INTERESTING programme on Radio 4 this morning (and repeated this evening, I think) on the Daily Mail‘s favourite topic, political correctness – PC RIP.

I take the middle road on this one – PC has been invaluable in reminding us of the importance of respecting other people and their culture. But some of it is just BS. I’ve written here before, for instance, about Glasgow City Council’s ludicrous decision to stop serving “black coffee” (it’s now “coffee without milk”, believe it or not). It would be too depressing even to start discussing the many reasons why this is absurd; it’s enough that I insist on ordering black coffee whenever I’m in the city chambers, even when I actually feel like a nice latte…

But it’s near the time of year when I join with every Telegraph and Daily Mail letter writer in expressing horror and indignation at the worst example of needless PC of them all – that’s right, we’re in the run-up to “The Holidays”.

I have never been able to understand why America, where so many people attend church every week, has capitulated so entirely to the absurd and mindless practice of referring to Christmas as The Holidays. Even George W. Bush is scared to put the word “Christmas” on his Christmas cards. And the infection has spread over here, inevitably (and I don’t refer to Birmingham’s late, unlamented “Winterval”). A couple of years ago I noticed that the packaging for B&Q’s Christmas decorations said “Happy Holidays” and made no reference to the actual name of this particular seasonal celebration.

The assumption is made that the celebrating of Christmas is offensive to non-Christians. There are two important points here: firstly, I don’t care. If you’re not a Christian, that’s up to you, but since I don’t get offended by others celebrating their own religious festivals, then they shouldn’t get offended when Christians celebrate theirs. And if they are offended, fine – be offended, it’s a free country.

But secondly, and more importantly, I simply don’t believe that Muslims, Seikhs, Jews and others are offended by the celebration of Christmas, just as I would be willing to bet that there isn’t a black person in the country who would be offended by anyone asking for a black coffee.



Filed under Church, Media, Society, Uncategorized, United States

16 responses to “PC RIP?

  1. Sunder Katwala

    Dead right. Nobody is offended by Christmas, and attempts to stand up the tabloid stories on Christmas bans invariably fail.

    Trevor Phillips’ Equality Commission did a good job trying to knock this nonsense on the head last year, with leading Hindu, Muslim, Sikh voices all saying they were, of course, perfectly happy with Christmas and keen to celebrate it themselves.

    Indarjit Singh’s comment caught the tone needed to knock this stuff down: “In the spirit of Christmas, we in the Singh family will, as usual, force ourselves to have extra turkey, Christmas pudding and mince pies, the lot – all in the cause of inter-faith harmony. No one can say Sikhs don’t go the extra mile!”


  2. stu

    Hi Tom, you’re absolutely right in this post, it’s absolutely ridiculous to suggest that Christmas celebrations would be offensive to people of other faiths. Leaving aside the pagans origins of Christmas (since when did Christians worship evergreen trees?) I think it’s really quite racist to suggest that Christmas WOULD cause offence – it is, after all, implicitly suggesting that Muslims, Hindus, Jews and others are all so small minded that they can’t cope with people celebrating something they don’t believe in.

    Or that their faith is so fragile they might be accidentally converted to Christianity thanks to the majesty of Christmas…

    Incidentally, the Americans tend to call it ‘The Holidays’ because they also celebrate Thanksgiving at around the same time. And New Year. There is more than one holiday at that time of year, so the plural is justified.

  3. Practising Jews for Christmas over here.

  4. Johnny Norfolk

    I totaly agree with you Tom. It is I think offensive to a black person to think he would be concerned about words and phrases like black coffee, black board, black sheep etc.

    These people just make matters worse and the government should not allow people to do it.

    Its frightening that people in power should think like this.

  5. I agree in principle. However, there are a few things to take note of. ‘PC’ and ‘The PC Brigade’ are notoriously overblown by the likes of the Mail and Telegraph. The true extent of any official policy forcing or even encouraging anybody to be PC is probably a lot smaller than they’d make out.

    The second is that for too many ‘anti-PC’ types (your good self excluded), being against political correctness is just an excuse to be racist, sexist or homophobic. The kind of characters who are generally seen to rail against Political Correctness make me want run around the place telling people off for drinking Black Coffee and singing Baa Baa Black Sheep…

  6. Blackacre

    I agree. As an atheist I am certainly not offended by the celebration of Christmas, although I find it starting in October a bore.

  7. “These people just make matters worse and the government should not allow people to do it.”
    – Johnny Norfolk

    Am I the only one who thinks this is hilariously ironic?

  8. I agree, Alisdair. I was going to point it out, but then I thought: “Why bother?” Glad you did, though.

  9. Blackacre says, “As an atheist I am certainly not offended by the celebration of Christmas.”

    I wonder if he is offended by the Atheist Bus Campaign.

  10. Adam

    Spot on Mr Harris. It is scaring me how often I find myself in agreement you at the moment.

  11. Blackacre

    Nope, I am not offended by the Atheist Bus Campaign. Why would I be, any more than being offended by adverts for the Alpha Course. I dislike the Alpha Course ads as they are not very clear that the course is about Christianity, but have no problem with their small scale proselytising.

  12. Even Richard Dawkins likes carols, or so I’m told.

  13. Isn’t the whole idea of telling people off for celebrating Christmas an myth invented by right-wing bigots who want to blame PC for the world’s ills? If some of the commentators here are to be believed, political correctness is a more pernicious influence on our society than racism or sexism themselves.

    In case it needs repeating, Winterval was a business venture by Birmingham council steeped in Christian imagery and messages. It was an attempt to extend the Christmas season well into the new year to promote their local economy. It was daft, but not for the reasons most people think.

    I don’t normally link to my own articles but I wrote this a little while back just to show how ridiculous the whole debate is:


    As a Christian it really annoys me that these “anti-PCers” hijack Christmas in order to try and promote their own political agenda. If they cared about the real message of Christmas they would just celebrate it instead!

  14. Indy

    Maybe some Americans started sending out ‘Happy Holidays’ cards because, in addition to covering Thanksgiving and New Year, it was cheaper than sending out separate ‘Merry Christmas’ and ‘Happy Hanukkka’ cards. Not necessarily a PC conspiracy.

  15. Nick

    All I can contribute to this is:

    Tom Harris for Labour Leader!!

  16. Daniel W. Simon

    As an American, I remember when the school holidays switched from “Christmas” and “Easter” break to “Winter” and “Spring” break. I attended a Catholic university, and we had both Easter and Spring break, which as nice because it meant twice as many holidays in the Spring…

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