As I sit here watching my home town magically transform into a snowy Christmas wonderland, I think about the reason for the season. For just about everyone else it’s the birth of the baby Jesus but for Bill O’Reilly and the Fox News Channel, it’s time to re-create the annual mythology of the war on Christmas.
In times past it was the ACLU but this year he’s blaming it on angry atheists. Funny thing though. I know lots of atheists and none of them are angry at Christmas. In fact, most of them have children and grand children who will anxiously await Santa coming down the chimney Christmas eve. (And no they can’t explain how Santa has anything to do with the birth of Jesus any better than Christians can.)
But think about it. Is there really a war on Christmas? Christmas is the longest season of the year, opening up retail stores on Thanksgiving day for pre-season shopping. Those same stores are decorated, some starting in October, with seasonal trimmings from stem to stern.
Drive down any main street in America and see Christmas decorations everywhere. We even decorate our residences for Christmas: Christmas trees, plastic Santa’s lighted from the inside, blow-up rubber manger scenes, and multi-colored lights hanging from eaves everywhere. Heck, my hometown even puts their usual Nativity scene on the front lawn of city hall every year.
And if that’s not enough to prove there is no war, think about this annual event as reported in a major newspaper, “NEW YORK — With a flick of the switch, a 76-foot Norway Spruce officially became the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree Wednesday night after it was illuminated for the first time this holiday season in a ceremony that’s been held since 1933.”
No, there is only the Christian right’s hypothetical war as promoted by Mr. O’Reilly and more recently the ex-half term governor from Alaska. And there is good reason for this hypothetical war on the season. Although I’d like to say it’s because of Mr. O’s undying commitment to making America a better place. I’d like to, but I can’t.
I suspect it’s because of his undying commitment to the earnings that come from his viewers’ insatiable hunger for manufactured outrage – a kind of salve for their discontentment with how minorities are subjugating the majority.
Yes, that’s right. It’s not coincidental that he earns $17 million a year. Earning that much money just for keeping the great misinformed masses in a state of perpetual agitation about nothing.
But this is just one example of the fabricated hype spewed every day from Fox News. The fact that Fox can pay people like Bill O’Reilly enough to be the face of this hype is understandable being that they continue to be the top performer in cable news.
But who are the viewers who thrive on fabricated hyperbole? Everyday folks as far as I can tell. And that frightens me more than Mr. O’Reilly’s mythological war on Christmas. Frightens me because FNC’s hyperbole is so silly as to be comical to anyone other than those who immerse themselves in it.
Now don’t get me wrong. I think Fox News Channel’s fabricated hype has tremendous entertainment value. And so do many TV personalities who make good money by using them as a comedic foil. But think about what this says about America today.
The news channel with the highest viewership is also the one that provides the best comedic material.
Well I guess I can rest assured that as long as there are those who can laugh at the stuff coming out of FNC we’ll have balance in America: Those who thrive on manufactured outrage and those who can see the intellectual dishonesty required to purvey it.
There was a time when intellectual dishonesty in the media was disgraceful. Today it’s well rewarded. And that’s sad for us all.
Robert De Filippis