A brief history of the war on Christmas

My friend and former colleague Parker Molloy has a wonderful newsletter (you should subscribe) where she does some of my favorite media criticism. Though undeniably progressive, Parker values nuance and knows bullshit when she sees it, and has a fantastic knack for articulating the truth beyond the hype.

Case-in-point: she's recently published a few fantastic pieces about the War on Christmas, explaining its deep history in America that far pre-dates the Fox News manufactured controversy factory.

Remember Henry Ford? American industrialist, founder of the Ford Motor Company, etc.? He was also a gigantic antisemite. (Also, FYI, this section will involve some discussion about Ford's antisemitism, so feel free to skip to the next header if you're not okay with/interested in reading about that.)

In the early 1920s, Ford's Dearborn Publishing Company released a four-volume set of essays penned by Ford and a handful of aides called The International Jew: The World's Foremost Problem. These essays had previously run in Ford's The Dearborn Independent newspaper, and would go on to inspire the Nazis and their obsession with eugenics. Volume 2, chapter 36, "'Jewish Rights' to Put Studies Out of Schools" makes mention of Christmas with a familiar argument to those of us living in the present day: "Last Christmas most people had a hard time finding Christmas cards that indicated in any way that Christmas commemorated Someone's Birth … All of this begins with the designers of the cards. And even in this business one comes upon that same policy of declaring Anti-Semitic everything that is Christian."

In a sense, this was the first shot fired in the "War on Christmas" wars and a blueprint for how these arguments would play-out for the next century.

Molloy shares snippets of historical articles from across the 20th century, all using the same sort of fear-mongering rhetoric as Tucker Carlson does in the modern day. And a follow-up piece, she does a great job explaining how a sense of self-made victimhood is essential to the success of the War-On-Christmas meme:

For instance, the odd "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer actually teaches kids NOT to be bullies" line is throwback to a 2018 round of right-wing outrage sparked by right-wing media pretending that a video listed under HuffPost's "Comedy" vertical meant to be a tongue-in-cheek "Viewers Noticed Some Very Disturbing Details In 'Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer'" joke was an actual "We need to talk about this problematic thing" post, which it wasn't. Anybody who looked at this for more than two seconds would realize this was a joke… and the video was filled with joke tweets… several from comedians. "The North Pole needs a HR department. All these bosses are horrible," reads one of the jokes.

But days (and even weeks) after the HuffPost video got posted, right-wing media kept insisting that yes, the left was trying to ban Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeerfrom TV (in 2021, they would have probably said something like, "The left wants to cancel Rudolph!!!") There's no doubt in my mind that the people working at Fox, for instance, were aware that the video was a joke. They just knew that their audience was fired up and decided to run with it.

But because nothing in the world is actually original anymore, Fox was essentially just rehashing something it aired way back in 2011 when it invited a professor of some sort to come on air and claim that Rudolph sends the wrong message. They were only able to get a day's worth of content from that, but it shows exactly how the right-wing outrage machine works when it comes to "War on Christmas" stuff or anything else. The goal is always to present individual comments as though they're representative of the larger movement. 

To top it all off, Molloy's wife Kayla has designed some new merchandise to mock the fake war on Christmas:

This may need to replace my current favorite holiday sweater, which says "Jesus Christ didn't die for you to be an asshole."

The ugly origins of the "War on Christmas" [Parker Molloy / The Present Age]