Those slightly hysterical stories that scream - "political correctness gone mad" - usually make me think the writer is actually enjoying stirring up a bit of indignation. Offence is taken even when it is not intended. The reader's prejudices are then fulfilled, and everyone feels validated that the world has truly gone mad. More often than not there is a wilful misunderstanding at the heart.
I had to stop and look at this press release I got recently for that very reason. To put it in context, it's from an employment consultancy and they want to "warn" or "safeguard" or maybe "scare" employers about what to do at this time of year.
Here is the first of four questions in full.
"Can we still refer to 'Christmas' or should we use a generic term such as 'festive season'?"
That's a fair question and probably representative of the kind of paranoid paralysed management thinking that the HR industry thrives on.
Here is the answer they gave.
“This question is still up for debate but employers should avoid fostering a working environment in which employees feel that the term ‘Christmas’ is forced on them. In the same way that Christmas may continue to be celebrated by Christians, other religious celebrations throughout the year should also be able to retain their identity. For example, Muslim employees should not be discouraged from celebrating Ramadan, or Jewish employees from celebrating Hanukkah. As long as various religions and beliefs are considered and accounted for, employers do not need to refrain from using the term 'Christmas'.”
I think that is absolutely disgraceful advice. The question is not "up for debate" at all. It is Christmas.
Please advise me as I think I may have missed a subtle hidden meaning here. This national celebration, throughout the world, has deep significance. As for forcing it upon anyone, then it is simply not up for debate whether this country, a Christian country, a tolerant Christian country, celebrates a public holiday called Christmas Day. There isn't even a reason to justify celebrating the gift that God gave us at this time of year. Or even creeping secularisation. No, the question appears to be even more crass than that. Who can deny the existence of Christmas? And really, who is actually offended by the celebration of Christmas? No-one. The last thing people of other faiths want to do is quash the main festival at the centre of the Christian faith.
As I tried to think through the rising anger, I slowly came to the conclusion that it was me that was missing the point. There's no debate. There really isn't, but the company pimping such nonsense want to have one. If me and other gullible media are dumb enough to react then here they are, proclaiming honest broker status, in order to arbitrate at the centre of a row they themselves are at the centre of. This is just PR spin for an industry peddling fear. And for that reason I'm not going to dignify the sender or the client with a name check.