The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight

My head has just exploded

December 14, 2005

Holiday preparation, grading and related work has seriously cut into the hard-hitting, serious analysis of international political events that I would like to do right now (and I suspect that goes for my fellow members as well as posting has have been a bit slow lately). So for the time being I am forced to vent on that warrior of Christ, Bill O’Reilly.

The Daily Show just did a typically hysterical bit on the conservative pundit’s ‘War on Christmas’. In it, they replayed an old interview O’Reilly did with marketing and advertising expert Philip Nulman. In typical fashion, O’Reilly laid out his argument for why cashiers at department stores should say ‘Merry Christmas’ instead of ‘Happy Holidays’ with a calm, measured demenour and pentrating logic:

O’REILLY: You see I think you’re – I think you’re crazy and here’s why. I think the backlash against stores that don’t say “Merry Christmas” is enormous, because now people are aware of the issue. This has been reported – this is like the third or fourth year that we’ve reported it. Now, everybody’s hyper-sensitive about: Are they going to say “Merry Christmas”? Are they going to say “Happy Holidays”? What are they gonna say? Are there decorations that say “Merry Christmas”? They’re hyper-sensitive. When you walk into a secular environment, most Christians are looking around and they’re, they’re really aware of it. Now, the other thing is, I don’t believe most people who aren’t Christian are offended by the words “Merry Christmas.” I think those people are nuts. I think you’re crazy if you’re offended by the words “Merry Christmas.”

So let us pause for a moment and reflect: O’Reilly believes that people who are not Christian would not be offended by the words “Merry Christmas”, and this is of course backed by the volumes of data and observations he himself has conducted on the issue–in fact, O’Reilly goes further and offers a trenchant psychological diagnosis of those who might find this two word phrase offensive–they are nuts, they are crazy if they are offended by these words.

Nulman attempted to counter O’Reilly’s air-tight analysis by questioning his empirical claims:

NULMAN: “Seasons Greetings” and “Happy Holidays,” Bill, does not offend Christians.

O’Reilly’s razor-sharp response:

O’REILLY (emphatically): Yes it does! Absolutely does.

So, in the end, O’Reilly would have us believe that two simple words are offensive to Christians. Let us assume he is right–the sayings ‘Seasons Greetings’ and ‘Happy Holidays’ are offensive to Christians. Based on his prior argument, shouldn’t we assume that these same individuals are nuts for letting ‘two words’ offend them as well? I mean, who could possibly find something offensive about two little words like “Happy Holidays”? It seems just as ludicrous as someone being offended at the words “Merry Christmas”? Oh, wait a second…

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Petti is Associate Director of Insights and Analytics at Alexion . Previously, he served as Lead Data Scientist in the Decision Sciences group at Maritz Motivation and a Global Data Strategist and Subject Matter Expert for Gallup.