Journalism

Haters bite as newspaper dangles bias bait with poll about saying ‘Merry Christmas’

Debates over taking Christ out of Christmas are as evergreen as . . . well, a fragrant decoration symbolizing a certain holiday other than Kwanzaa, Hanukkah or Festivus.

The familiar point-counterpoint exercise is a handy way to fill news space, as The Windsor Star does by leveraging a reader letter for an online poll. “Why do some non-Christians get offended by ‘Merry Christmas’?” Ken Zulian of Windsor wonders in a letter published Nov. 22, 2012. “For those who do not like Christmas because it is a Christian holiday, what would you call that day?”

That pressing question is as inviting a topic as Virginia O”Hanlon’s question was in 1897 when she wrote to The New York Sun, asking “Is there a Santa Claus?

So Star editors threw it open to readers and got nearly 2,000 votes in a poll asking “Do you think we should stop saying Merry Christmas?”

Christmas wins by a landslide, with only 40 brave readers daring to suggest that “Happy Holidays is less offensive.”  The lopsided result may have something to do with the accompanying Baby Jesus photo shown below.

Editors surely didn’t mean to start an immigrant-bashing chorus, but the spirit of peace on Earth and goodwill to men eludes some of the more than 50 readers who comment under the survey. Anyone who feels excluded by “Merry Christmas,” some assume, must be from outside Canada — even though 25 percent of Canadians in 2006 were non-Christian.

Their “go back home” vitriol provokes rebukes to the newspaper for “rehashing the issue,” as Anne Warwick of Caledon, Ont., puts it. “Please stop. If you keep looking for trouble, you’re bound to find it.” Similarly, Jason Carruthers suggests a different poll question: “Should the media stop dusting off this fake news every year just to get a reaction from readers?”

These are among anti-immigrant replies:

“If you are so offended by Canada’s traditions and its residents’ religions, don’t come here.” — Tim Kennedy, Windsor

“We don’t have anyone change their beliefs, so don’t ask us to change ours! You don’t like it? Then go back to where you came from!” — Phil Ingratta

“If all these offensive parts of our culture do not meet with your approval, why on earth did you come here? Canada is a country where freedom of speech/dress is allowed, but don’t come over here and try to change our long respected traditions. I really wonder how these groups would feel if our Government told them that they were NOT allowed to wear the clothing of their country in public daily.” — John Unrau

“This is Canada! This is OUR country, how dare they! . . . If they (or anyone else for that matter) want to wish it in any other way, go back to their own country and spend Christmas there!” — Deborah Chambers

“PLEASE! If you have a problem with Canadian traditions or the the laws of OUR Canada, would you please just LEAVE! If the traditions of your native country are so important to you, then please return! If you are happy to be in this country, then get with the program!” — Mike Gellner

“Look, this is Canada. Stop changing things to meet the ends of others who come too our country from theirs. If they come to Canada,then they accept the ways we do things here. Plain and simple — we don’t change our ways to make them happy.” — Joseph Amond, Windsor

In contrast, voices of tolerance and sensitivity also appear:

“This is an old worn out piece of BS – I’ve NEVER heard of ANYONE (immigrant or non-immigrant) who was offended by someone saying Merry Christmas. It’s a big non-issue pushed out there by zenophobic nutbars who think we have too many immigrants coming to our country. It’s rooted in racism – just ignore it.” — Robert Odette, 56

“I work with people of multiple backgrounds. We all thought it was pretty cool when one of them came in and said Happy Dawali and enlightened us about his holiday.” — Doug Robinson, Windsor

And in a pointed pushback against The Star, Aleksandar Sasic of Windsor says:

“Instead of rehashing an issue that has been discussed ad nauseum for a couple of decades already and for which further debate has no real purpose but to entice xenophobic bigotry, why don’t you ask a question that is at least somewhat original and has any chance of offering enlightenment via the comments section? . . . This is just stirring the pot with no good reason to do so.

“Tomorrow, why don’t you ask how we feel about affirmative action? That’s a brand new issue that’s likely to entice a calm and informative debate, isn’t it?”

Blogger question: Do you think this presentation tilts the outcome of a poll about saying Merry Christmas?

Plesae post a comment below.

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