In a world going continually madder, a childcare centre has cancelled an end-of-year celebration over community backlash, writes Tom Tanuki.
IN THE LEAD-UP to Friday 13 December, children attending a Kensington childcare centre were looking forward to their end-of-year party. They were going to swap fresh food, have fun and games and be visited by a cute pirate. That was what the centre had organised.
But when the day arrived, the children’s fun was to be denied them. Their centre had fallen under the manic eye of the growing anti-political correctness clickbait machine, fed by outlets like 3AW and Channel 7 and eagerly devoured by a horde of foaming-at-the-mouth anti-PC warriors. They collectively decided that the party was part of a “war on Christmas”. In the end, the children’s party was cancelled. What was this party about and why weren’t the children allowed to have it?
The idea for the party was centred around sustainability, a concept that continues to gain traction across society and in the field of early childhood education. We are a wasteful society around Christmas, spending on average $593 per person on presents, dumping 30 per cent more waste than usual and throwing away around 50,000 trees worth of wrapping paper.
Experts at the Sydney Environment Institute recommend we buy less, recycle more and consider more ethical purchasing at Christmas time to make the season more sustainable. The childcare centre in question reportedly won a grant to implement measures to teach children about these concepts. So they booked a “sustainability pirate” instead of a traditional Santa to help communicate these ideas (and to entertain children who, it is said, like pirates).
But “sustainability” is a term that loses all context in the frenzied hands of media outlets feeding the popular narrative that there’s a “war on Christmas”. It’s a dead horse they’ve been whipping since it first proved popular with conservative U.S. pundits in the early 2000s. You’re not even allowed to say Christmas anymore, we’re told annually, with scant regard for evidence or thought. Thus, the childcare centre’s sustainability-centred party was conflated with “political correctness gone mad” when 3AW’s Neil Mitchell first picked up the issue, handed to him by a parent.
Mitchell reframed the issue to suggest that the childcare centre had “replaced” Santa, was “taking Christmas out of Christmas” and that the centre operated “in a deep, inner-hipster world”. By that evening, Channel 7 News and the rest of the mainstream media had followed suit, interviewing confused parents, ringing experts, professional panellists and so on. The “issue” went viral.
Never mind that there are gangs of Santas roaming every shopping centre and mall nationwide, sparing nary a single Australian child their knee. If you’re not hiring a Santa for your December event, or if you dare to utter greetings that don’t have the word “Christ” in them, you’re now guilty of orchestrating the downfall of the West itself.
The “war on Christmas” narrative is only a topical seasonal substitute for a broader conservative culture war. It’s one in which Christians are portrayed as the victims of a hostile progressive society, which in turn acts as an emblem for a wider “fall of Western Civilisation” narrative they’re constantly maintaining. That’s why we must do this ritual “war on Christmas” dance annually — it’s the same discussion Right-wing media insists we have all year, only draped in festive, heretically secular “Happy Holidays” banners.
Even 3AW has been doing it for years — in 2015, 3AW Drive’s Tom Elliott was absolutely ropeable about a school who had dared to label a Kris Kringle as the giving and receiving of “appreciation gifts”. Blasphemy!
But the culture war has escalated since 2015 and, increasingly, people who are convinced that they are victims can be made to do or say things they otherwise wouldn’t. So this time, the mainstream media reportage of the childcare centre encouraged thousands of violently outraged responses. Many even hinted that they’d crash the party.
‘Let’s get everyone to dress up as Santas and hang around the children’s centre’, said one Facebook commenter of many. Another hissed: ‘If I had a child in that childcare centre, I would turn up in a Santa outfit. What are they going to do, call the cops? Wouldn’t look too good the cops taking away Santa in front of the kids, would it?’ The traditional Christmas spirit apparently involves stalking around childcare centres in a Santa outfit until the police arrive, just to trigger the greenies.
Reportedly, the centre received many angry or abusive calls and emails. In the end, they were forced to cancel their Christmas party, fearing that the children’s safety might be compromised by these infuriated “anti-PC” trolls.
I spoke to a parent of one of the children who attends the Kensington centre and here’s how their poor young daughter reacted:
“She was really looking forward to it, she couldn't shut up about it for days in the lead-up. Then when we got the news, she was stunned. Then she got all sad and quiet, which is worse and more confronting than a typical kid-rant. She was seriously hurt.”
This is political correctness gone mad gone mad.
Sustainability is a crucially important concept for children and adults alike to understand, particularly in the context of our at-risk environment and an increasingly climate-conscious population. The real outrage here comes not in that, but in considering that in order to concoct yet more “war on Christmas” clickbait, media outlets risked endangering a group of children and then got their party cancelled for them. Did they really deserve that?
The media are morally obliged to resist the temptation to rope the vulnerable into the culture wars for the sake of cheap viral material. We are morally obliged to take them to task for it in plain language, resisting the call to hysteria of the anti-PC brigade — particularly when it appears that they are endangering children.
Tom Tanuki is an online satirist, social justice commentator, writer and comedian. He has worked in anti-racist political comedy, most notably through his satirical group the Million Flag Patriots and anti-racist group Yelling At Racist Dogs (Y.A.R.D.).
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