Sunday, December 25, 2005


Wow, you just have to admire the "war on Christmas" campaign!

On IH35 this afternoon, with John Prine blaring and the sun blazing, we drove between the Tree of Life mega-church advertising Jesus and the Snake Farm across the highway advertising, well, rattlesnakes. While it may take my husband a few days to compose the requisite country song to commemorate this pleasant irony of snakes and sinners, I thought it would be a nice visual spring board for one more (probably unnecessary) comment on the "war on Christmas."

Happily for all of us on the sidelines of this overwrought "debate," Media Matters has nicely pricked O'Reilly's balloon, here. We can lean back from our huge Christmas dinners comfortable that Christmas will arrive as usual, right before Thanksgiving, and continue to represent 40% of America's retail sales in 2006.

That said, it appears that the snakes have crossed the highway to the steeple and taken over the megaphone. While most Americans are simply puzzled, and some christians are downright embarrassed, the Bill O'Reilly team is congratulating itself on a successful engagement and withdrawing for another year to count the profits from Gibson's book and enjoy the support of its newly re-invigorated base.

Perhaps we haven't adequately recognized the genius of the "war on Christmas" as a holiday political campaign designed to stir up excitement in the base (religious conservatives), knock the opposition (Democrats, liberals, political progressives) off balance, and sell a bunch of books. It has, by all appearances, been supremely effective and we can all learn some lessons.

First lesson, let's all use the holiday season to our advantage! O'Reilly doesn't own December!

I've learned from hard experience that most people in this country don't have time for much else than holiday planning during the month of December. With the kids out of school and shopping to do, with sometimes multiple family dinners to plan and long lines at the shipping office, people are just busy. Christmas is like a strong, wide river and if you aren't flowing with it you are going to have a much harder time getting the message out.

This year Consumers Union launched two initiatives the first week in December designed to set up our campaigns for next year. At about 10,000 people took action for prescription drug reform after a large email appeal. This isn't too shoddy, but it doesn't compare to the 23,000 who joined us in support of (launched the same day) with its inaugural Christmas song "It's Always Christmas Time (for Visa)!" and its sly Santa theme. More important to that campaign, about 2,500 people sent another 9,000 people the money-bags Santa Christmas card we placed on the thank you screen. The campaign could have used a couple more weeks to build, and next year we'll launch our Christmas efforts a week or so before Thanksgiving, right about the same time that Bill O'Reilly declared his leadership against the "war on Christmas" (November 18) and the launch of Gibson's book of the same title. Timing, impecable.

Second, we should remember that its a reasonable political strategy to build base for its own sake, because we will need that base for something important some day. Since the fall of communism, its been pretty hard to be an anti-communist, but the war on Christmas gives the closet anti-communists fresh fodder. They will be ready with fresh lists and new volunteers when liberals reveal themselves to be the communists they obviously are. For the anti-communism behindthe "defense" of Christmas, see this quick note from and this refreshing satire by (confession) my wonderful spouse, Scott Henson of Grits for Breakfast.

So if anti-communism can be revived with a simple holiday campaign, anything can be accomplished and we should all put our thinking caps on. There's only 364 days til next Christmas!

Anticommunism? Or more like the traditional rightist hunt for a scapegoat. It's no longer fashionable to pick on black people? Then use code (Willie Horton). Go after gay folk. Pick on the immigrants.

It's not socially acceptable to attack heathens on national television. So instead, pick on people who would prefer "happy holidays" to "Merry Christmas" -- code for atheists and Jews and Muslims.
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