There is one reason for punditry and only one: profit.
Those who think Sean Hannity, Don Imus, Howard Stern, Bill Maher, Bill O'Reilly, Al Franken, and Dr. Laura believe every single word they utter are living in an Idaho of their personal design. If there was no money in whipping your audience into a frenzy, there would be no King Kong or Die Hard or Star Warz or Rush Limbaugh. The fact of their actorship is blatant in their inconsistency. Dr. Laura converted to the Jewish faith. Then to Christianity. There are on-line pictures of her posing naked. She was violently earnest about doing each of these things when she did them, and then violently earnest about undoing each one. She brushes off her erratic behavior as if lint from her $5000 evening gown, while daily she dresses down people exhibiting the same qualities she embodies.
And nobody cares she's selling snake oil. People buy it from her the way they did from P.T. Barnum. They buy it the same way they buy Peter Jackson's twenty-foot ape, and nobody bothers trying to differentiate between CGI and hypocrisy.
The word is "buy". It's entertainment that has the insidious effect of shaping opinion.
By the way -- let's get real about this. If Bill O'Reilly is shaping public opinion in his "No Spin Zone", then so is Steven Spielberg. There is no way being preached to by Larry King is any different than watching Steven Soderberg trying to make a point through his story telling.
We're bombarded by media. It changes our minds about things. It enforces the opinions we have and breaks down others. It's the original SPAM. If we didn't watch it, they'd stop providing it. But because we make the pundits rich, they keep doing what they're doing, and we keep getting what we're getting in the way of societal sickness.
Which brings me to this: The War on Christmas.
Did you know there was a "war" on Christmas? I sure didn't. I was busily trimming the tree and purloining cookies from Mrs. Owl's fresh-baked NOT-UNTIL-XMAS stash. I was lighting the eaves and signing Christmas cards. And while I was happily enjoying my festive season I never saw the treachery appear at my front door.
This is because I loathe pundits of all persuasions, and so I don't avail myself of their blather. Had I been watching Fox News like millions of others, I'd have known I was under attack.
Apparently, the battle was outlined by Fox News employee John Gibson who decided that enough was enough, the lefties were out there trying to turn Christmas into the Holiday Season. In deference to American non-Christians, some people were trying to get the term "Christmas" excised from all public mention of the nation-wide holiday celebrated on December 25th, and call it instead, a plain ordinary "holiday", instead of what it really is, Christmas.
You know, I happen to agree with John Gibson, whom I have never read nor seen. But what infuriates me about the situation is that Mr. Gibson, having nothing else to whip his audience into a frenzy over, decided to attack the one holiday of the year from which I actually derive pleasure.
The "war" on Christmas is the fabrication of a weak pretty boy who needs to drum up ratings so he can demand a greater paycheck next time his contract is negotiated. That is the reality of this war, and I'm confident saying it even though I don't know if John Gibson is pretty. If I was a pundit I'd be making up shit to say to gain ratings and consequently dollars. So I'm going to practice.
Now, as for the Happy Holidays vs. Merry Christmas thing -- I say, "are you out of your fucking minds?" My family is a family of immigrants. My people came over on boats. My history goes back through Ellis Island, and so I feel I have some legitimacy in saying that the fact America opened its arms to newcomers made it as great as it is. When they got here they learned English and became Americans. My grandfather would never say he was "Italian-American". He was a naturalized citizen, and so for him, he was always just plain American. Lucky for my grandparents, they already celebrated Christmas, so the "war" on Christmas was never an issue for them. Dodging the mafia, was.
I think we need to say this to the ill-moraled media trying to stir us into a frenzy over Merry Christmas turning to Happy Holidays: is it even remotely possible you could flip the "asshole" switch to "off" for even a couple minutes?
To everyone who has come here from somewhere else, and to those who make a living out of being offended I offer this: Welcome to America. In this country we have a holiday called Christmas. It was originally celebrated by the Christians who came to this continent, murdered all the native North Americans and installed themselves as the reigning authority on holidays. Consequently, for the past 300 years or so we have stopped celebrating the coming of the summer sun, the first rains of the spring, and the winter solstice. Instead, we celebrate the birth of the Christian king by indulging in vast commercialism of a scale that would have sent the Caesars into orgasm. Nobody is trying to turn you into a Christian, or take away your Christianity. All we want is for you to buy an iPod.
For some people Christmas is a deeply religious holiday with little commercial significance. For some people it's an excuse to learn to assemble a bicycle. For others, it's a deadline to produce new electronic gadgetry. For still others it's an excuse to give people concrete-hard fruit cakes. Everybody gets the day off whether you care about it or not -- just like you get the day off on Labor Day, even if you're not a laborer. There is no requirement to become Christian, implicit or otherwise. In fact, for the past 100 years or so the holiday has been dominated by the economic reality of department store revenues.
By the way -- there's also a holiday in America called Thanksgiving, which is also somewhat religious in the concept we should say "thank you" to the greater power of our choice for continued existence. Though most people forget about this part and simply indulge in the consumption of an animal the rest of the world finds inedible.
There are holidays in some countries we do not celebrate in America. Despite the possibilities for unbridled consumerism we do not celebrate Japanese "White Day", the day upon which businessmen are expected to buy and give ladies underwear to the random women in their lives. We do not celebrate Kuala Lumpurian "Grave Sweeping Day", despite the fact that American electronics companies with factories in that country provide it as a paid day off. We do not officially celebrate "May Day" like the Communists do. We do not have these holidays on our calendars. You are free to celebrate them, but don't expect the ladies at the DMV to take the day off.
We celebrate July 4th, despite the fact the nation we defeated during the revolutionary war is now our closest ally. We explode non-lethal devices over our heads on July 4 to imitate bombardment by an enemy force. We remember our war dead on May 31st by running a major car race in Indianapolis. The people of some American states take a day off from work on the birthday of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King to remind ourselves there was institutionalized facism in this country at one point.
Christmas is a holiday that is deeply rooted in American civilization. It has religious origins, as does the weekly celebration of "Sunday", which was a nod by Constantine to the pagan god of the Sun. The month of August was an homage to Caesar Augustus. Things are like this. We can't undo history. However I believe that sooner or later Americans will start teaching their children that Charles Dickens was born and raised in Hannibal, Missouri, next door to Mark Twain, and that "A Christmas Carol" was actually set in Herald Square, not London. We have the displays in Macy's windows to prove it. It will simply become true the way everything on Bill O'Reilly's TV show becomes true. Quid pro quo.
If you are not Christian take heart in the fact your children will not in indoctrinated to belief in the birth of Christ on Christmas day by their school teachers. By the way, Christ wasn't actually born on December 25th, anyway. That day was picked by a counsel around the year 300. Nobody knows what day he was born on. December 25th is as good as any, and was probably chosen to conflict with some pagan winter solstice holidays being celebrated at the same time. Most of us don't even know that, and are happy to go through life without that knowledge. Lack of knowledge has never been an excuse for Americans to fail to develop an opinion. If you come from a different country, you may be completely comfortable with this effect. Welcome.
Welcome to America. Your children will be bombarded by tales of Santa Claus and the one rule we will insist on in America is that you do not attempt to talk your children out of belief in a guy who breaks into your home once per year to deliver random gifts. While the thought of a fat old geezer penetrating the household through the open chimney flue is the source of great joy for most native born American children, it may terrify your foreign born youngsters. Might I suggest you channel that fear, then. This is one way we control our spawn for the month of December. And besides, despite some pessimism most of us are still confident if we leave peanut butter and jelly sandwiches next to the fireplace on Christmas Eve, they will attract flying reindeer instead of ants. (Yes, it's strange. Tell this to the folks back home. They'll never believe we're the same ones who put people on the moon.)
And those of you who are still ruffled by one idiot's proclamation of a war on Christmas I have a suggestion:
Take 2 shots of an okay single-malt Scotch (not the 25-year old Springbank, please), and add it to your egg nog. Imbibe freely. Realize you're among friends. Kiss a few of them. Open your gifts slowly, aunt Margaret likes to save the paper (God knows why, she never reuses it). Watch Charlie Brown's Christmas Carol for the 30th time. Try to find the religious allegory in Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, and then give valuable prizes to anyone who does. Watch the ghost of Christmas future scare the shit out of Scrooge and make him a philanthropist. Start a fire (in the fireplace), cuddle up with your honey, and sip a hot drink while the snow falls.
Whether you pray or not, remember our men and women at war. Whether or not we agree with it, it's our family out there.
And for God's sake, turn off the talk shows. Turn off the news. Spend a few days not allowing a network talking head to make you angry. One thing we know for certain, religious or not, Christmas is not about being angry. Don't wreck your Christmas searching for some person or thing to make you mad. Realize that's how they make their money, and there's plenty of time for issues. Realize that every Christmas story you've ever been told is about exactly that.
Oh -- P.S. Save those receipts. The shirts are returnable.