Category Archives: Christmas banned

Here lies Winterval: 1998-2011?

So, after a lot of resistance – distorted, truth-bending resistance – the Daily Mail have published a correction after Melanie Phillips claimed that:

Christmas has been renamed in various places ‘Winterval’.

Tabloid Watch has charted the great effort the complainant – regular Tabloid Watch reader James – went to in order for the Daily Mail to admit to the simple truth that Winterval was simply a tabloid fiction. As usual the Mail took a month to respond to the complaint – remember the PCC’s slogan is ‘Free, fast, fair’ and that Daily mail editor Paul Dacre keeps defending the PCC as effective – and when they did they argued that:

The nit-picking suggestion that the term “Christmas” refers only to Christmas Day cannot be supported by anyone with a modicum of common sense. And Phillips did not say the term was intended to replace Christmas Day.

Much wrangling later they finally issued in print and online the following apology:

We stated in an article on 26 September that Christmas has been renamed in various places Winterval. Winterval was the collective name for a season of public events, both religious and secular, which took place in Birmingham in 1997 and 1998. We are happy to make clear that Winterval did not rename or replace Christmas.

Amazingly – in what appears to be a first – the Daily Mail website has also added the same clarification to the bottom of the original article as well. The Daily Mail is to be commended for this – they have done the right thing.

There are a few remaining questions:

  1. Will Melanie Phillips acknowledge the correction in her next column with any sort of apology?
  2. Will Melanie Phillips apologise to me for responding to my polite email pointing her in the direction of my essay on the Winterval myth by claiming that my message was ‘as arrogant and ignorant as it is offensive’?
  3. Will she also admit that her claim that my blog post about her was ‘highly defamatory and contains false allegations for which you would stand to pay me significant damages in a libel action’ was complete rubbish – given that her own newspaper has now had to issue a correction on her behalf?
  4. Will Winterval still be repeated by politicians / journalists and so forth in the same way that it always has done following various previous debunkings?

I will always be tempted to refer back to my initial point on the Winterval myth: the most depressing thing about it isn’t neccesarily its longevity, but the fact that the original story was so clearly completely untrue and contained clear statements from the council that demonstrated this. It should never have been born, let alone be fed until it was big enough for politicians and far right groups alike to befriend.

Anyway, if you’re in the spirit for more on this please feel free to read my piece on Comment is Free. Or, you could settle down and read my lengthy essay on the matter.

Dishonest journalism has serious consequences

Yesterday I covered the Daily Telegraph rehashing a story that the Daily Mail had invented – and I had covered – last week. Basically, both the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph were claiming that Thomas the Tank Engine had abandoned Christmas in order to be ‘politically correct’. The current writers behind Thomas the Tank Engine, HIT Entertainment, were quoted by each newspaper and clearly informed them both that their claims were false, but to no avail. For the record, they have now felt the need to publish this statement on their website:

Media Statement (UK) – Representation of Christmas in Thomas & Friends

Any reports that HIT Entertainment, rights owner of ‘Thomas & Friends’, has been “writing Christmas out of a new series” are completely inaccurate. Nothing could be further from the truth. The episode recently referenced in some press articles is six years old and was contained in a four episode DVD that was not sold as either a “Christmas” or a “Holiday” themed release.

Thomas has a great deal of Christmas themed content and does not shy away from celebrating the occasion, as last year’s DVD ‘Thomas & Friends: Christmas Express’ makes clear. Currently we are working on another DVD ‘Merry Christmas, Thomas’.

We take the legacy of The Rev. Awdry’s work very seriously in the creation of all of our new content and work closely with his family to best manage Thomas for future generations of children. Christmas was, and continues to be, celebrated on the island of Sodor, the home of ‘Thomas & Friends’.

However, the truth is fairly irrelevant to both our broadsheet and tabloid media – indeed the Daily Telegraph article was worse than the original Daily Mail rubbish – and the Daily Telegraph article was picked up by the English Defence League and used as evidence that foreigners (read: Muslims) were forcing more British culture to be abandoned. I know that neither the Daily Mail nor the Daily Telegraph implied any religious motivations behind the untrue allegations they made about the series, but they must realise that any invented stories about the ‘banning’ or eliminating of Christmas will be used by the far-right to bolster their anti-foreigner (read: Muslim) agenda.

Perhaps what is more worrying is that at several points during the discussion thread people point out that the story isn’t true – indeed, some EDL members heave a sigh of relief that they don’t have to boycott Thomas the Tank Engine – but look at how many new comments simply ignore this and just fume with hatred and rage anyway.

This is why journalists should not be able to publish such blatant lies. There are elements of our society that are fearful, vulnerable and simply not intelligent enough to know when they are being lied to. Such people rely on dishonest journalism to hide their own inadequacy with a culture of hatred and blame aimed at ‘others’. Such a culture leads inevitably to the creation of organisations like the EDL.

Just read this thread and once again it becomes essential the we pursue with every energy genuine press regulation:

EDL
Click to enlarge

Daily Telegraph reheats Daily Mail rubbish

Last week the Daily Mail claimed that Thomas the Tank Engine had got rid of Christmas in an attempt to be politically correct. The article did seem to contradict this claim by including the following two paragraphs near the end:

Hit Entertainment, the company behind the DVD, said: ‘It was put out some time ago. It was not a seasonal release specifically aimed at a Christmas audience, but we do put out seasonal releases that have Christmas in the title.

‘Last year we had Christmas Express and next year we are planning another Christmas title.’

So, the Daily Mail article made it clear that the DVD they were referring to was an older release, and as such was not exactly ‘news’ nor was the DVD intended as a seasonal release.

The Daily Telegraph today ran the following headline: ‘Christmas removed from Thomas the Tank Engine to be politically correct’. They followed up this headline with this sub-heading:

The daughter of the clergyman author who created Thomas the Tank Engine has criticised television producers for writing Christmas out of a new series. [emphasis is mine]

The article continues:

In the offending TV episode called “Keeping up with James”, the trains compete to carry presents to children against a background with a fir tree decorated with baubles and a choir.

But instead of using the word Christmas, the programme talks of the “winter holidays” and a “holiday tree.”

Just a couple of problems:

  1. The episode referred to in the Telegraph article – presumably what the Telegraph means by ‘writing Christmas out of a new series‘ – first aired in 2005.
  2. This year a Thomas the Tank Engine Christmas special is being released on the 31st October – complete with ‘Wishes come true in this Christmas special!’ slapped on the front cover.

The Telegraph does seem to make the vaguest reference to what the Mail article made clear: the removal of overtly Christmas language was a cynical attempt to flog the DVD all year round and all-world-round. However, it doesn’t offer the same level of transparency that the Daily Mail article does and simply states in the closing paragraph that:

Hit Entertainment has said references to Christmas were removed because the DVD on which it featured was designed to be sold all the year round.

And, as is very clear by the expected 31st October release of the Thomas the Tank Engine Christmas special, we can clearly see that new episodes will indeed be cynically exploiting the Christmas theme for profit. Just as Jesus would have wanted, no doubt.


With thanks to @notjarvis for tweeting this story to me.

Thomas the Tank Engine Bans Christmas!

Kind of, according to the Mail on Sunday Reporter: ‘Thomas the Tank Engine forced to carry ‘decorated tree’ for ‘winter holidays’ as Christmas is banned on Sodor‘. The article claims:

Thomas the Tank Engine has been accused of joining the politically correct bandwagon after Christmas was written out of one of his adventures.

The team behind the much-loved children’s TV series has angered campaigners by setting a story during the ‘winter holidays’.

The article suggests that the story is clearly set during Christmas but with ‘no mention of the word Christmas’, yet the article does not give us the date when the DVD was actually released or into what markets. The article does include a response from the makers:

Hit Entertainment, the company behind the DVD, said: ‘It was put out some time ago. It was not a seasonal release specifically aimed at a Christmas audience, but we do put out seasonal releases that have Christmas in the title.

‘Last year we had Christmas Express and next year we are planning another Christmas title.’

So, perhaps it wasn’t a cynical attempt at ‘political script changes’ but merely a cynical way of selling Christmas-related stories throughout the year. The Mail on Sunday picture-caption-writer has drawn some conclusions that seem a bit out of place as well:

Lights out: Thomas (left) motors past a ‘decorated tree’ as it will now be regarded in future seasonal episodes

Sorry, is this a fact? Is the writer certain that all future episodes – including the Christmas specific titles – will never again refer to a Christmas tree as a Christmas tree?

For what it’s worth here is last year’s Thomas the Tank engine Christmas DVD:

Thomas the tank engine

I look forward to seeing the Mail on Sunday Reporter sitting down with the next Thomas the Tank Engine Christmas special to see if they really will never mention Christmas or Christmas trees again.

PS. This story has already been copied and pasted onto the Stormfront forums. The Mail on Sunday must be so proud.