The latest story about evil liefties seems to start in a story in last Wednesday's Daily Mail 'Christmas should be 'downgraded' to help race relations says Labour think tank'. The story is about a yet to be published IPPR report. Curiously none of the quotes from the report in the article actually use the word 'downgrade', and the only place it appears is the headline. As we know from previous tabloid headlines, we know that the quotes here mean nothing. Remember 'Migrant surge led to 'disorder and crime'', and 'Muslims: 'Ban non-Islamic schools'?
The closest the article comes is this:
"Even-handedness dictates that we provide public recognition to minority cultures and traditions.So, nothing about downgrading, just a call that public organisations should mark other religious festivals. I had bookmarked this to blog about when the IPPR study was published, but via Pickled Politics, it seems that other papers are already picking up on the story, and we can follow how one of these urban legends spread.
"If we are going to continue as a nation to mark Christmas - and it would be very hard to expunge it from our national life even if we wanted to - then public organisations should mark other religious festivals too."
The first of the right wing papers to pick up the story after the Mail is the Express, with 'PC plans to 'downgrade' Christmas', which appears the day after the Mail version appeared online. It's basically a rehash of the Mail's version. The word 'downgrade' only appears in the headline. It includes some quotes that don't appear in the Mail article, but nothing about downgrading Christmas. Curiously, it claims the report was published that day. It's nowhere on the IPPR website that I can find.
The Sun weighs in on the same day and, like any good distributor of urban legends, embelleshes things further with 'Bid to ban Christmas cheer' which steps things up to include a ban now. It opens:
BRITAIN should SCRAP official Christmas celebrations to boost race relations, it is being claimed.There are no direct quotes from the report in the story about Christmas being scrapped or banned. It's the first article to mention Winterval, pretending that:
Some towns have already rebranded Christmas as Winterval to avoid religious offence.Yeah, right.
It takes a couple of days for the story to reach the Telegraph, and on the 4th, the paper goes with 'Scrap Christmas, says New Labour think tank', which picks up on the capital SCRAP from the Sun's coverage. It includes no direct quotes from the IPPR report that don't appear elsewhere, and no direct quotes mentioning downgrading, scrapping or banning anything. This one is the first Christmas story I've seen this year to mention the very funny report about 74% of businesses banning Christmas decorations that was spread by an employment law firm, who'd profit nicely from businesses who read the reports and contacted it for advice. Expect more references to that this year.
The Times covers it on a couple of days later, but only on an opinion page from Minette Marin. It's the wonderfully headlined 'Let’s stop pretending all faiths are equal'. Of course there aren't any quotes that don't appear elsewhere, and no quotes from the IPPR report saying Christmas should be downgraded, scrapped or banned. It includes a brilliant quote saying:
What I want, passionately, is for the state to keep away from my children and let me decide for my family what to do about Christmas (or indeed Eid or Sukkot or Diwali). I don’t want the state interfering with ancient customs, expunging Christmas or punging something else in its place.which shows that Marin presumably does want Christmas downgraded, since the state enshrines her right to have time off to celebrate it in law. It mentions Winterval, too.
So, cue the liberal elite, stepping in to point out that the report isn't published yet and that none of the quotes say that Christmas should be downgraded, scrapped or banned, right? Right?
The Guardian kicks things off on 1 November in 'Come all ye faithful'. This one does only mention celebrating other religious festivals and doesn't mention downgrading, scrapping or banning anything, but it doesn't challenge the idea that anyone's called to ban anything.
Ally Fogg follows up on the 4th, with 'A gift for the tabloids', which does include caveats about waiting for the report to be published, but does seem to take the suggestion that the report says that Christmas should be downgraded at face value, and concludes:
So how depressing to discover that a supposedly liberal thinktank has shunted us right back to square one. And how ironic that it has done so in pursuit of tolerance.Fogg does include links to last years two superb Oliver Burkeman articles about banning Christmas, but seems not to have learned the lesson from it of taking anything in the papers about banning Christmas at face value.
Suffice to say the IPPR is well and truly struck off my Winterval card list.
One of Fogg's sources is 'Think-tank: 'Mark all religious festivals'', which is the best of the lot. It includes nothing about downgrading, scrapping or banning anything, and does only mention that the report says public institutions should mark other religious festivals. It doesn't say that the marking of them should be on the same level as Christmas. It doesn't contradict the other stories directly, but it was one of the earliest to appear, on the 1st.
It's a pity that Carol Malone hadn't read the Independent before writing 'Out of their Xmas tree', which is the sort of quality we'd expect from Malone. Here, the story takes a different tack with its hyperbole, blaming the pretend idea that Christmas should be downgraded on the government this time. Top notch.
So, in a few short steps, think tank says public organisations should mark other religious celebrations becomes Christmas should be downgraded, banned or scrapped and the diktat is coming from the government. Sweet.
I'll revisit this when the IPPR report does get published. Here's a prediction: it won't say anything should be downgraded, scrapped or banned. I doubt it'll even say that other festivals should be marked with the same prominence as Christmas.
And even if it does say that other festivals should be celebrated as prominently as Christmas, there's something nasty about interpreting that to mean Christmas is being downgraded. About saying that other religions are inferior to Christianity, as the Times article clearly suggests.
Another one for the mythology, I think. Of course, big crow is on the menu for me if it isn't, but I'm dead confident that the report doesn't say Christmas should be downgraded, scrapped or banned. I've seen too many other reports covered by the Mail to believe that.