Blog wars: Have a Merry Christmas, or else

On Blogs

December 03, 2006|By Troy McCullough | Troy McCullough,Sun Columnist

The so-called war on Christmas is raging once again.

Call it a quagmire with no exit strategy.

As they were last year, the opening salvos this year were launched by cable news partisans, while most of the skirmishes have taken place in the trenches of the blogosphere.

The pro-"Christmas" coalition scored an early win last month when cable pundits seized upon the news that Wal-Mart now favored the term "Merry Christmas" over "Happy Holidays" among its employees.

"We, quite frankly, have learned a lesson from last year" and all of the threats of protest and bad publicity that arose from shunning "Merry Christmas" in the stores, Wal-Mart spokeswoman Linda Blakley told USA Today.

"We're not afraid to use the term `Merry Christmas.' We'll use it early, and we'll use it often," she said.

Other major retailers have followed Wal-Mart's lead, prompting victory celebrations among several bloggers.

"Amazing what a drop in retail sales can do to prick the `conscience' of the `Happy Holidays' crowd," wrote the blog Darleen's Place (darleenclick.com/weblog).

"Early reports are showing retailers learned a hard lesson in 2005 by replacing `Merry Christmas' with `Happy Holidays'. This year things will be different," proclaimed the blog Right Truth (righttruth.typepad.com).

But victory was short-lived.

While retailers were waiving white flags and abandoning "Happy Holidays," an unexpected front opened up late last month. The war on Christmas suddenly became the war on Christmas wreaths.

News trickled out from Colorado that a homeowners association in one small town planned to fine a resident $25 a day for hanging a wreath shaped like a peace sign.

Bob Kearns, the president of the association in Pagosa Springs, Colo., told reporters that he had received complaints over Lisa Jensen's wreath from people who have children serving in Iraq. Some residents, he said, also believed the peace symbol was a sign of Satan.

The recently stung anti-"Merry Christmas" insurgency saw its opening and attacked. Some from the pro-"Christmas" camp even defected for this battle.

Nearly 200 people on the left-leaning group blog MetaFilter weighed in. Somebody there posted the phone number of the Loma Linda Property Owners Association, presumably so people could call and complain. Others vowed to send Jensen donations to cover her fines.

Some marveled over how a symbol of one of the basic tenets of the Christmas season could be under fire.

"What's so wrong with peace?" someone asked.

"It's Jesus peace, not hippie peace" that the homeowners association was looking for, retorted another.

"Oh America, what basic tenets of your own constitution won't you hilariously misinterpret?" added a third.

Apparently sensing the size of the force massed against them, three anti-wreath members of the homeowners association decided to surrender. The members dropped the fines against Jensen and resigned. And at least two of the members also disconnected their telephones.

Dozens of bloggers cheered. The battle of the day had been won.

The war, however, was likely to continue. The next salvo from the cable news partisans was imminent, and the bloggers in the trenches were ready to fight.

After all, in the new spirit of the season, mercy is for the weak.

troy.mccullough@baltsun.com

Listen to Troy McCullough's podcasts at baltimoresun.com/onblogs.

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