The PC ‘war on Christmas’ is no right-wing myth
From the EU to the Cabinet Office, our elites really are uneasy about the C-word.
It wouldn’t be Christmas without news reports that some institution has ‘banned Christmas’, or eschewed any mention of it, for fear of offending non-believers and ethnic minorities. So, right on cue, a headline in the Mail on Sunday read: ‘Now Whitehall’s woke “blob” tries to ban Christmas: Ministers are warned using the word in festive jab drive will offend minorities.’
It wouldn’t be Christmas, either, without the haughty retort that stories of ‘Christmas being banned’ are typical right-wing nonsense, invariably peddled by the Daily Mail. In response to the Mail report, the HuffPost said that any attempts to ban the C-word were undertaken by the Cabinet Office, and not the ‘woke’ civil service, as the Mail had claimed. ‘Versions of this story traditionally come around every Christmas’, sighed the HuffPost, ‘but this year it manages to shoehorn in the term “woke”’.
The charge that banning Christmas is a tabloid fantasy or a case of ‘moral panic’ is a familiar one. ‘Winterval: the unpalatable making of a modern myth’, ran a 2011 Guardian headline. The article explained how Birmingham City Council never sought to rebrand Christmas as ‘Winterval’ in 1998 as a sop to ethnic minorities, as was widely reported at the time. Rather, it employed the term ‘Winterval’ to cover many December events in the city. The ‘Winterval myth’ was also debunked in a 2007 episode of QI, in which Jo Brand sarcastically joshed that ‘Winterval’ was ‘political correctness gone mad’, and Stephen Fry imperiously scoffed that the popular banning-Christmas narrative was ‘absolute bollocks’. It was all the fault of the Daily Mail, he added.
Paradoxically, the idea that this is all ‘absolute bollocks’ is itself a myth. The recent Mail on Sunday story may have been casual with the details, but it did expose something real: those in power still approach the C-word with trepidation and censorious intentions. Public mentions or allusions to Christmas have indeed been shunned or avoided in recent years, from Luton council banning Christmas trees in 2006 in favour of ‘Harry Potter-themed’ events, to a company handling UK cinema advertising banning a pre-Xmas Church of England campaign to promote the Lord’s Prayer in 2015.
Now, in the latest development, it was revealed this week that an internal EU guide ‘for inclusive communication’ recently said that all correspondence should replace the word ‘Christmas’ with ‘Holiday times’. The guide also featured other prohibitions, such as on using gender-specific titles to address people. It has now been withdrawn.
These ongoing episodes aren’t reactionary fairy-tales. Politically correct interventions have been going on for years, long before ‘woke’ became a controversial adjective. And just because ‘political correctness gone mad’ became a dreadful cliché, as ‘woke’ has become today, it doesn’t make such self-flagellating, liberal-left ostentation any less real.
The needless imperative to ban Christmas is always imposed from above by the well-meaning and hard-of-thinking. Thus it’s entirely fitting that the European Union – that remote, top-down organisation par excellence – should be the latest culprit here. It’s never ethnic minorities or religious non-Christians who call for such measures. They are usually bewildered by these initiatives.
Stories about banning Christmas shouldn’t be automatically dismissed as tabloid shibboleths. Nor should we ignore another unfashionable clichéd truth that bien pensants are scared to utter: that the EU is an authoritarian, meddlesome and egregious entity.
Not for the first time, the haughty accusation of ‘moral panic’ has itself turned out to be absolute bollocks.
What conservatives and feminists have in common
Ever since the Athenians and Spartans united to fight the Persians in ancient times, erstwhile rivals or enemies have made joint cause against a common foe. It makes sense in times of expedience and crisis, such as in the Second World War.
It’s not a difficult concept to understand. But ever since our own Culture Wars broke out, and particularly in the transgender theatre of battle, many have been seemingly mystified by the idea that conservatives and biological feminists should now make common cause.
‘The “debate” is not “women versus trans people”‘, tweeted Laurie Penny recently. ‘It’s not even “feminists versus trans people”‘, she continued. It’s ‘a small group of “gender-critical” feminists and their right-wing allies versus trans people and the majority of feminists’.
This dismal slur by association is something that gender-critical feminists are familiar with, and a devious one that puts them in a bind. As Helen Joyce writes in Trans: ‘Speak up against gender self-ID and get called a shill for the right; or stay silent and see other left-wingers claim that only the right is opposed.’
As Joyce says, it’s not uncommon for campaigners from different political traditions to find common cause. What with so many ostensible feminists having being seduced by the seemingly ‘progressive’ but clandestinely anti-woman trans movement, feminists who recognise the reality of biological sex, and who care for actual women, now welcome allies of different political hues.
These feminists’ focus on biology shows where they and conservatives share more than many would admit. Both believe that human beings are to a great degree shaped by biology, chromosomes and nature. Both contend that while we are of the natural world, we are not slaves to it. Conservatives who speak of mankind’s innate capacity for evil still venerate and hail culture, custom and civilisation. Gender-critical feminists who attest to the unique female experience simultaneously emphasise the plasticity of culture, and are critical of deterministic gender stereotypes that dictate women should behave in ‘feminine’ or ‘masculine’ ways.
In their adherence to empirical facts and science, both camps are opposed to ideology. Ideologies, especially in the case of the anti-reality trans movement, are often based on fantasy, wishful thinking and blind obedience to dogma. They are prisons of the mind.
Advertising corporate virtue
A study published two years ago found that 37 per cent of adverts on British television featured black people, even though black people make up only three per cent of the population. Judging by this year’s Christmas adverts, I would guess this proportion is even higher.
Why does this matter? Because it’s dishonest and insincere. (British Asians barely exist at all in adverts, for example, while the presence of white males continues to shrink.) This kind of demographic misrepresentation is another form of corporate virtue-signalling instigated by companies run by rich, white liberals seeking to assuage their guilty consciences through performative tokenism. It’s enormously vexatious.
Patrick West is a spiked columnist. His latest book, Get Over Yourself: Nietzsche For Our Times, is published by Societas.
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