Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christianity being 'airbrushed' out of Christmas cards in Britain

I have found even worse  in Australia.  My local supermarket has had only cards with non-religious themes for some years now.  I have to go to the el-cheapo Indian shop next door  -- run by a Hindu -- to get cards with Christian themes

High Street retailers have been accused of "airbrushing" Christianity out of Christmas after market researchers found just over one per cent of cards feature the birth of Jesus.

Out of almost 6,000 types of Christmas card on sale in supermarkets, card shops and convenience stores sampled, only 34 featured nativity scenes.

Even when cards with other vaguely religious images, such as choirs or church pews, on the front were included, the total amounted to only two per cent.

Some shops had no Christian-themed cards at all on sale while others had only a handful, with the rest dominated by images of Father Christmas, snowmen or Christmas trees.

A team of mystery shoppers from Nielsen brand auditors visited the card aisles in branches of supermarkets including Tesco, Sainsbury, Asda and Morrison, as well as smaller card shops for a study commissioned by The Bible Society.   Overall they sampled 5,706 designs, of which only 34 had nativity scenes on the front. Overall there were just 66 designs which could be classed as religious, including in boxed sets.

The report concluded that cards depicting the Christmas story appeared to be disappearing from the High Street.

It comes after a poll earlier this week found that most people do not know the all words to well known Christmas carols.

And a test involving 2,000 adults and children found that while basic knowledge of the Christmas story is still strong, some people mixed up the Shepherds and Wise men with Father Christmas.

Official census figures published last week showed that the number of people describing themselves as nominally Christian plunged from almost 72 per cent 10 years ago to less than 60 per cent.

Ann Holt, a director at the Bible Society, said: "Do we really want to see Christ being airbrushed out of Christmas, the festival of his own birth.  "People love the Christmas story - it stays with us precisely because it is visible and popular. So how come it's so hard to find a picture of it in the shops?'

"If you've got a home where you have pictures of the nativity around for three or four weeks of the year - particularly if you've got a home with children, its gives you a fantastic opportunity to tell that story and so pass it on - and people do."

Danny Webster from the Evangelical Alliance said: "Taking Christ out of Christmas is becoming all too commonplace.   "Cards that ignore the basis of the Christmas story encourage us to have peace without the prince of peace and joy without the giver of joy.

"The relentless pursuit of profit means the true meaning of Christmas is lost beneath whatever sells best.

"For most people in the UK the Christian faith still has meaning, and that should encourage us to put the commercialism aside and reflect on how and why God came to earth."

Out of 24 stores visited by the mystery shoppers, all of them in Birmingham, one - a Sainsbury's Convenience Store - had no visibly Christian cards on sale at all.  Two other larger branches of Sainsbury's in the city had a handful of nativity or Christian-themed Christmas card designs on offer.

Waitrose had seven Christian themed cards on offer, out of 88 in the store visited, a much higher rate than average.

Tesco also had larger than average numbers of Christian cards on sale. Two years ago the company said it had doubled its range after letters from shoppers.   A spokeswoman said: "We listened to what our customers were telling us, and have brought in some new card designs to make sure we're offering lots of variety at Christmas time."

A Sainsbury's spokeswoman said: "We offer a wide range of Christmas cards - they offer a choice and reflect what our customers want to buy from us.

"Ten per cent of the retail price is donated to our charity partners Comic Relief and FareShare".


Another bungling British regulator rapped

Why can't they get it right in the first place? Shades of the Tschenguiz bros. and Mohammed Taranissi, to name two disastrous failed prosecutions that shook the British prosecutors concerned to their foundations.  And the Jubilee Line prosecution is a collapsed fraud trial that SHOULD have sunk the British prosecution service involved (See also here)

The Office of Fair Trading has suffered fresh embarrassment over one of its most high-profile investigations after Tesco overturned a ruling that it fixed the price of cheese with other retailers and suppliers.

The supermarket group was fined £10m last year for price fixing in 2002 and 2003 following an OFT investigation that began in 2004 and has cost millions of pounds. However, the Competition Appeal Tribunal on Wednesday rejected more than half of the OFT's findings. It said there was "insufficient evidence" to conclude that Tesco was part of concerted effort to fix the price of cheese in 2003.

It concluded that Tesco was guilty of communicating its pricing to rival retailers via a supplier three times in 2002. But five other allegations were rejected and the CAT said it would need further evidence to determine whether these were isolated incidents or a concerted price-fixing effort in 2002. The ruling means that Tesco's fine is likely to be significantly reduced in a hearing next year. Since launching the investigation, the OFT has already been forced to scrap investigations into milk and butter pricing and make a £100,000 libel payout to Wm Morrison.

In a statement, Tesco said: "It is common ground that the industry faced unprecedented public pressure to increase the price received by farmers for their milk. We have noted the CAT's findings about three isolated communications in 2002. We have of course updated our compliance practices since that date."

The OFT said it "welcomes" the CAT findings that Tesco "infringed competition law in relation to certain anti-competitive exchanges of its pricing intentions".


Scottish racism

Scots have hated the English since at least the 14th century

By James MacMillan

I read in the Scottish press recently of the outgoing director of the National Theatre of Scotland, Vicky Featherstone, disclosing that she has endured anti-English bullying to such an extent that it briefly left her unable to do her job. I also read that this bullying had "really, really upset" her and left her "paralysed" artistically. At a time when Scottish police figures are showing record racist attacks against "white Britons", politicians are warning about anti-English rhetoric "creeping" into Scottish society, and leading voices of our parochial chateratti are railing against artistic colleagues from down south as "colonists," I would like to take the opportunity at this time of goodwill to offer a hearty Scottish welcoming embrace to the new director of the NTS, Laurie Sansom, who is also English.

The writer Alasdair Gray sparked a furore at the weekend with an essay for a book on Scottish independence, describing English people living and working in Scotland as "settlers" or "colonists". He also asked why so few Scots were given senior arts administration jobs in Scotland.

Another independence supporter, writer Kevin Williamson - who famously published Irvine Welsh's first novel, Trainspotting - has demanded a "social audit" of senior administrators and mounted a staunch defence of Gray.

I think people, north and south, will be astonished that these comments have come from intelligent people, let alone prominent artists. This is now beyond politics. Personally I would rather not get involved in the political debate as I have friends and family on both sides of the "independence" issue, and the whole thing has become quite toxic.

I have written about anti-Englishness before, for Scottish and English readerships. There is always argy-bargy about it up here, because Scots are, rightly, embarrassed about this development in our society and having it explored under an English microscope. Although partisan voices will disagree with me, I know that this problem is now significant. Artists should not be fanning the flames, and politicians, of whatever stripe, owe it to their electorates to calm these troubled waters.

The fact that Mr Sansom is also English will no doubt be a source of annoyance to the usual incoherent bar-room Scrooges in these parts. Some might want to use this Christmas period as a time for examination of conscience, to feel the appropriate shame for their lack of hospitality to Ms Featherstone and others, and move on in a more generous spirit in the New Year.


Plebgate: the blindness of the posh bashers in class-obsessed Britain

Thanks to anti-posh prejudice, too many were willing to believe that Tory ex-minister Andew Mitchell called police officers plebs

On 19 October, the UK government chief whip and Cabinet member Andrew Mitchell, resigned. At the time, it was hardly a surprise.

A month prior, Mitchell had reacted badly to being told to walk out of Downing Street, rather than cycle, by two members of the Diplomatic Protection Unit. (That’s the police to you and me.) It wasn’t just Mitchell’s intemperate response that did for him. It was the language he used, a testament, or so it seemed at the time, to upper-class entitlement. ‘Best you learn your f*cking place’, he was said to have barked at the two officers. ‘You don’t run this f*cking government’, he continued, before uttering the killer line, ‘you’re f*cking plebs’.

Sadly for Mitchell, the officers, frightened by Mitchell’s parting line – ‘you haven’t heard the last of this’ – logged the explosion of poshness in their notebooks (which were quickly passed up the chain of command), presumably to protect themselves against the wrath of the Tory scorned. Not that they needed to, given the fact that a member of the public was there to witness the flare-up. He subsequently emailed his account of what happened, which almost exactly corroborated the police officers’ version, to John Randall, the deputy chief whip and no friend of Mitchell’s. He then eagerly passed it on to the prime minister, David Cameron, who was annoyed.

If Mitchell’s name was turning to mud within parliament, he was faring even worse without. First, the Sun had the story leaked to them by persons unknown, and then, incredibly, a few days after the altercation the Telegraph revealed details from the police log of the incident. For the following four weeks, Mitchell was lambasted for being a rude arrogant posho in the press, and attacked for being a rude arrogant liability by his own party. The police, through its de facto trade union, the Police Federation, also got in on the act, issuing offended press releases and parading around the Tory Party conference in Birmingham wearing ‘PC Pleb’ t-shirts. As well they might: having been at loggerheads with the government over pay and conditions for the best part of two years, this was payback time.

Cameron tried to stick by Mitchell, who always acknowledged he’d sworn at the officers but denied using the word pleb. To no avail; the interminable focus on Mitchell was too much. So, after clinging to Mitchell for weeks, Cameron finally let him go. As I wrote at the time: ‘So, in short, a minister resigns because no one believes he didn’t use a rather dated pejorative. What on earth is going on?’

The revelations of the last few days have made that question a little easier to answer. Thanks to the work of Channel 4’s Dispatches team, it is now alleged that the witness, the person who corroborated the police officers’ account with uncanny accuracy, was not actually a witness. He wasn’t even there. He was in fact an off-duty policeman (who has since been arrested over the incident). Also, CCTV footage of the incident throws a bucketload of doubt upon the police version of the events, especially the contention that passers-by were shocked. There were no passers-by.

In fact, the more details that eke their way out, the more it looks like Mitchell might well have been telling the truth. The police, who are now investigating the matter, claim there is nothing to make them doubt the story of the officers Mitchell allegedly insulted. Yet with it now effectively being a case of one person’s word against another, Mitchell’s own account gains in plausibility. A few of Mitchell’s parliamentary allies have even gone so far as to call him the victim of police stitch-up.

What is slowly emerging, then, from this turbid pile of political excreta is a snapshot of the state in something of, well, a state. That’s because driving this weird palaver over Mitchell’s police persiflage is a set of competing vested interests within the state itself. On the one hand, the Police Federation clearly saw an opportunity to win public support in its own fight with its governmental paymasters. This it did by positioning itself as every bit the victim of Tory poshos’ arrogance as those at the sharp end of welfare cuts. So we have the strange sight of the state’s armed body of men turning against one of those in whose name they act.

But the fracturing and subsequent backstabbing doesn’t stop there. It is eating into the Tory party itself. What became clear from the start of Mitchell’s travails was that many in his own party were quite happy to hang him out to dry, including his deputy chief whip, John Randall. Seen as one of the Cameron clique, Mitchell simply didn’t have the support of other Tories. Hence the endless off-the-record stories in the press about how abrasive Mitchell was, how much of the public-school prefect he was. Mitchell’s problem at the gate became an opportunity for office politics to get nasty.

There’s more to the unfolding Mitchell scandal, however, than the fissiparous nature of the contemporary state. The successful removal of Mitchell didn’t just depend on those actively, albeit allegedly, conspiring against him. It relied on the determination of other, both colleagues and commentators, to believe the story. For this constituency of the credulous, from opportunist opposition politicians to leftish journos, Mitchell’s faux pas was perfect. That is, it fitted the tedious anti-Tory narrative of the past few years, in which posh Bullingdon bullies wage war against the poor and the needy. This wasn’t and isn’t true, of course. The trouble with the Tories is not that they are some nineteenth-century caricature, but that they exhibit all the incompetence and lack of purpose of contemporary politics. Today’s Tories are clueless, not callous.

But the prejudice against the Tories, based on the fact that some went to public schools, was too strong. It was just obvious that Mitchell called the officers plebs; he’s posh. So, according to one Guardian commentator, when Mitchell called the two police officers plebs, he revealed the ‘class-based bigotry’ still lurking beneath the new Tory brand. Or as John Prescott wrote in the Mirror, ‘this incident is typical of this government’s out-of-touch and stuck-up attitude towards working people’. In the words of a columnist sympathetic to Mitchell, the allegation ‘confirmed every ghastly suspicion that the Tory Party is led by people who really do believe themselves born to rule and therefore regard the police as no more than proletarian shock-troops at their beck and call’.

And it is that shallow, anti-posh sentiment which sustained the story for so long, and prevented anyone until now from questioning its veracity. Following in the wake of other explosions of inverse-snobbery masquerading as class war, such as the fuss around whether Cameron or chancellor George Osborne had ever eaten a Cornish pasty, Plebgate was too good not to be true. Which, as looks increasingly likely, it was not.


ODD NOTE:  This is the only *gate scandal that actually concerns a gate!


Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the  incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of  other countries.  The only real difference, however, is how much power they have.  In America, their power is limited by democracy.  To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already  very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges.  They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did:  None.  So look to the colleges to see  what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way.  It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH,   EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICSDISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL  and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine).   My Home Pages are here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here


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