By Nash Kurilko
How FOX News and the radical right are co-opting the holidays
For years now, prominent right-wing politicians and pundits on FOX News have been warning Americans of an insidious left-wing secularist plot to take ‘Christ’ out of Christmas and subvert the holiday into some sort of non-Christian, pagan ritual of gift-giving.
The irony of this right-wing, FOX News propagated controversy, is that Christmas itself has mostly pagan origins, and as a holiday, has already been converted into a celebration of mass consumerism.
Consider the following. The ancient Roman holiday “Saturnalia” – celebrated from the 17th to the 25th – commemorated citizens’ disregard for the laws of the time.
Sometime in the 4th century A.D., Christian leaders converted large numbers of Roman pagans, who were numerous throughout the sprawling empire, by promising that despite whatever huge demands Christianity would have on their daily lives, they would still be able to practice Saturnalia. Only now it would be a one-day holiday on the 25th of December – and not one commemorating lawlessness, but Christ’s birth.
The Christmas tree itself, arguably the most prominent image associated with the holiday, was co-opted as well from other pagan religions, as tree worship was common throughout most of the pagan world.
Christian leaders of the time took advantage of pre-existing rituals and celebrations to centralize their power base and control the masses.
“Santa Claus,” in his modern form, can be traced to the Coca-Cola corporation’s hiring of a Swedish illustrator to produce imagery of Saint Nick in a bright red winter suit. That was clever on the part of the Coca-Cola executives, as their company famously uses bright red on nearly all of its product labels. It’s called branding. Santa became a widely-known commercial icon. His image is often used in television commercials, posters and other forms of advertisement for companies wishing to increase product sales during the holiday season, which as of 2013 begins before Thanksgiving and ends sometime after the last of the peppermint schnapps has been consumed after the New Year.
Bill O’Reilly, the most prominent of his Fox News cohorts, is convinced that Santa Claus and Christmas’ hold over the American soul is beginning to wane. Not because Americans have been growing less and less religious for decades, but because a sinister cabal of organized activists on the left are trying to diminish the holiday.
“The secular progressives want a new America, and Christmas is not part of it,” Riley rants.
These catchphrases are typically backed up on The Factor and other Fox News programs, with reports of various retail companies like Walgreen’s instructing holiday greeters to say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.”
Consider how insulting it would sound being at the receiving end of a “Merry Christmas” if you were a Muslim-American, Jewish-American, Buddhist, Hindu, or athiest.
“Happy Holidays” is a generic term that is all inclusive.
But O’Reilly – and his FOX colleagues – can’t let it go.
“In order to remake the U.S. into a progressive nation,” he says, “the committed left must diminish Judeo-Christian tradition.”
FOX is even devoting air time to the ridiculous – insisting that the fictitious Santa Claus is white.
The real irony here is that “the War on Christmas” is a contrived controversy designed to improve audience ratings and pander to the paranoia of a few delusional fundamentalist right-wing Christians who actually think Santa Claus exists. It is a Hallmark holiday that is designed to boost consumerism – the very thing that Christ himself abhorred. Remember his reaction to the money changers in the temple?
In 2012, 42.5 million Christmas trees were sold in this country. Nine million of them were faux trees. Over one-and-a-half billion dollars were spent on these trees.
On Black Friday, some $59 billion was spent by gift shoppers. The total number of shoppers who will be visiting stores this season is estimated at 307 million – practically the entire population of the country.
These numbers and others reinforce the fact that Christmas’ popularity is not in decline. But, for many, its true meaning has been lost.
“Conservatives have confused the war on their religion with not getting everything they want. It’s called being a part of society,” says the Daily Show’s Jon Stewart.
Funny how Americans need comedians like Stewart and Colbert to inform and enlighten them. Maintstream media certainly doesn’t.