Saturday, December 03, 2005

Please don't feed the yahoos

To the barricades, little comrades. Time for journalism to get off its arse and start playing a useful role in the so-called "culture wars." And the best way for it to start is -- surprise! -- applying basic principles of Real Journalism, thus starving the arsonist yahoos of the Oxygen of Publicity (thank you, Dame Magon) and keeping the number of false alarms down to a dull roar.

The cause for this week's peroration is the annual journalistic rush to give aid and comfort to the inventors of the War On Christmas, as demonstrated by papers that ought to know better and the usual cockroaches that, well, can't be bothered. The direct inspiration is a specific paper that once again compounds cluelessness with pseudo-poll logical fallacies in an apparent effort to endear itself to certain disgruntled parts of its readership.

War? On Christmas? Bah, humbug. As the Official HEADSUP-L Mom used to put it, there ain't no such animal. Christmas is doing fine, thanks. Indeed, considering that the poor thing works overtime from October through January, it's holding up remarkably well. All it needs is a little help from copy editors so it isn't kicked around in its off hours.

That means we're going to start with a basic, normative, non-objective prescription. Time to get off the sidelines the way we did with, oh, seatbelts. Ever see a traffic accident story anymore that doesn't mention whether the guests of honor were wearing their seatbelts? Exactly. And it's among a number of factors that appear to have done some good, seatbeltly. Imagine if we'd gotten to the point about tobacco a bit sooner.

Thus it is mandated that any story that includes a graf along these lines:

The debate is rooted in the 1950s, when ministers and others launched "Put Christ Back in Christmas" campaigns after the abbreviation Xmas became widely used by an increasingly secular society.

must henceforth contain a graf nearby to this effect:

"The X in 'Xmas' stands for the first Greek character in 'Christ.' The Christian use of abbreviations like 'Xtian' (for 'Christian') and 'Xmas' ('Christmas') dates to at least the 12th century."

I'm suggesting we solve this by direct action because I'm getting tired of saying it year after year. "Xmas" is not a secular plot. It doesn't take Christ out of anything. It leaves him right where he always was (assuming he doesn't mind when his friends call him "X," even though it probably sounds like they're clearing their throats). If we say it often enough, maybe the general level of mouth-foaming out there will calm down a little and we can get back to shopping and drinking.

Now for the other inexcusables:

Whose season 'tis it?
Many bristle over renaming traditions

Unclean! 'Tis is short for it is; did you really mean "Whose season it is it?" You might get away with "'Tis whose season," but this one's a failure (before you ask: Yes, I can take a joke, but I prefer ones that work).

Why has Christ been taken out of Christmas?
Respect for other religions
Political correctness
Who cares, just give me my present

Remember our old friend the fallacy of many questions? Well, good. Just as "Have you stopped smoking crack before writing ledes?" assumes the truth of the underlying question, this hed assumes that Christ has been taken out of Christmas. If that's your view, fine, but you probably should save it for the editorial page.


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