmas out of he family event on the last Sunday before Christmas Day." The first falsehood is that there is in fact only one complaint, from the Rev. Paul Flowers, whose rage is in full flow when he asks "why, oh why, must they now resort to the stupidity and banality of advertising a bland "Midwinter Celebration" when the season is clearly  Christmas and should be appropriately named as such?"

The answer is offered to anybody willing to read a little further. Even in the Mail, you can usually find at least one sentence alluding to the truth of the matter. Thus, we discover that far from "being oversensitive to ethnic minorities," the aim of the event is to "celebrate traditional seasonal  activities that are relevant to the history and heritage of the hall and the communities it supported over many centuries," and is being run in the midst of "a wide range of events to celebrate Christmas." Whilst there, "families will be able to 'listen to authentic music' and see traditional medieval folk plays as well as participate in workshops including sugar mice and herb bag making," hardlywhat you would expect from a politically correct event aimed at "denying" and "erasing" tradition.

But then, political correctness isn't actually a real phenomenon. It's the invention of right wing cranks looking for an excuse to spew out nationalistic and / or religious hyperbole. If more people take note of this fact, and disseminate the truth to those who believe the lies, then maybe we can put to death the ridiculous "culture wars" that serve only as a convenient distration from the real issues we all face in our lives.