I wondered how long it would be before the Sun chipped into the 'Save Our Christmas' bollocks. They have today with their moronic 'Kick 'em in the baubles' campaign, with the story on their website headlined 'Tree's a silent nightmare'. This one's an echo of their summer campaign to get people to rebel by being exactly the fucking same as everyone else I talked about in 'Super soaraway ARSEPAPER!' (catchy headline, huh).

Its opening three paragraphs/sentences are a sight to behold:
THIS is an explicit picture of a decorated Christmas tree — branded shocking, dangerous and offensive by PC killjoys.

The Sun prints it without fear and without shame.

Our bold decision to publish and be damned flies in the face of the snowballing attempts to strip Christmas of all its meaning — and its fun.
What the fuck?! Seriously - what the fuck?! 'Without fear and without shame', something that's in pretty much every house and loads of major public spaces. They really do think their readers are stupid don't they? How can you be flying in the face of anoyone to show a picture of a Christmas tree? There's a massive one in Trafalgar Square, and one outside the Houses of Parliament.

It carries on:
A survey of 2,300 employers revealed yesterday showed an astonishing 74 PER CENT have banned office decorations for fear of upsetting followers of minority faiths.
You know what? I'm calling bullshit. I think this stat complete rubbish. At the very least it'll be an exaggeration of things like not putting trees next to fire exits or prohibiting certain kinds of decoration. There is no way, no how that 74 per cent of 2,300 employers have completely banned office decorations so as not to offend minority faiths. The study is apparently from a law firm called Peninsula BusinessWise - but the Peninsula BusinessWise site doesn't mention it. I smell something very dodgy indeed.

Remember from 'The Sun gets the TB-jeebies' how the Sun treated the AIDS stats? They claimed over 70% of all new cases were from people born outside the UK, but the over 70% were only of the people who specified their country of origin, and the real figure we could actually say for certain were born overseas was closer to 40%? I strongly suspect that's the case here. The figure gives the impression that 74% of 2,300 companies have banned Christmas decorations because of fear of offending minority faiths, but that's probably only 74% of those companies that have banned decorations - which might only amount to three or four. The beauty of the AIDS story is that it was possible to see the real figures to check. You can't here. I've emailed Peninsula to ask for a copy of their research results, but I won't be holding my breath. Still, just ask yourself - have three quarters of companies banned Christmas decorations? At all? *UPDATE* See 'Christmas ARSEPAPER UPDATE!' for an update. (There. I think I've got the idea that there's an update across).

The MD of Peninsula is quoted later, saying:
Spokesman Peter Done said: “Christmas trees and decorations may well be a thing of the past in workplaces as the political correctness culture spreads. Employers feel they have little choice due to a threat of litigation.”
Threat of litigation does not equal offending other faiths. And why might bosses be afraid of being sued? It couldn't possibly have anything to do with tabloids exaggerating threats and pretending Acas have said things they haven't said at all, could it? Perish the thought.

And a company that:
[Wants] to support your business growth by allowing you to focus on your business priorities, whilst we take the worry out of employment, tax, health and safety issues and legislation.

[And] will ensure that you have up to date contracts of employment, and policies to support them (we’ll even write them for you !). You will have access to a 24 Hour Advice Service, plus indemnity, to guide you through these difficult moments when documentation does not help.
Couldn't possibly have a vested interest in making companies think the threat of litigation is an imminent and complex thing which needs consultation by companies just like itself at all, could it?

Anyway, between those things from Peninsula are a bunch of distorted stories. Hurrah! They begin:
A COURT banned a millionaire from putting up his annual charity light display outside his home.
This gets mentioned in more detail later, but notice how it's left here with no further explanation to give the impression that he's been restricted because of offending minority faiths. Honest, eh?

A SANTA was prevented from touring a town because his sleigh does not have a seatbelt.
There's also more about this later, but at least the paper mentions the seatbelt so we know it isn't about offending anyone.

VILLAGERS planning a festive party were told by council chiefs it would be cancelled unless they carried out a “risk assessment” on mince pies made by the Women’s Institute, and
This seems to be referring to this story, which is about assessing the mince pies' nut content. So it has absolutely fuck all to do with minority faiths.

TRADERS hoping to bring Christmas shoppers into a city centre on a festive train were told it would be banned until councillors could talk about it — in January.
There's also a bit more about this later, but there's sod all to do with offending other faiths here either.

After this and the quote from the BusinessWise guy, there are a couple of quotes that bolster the impression that these are all about offending people. We get:
Muslim Labour MP Shahid Malik said: “Many fellow Muslims will be horrified the liberal PC brigade want Christmas cancelled to avoid offending us. We actually relish this time of year.”
Tory MP Philip Davies, a member of the Campaign Against Political Correctness, said: “I’m tired of white, middle-class do-gooders ruling things are offensive when they aren’t.”
Although these quotes give the impression that the things mentioned above were stopped because they offended other faiths, none of them were. We find that out later.

Next though, we have:
The Sun has told in the past of jobsworths axing nativity scenes for fear of causing offence — and staff banned from hanging baubles in case they injured themselves.
And they were probably a lot of old cobblers too. But this is another assertion that things are banned so as not to offend anyone. So we have an article that opens with the assertion that three quarters of companies are not having Christmas decorations because of offending other faiths, a bunch of examples of Christmas stuff being banned, and then a couple more assertions about things being banned to avoid offending other faiths.

It's only then that we get the real stories behind the paper's earlier examples.

First, we get the detail about the millionnaire, and find out that:
Yesterday it emerged that flamboyant millionaire Vic Moszczynski has been prevented from putting up his usual 22,000-light outdoor display in Sonning-on-Thames, Berks. Some locals reckon it attracts too much traffic. And a county court injunction served two months ago restricts him to just 300 bulbs.
Bear in mind that the paper's 'some residents reckon' stuff is the paper deliberately downplaying something reported by the BBC as:
Wokingham District Council said it was forced to take action, due to "a substantial rise in crime and anti-social behaviour as well as disruption, annoyance and harassment to the surrounding community".

It put the total cost of police and warden patrols in the area over the Christmas period at £7,455.

Patrols are stepped up due to the hundreds of visitors who turn up.
Beside all that, putting up 22,000 lights is not the same as putting up a Christmas tree. And the reasons for it being stopped aren't to do with offending other faiths.

More information about the Santa's sleigh follows:
The touring Santa was grounded in Leighton Buzzard, Beds. Round Table fund-raisers have towed him around in a float for 45 years. But now they have been told it cannot be insured because it breaks health and safety rules. It has no seatbelt and no protective barrier to stop Santa falling off.
So, it's not a sleigh, it's something on a float. And it hasn't been banned. All these people have to do is put in a seatbelt or a barrier. Again, nothing to do with offending other faiths.

This is then followed by the bit about the mince pies and the Christmas train. Neither of which have anything to do with offending other faiths. Of their four examples of employers banning Christmas decorations, only one is actually to do with decorations, and they weren't banned but toned down. Not one concerns an employer banning decorations.

It's a pretty dishonest tactic to frame an entire article around things being banned because of offending other faiths and including examples without informing readers that these things have nothing to do with offending other faiths until the end, where few readers ever reach. Quotes from people reacting to something the paper tells them are often used to bolster the claims of an article when they do nothing of the sort. All the Shahid Malik quote shows is his rection to being told by the Sun that companies were banning Christmas stuff so as not to offend people - rather than a genuine reaction to anything that has actually happened. The other quote is from someone who happens to be a member of a pressure group and already pre-biased. But both together help reinforce the reader's impression that this is all to do with offending other faiths, when the only specific examples it mentions are not.

It's interesting that the Sun couldn't find a single specific example of anyone anywhere having Christmas trees banned. The entire premise and moronic front page splash is completely confected to give the paper's dim readers something to froth about. Again, the whole thing is set up in a jokey, fun, let's-all-join-in atmosphere with its opening funnies about explicit pictures of Christmas trees and headlineds about kicking baubles so that if anyone says, 'hang on, this is all bollocks!' they're instantly marked as a killjoy. The sad thing is there are probably really a lot of complete goons who'll think they're being all edgy and rebellious by putting up a Christmas tree at Christmas. Twats.

*UPDATE* There's a link on the front page of the site today (7 December) that says 'Are Christmas decorations offensive?' linking to their discussion board. They haven't been able to produce a single example yet of anyone banning Christmas decorations because they're offensive. If the Peninsula report they quote is right and they're reporting it correctly, there should be over a thousand employers they could use, but we haven't seen a single one. I haven't had a reply from Peninsula yet either. Funny that.


Andrew Bartlett said...

Janet Street-Porter has copied her column in the Independent from The Sun - right down to the rehtorical structure - a statement that ethnic minorities are stealing Christmas backed up with 'evidence' that health and safety concerns have prevented some workplaces from blocking their fire-escapes with Christmas trees.

However, writing the article second-hand she is even more detached from any demonstration the claims that she makes. It is utterly disgusting. The Sun, The Mail and The Express are one thing. The Independent publishing such... bullshit is another.

Five Chinese Crackers said...

Cheers for pointing that out. I've just read it and it's really bad. She neatly segues into moaning about how the woman in the Channel 4 alternative Christmas message is a coward for remaining anonymous - but she gave an interview in today's Mail and her name and details were included in Channel 4's publicity. Two rants about something that isn't happening in one column! Pity the Independent doesn't allow comments like the Graun.

Columnists have spread other stories by just repeating what they've read in other papers, like the Sun's 'Swan Bake' story, or the Telegraph's one about hot-cross buns. It's a key way these urban legends are spread.