Category Archives: Persecuted Christians

Winterval: Still alive and kicking

Remember the dim and distant days of November 2011 when the Daily Mail published a correction to a Melanie Phillips article in which they finally acknowledged that Winterval had never renamed Christmas:

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.

As I wrote recently in my E-Book about Winterval (which this blog post will repeatedly plug) this correction from the Daily Mail did more to kill the myth than any debunking had managed before, and apart from the occasional mention the myth had pretty much died.

However, the Daily Mail has – 3 days ago – published another article on the myth: ‘She may as well have wished us Happy Winterval!’ MP who sent out Happy Holidays card faces backlash for ‘marginalising’ Christmas’. The article suggests – in one of the Mail Online’s various bullet-point sub-headings – that such a card ‘Draws comparisons to the 1990s Winterval furore in Birmingham’. The Mail also makes room for the following handy reminder to readers:

winterval

This little box is crammed full of lies. Winterval was never about ‘reflect[ing] the diverse nature of the city’s population’, nor did the council ever say anything about making the city a more welcoming place for ethnic groups. These are lies, I have read every single piece of news coverage, in both local and national newspapers, since 1997 on this subject and I have never, ever seen anything that could possibly justify these assertions. I know this will not come as a shock, but the Daily Mail is making this up, they are lying to their readers.

As for the then Bishop of Birmingham’s comments, they were made a year after the initial Winterval celebrations in 1997 (of which he seems to have been completely oblivious) and they were reported by a newspaper that up until that point had not criticised Winterval at all – indeed, newspaper reports after the 1997 event talked about what a success it had been and how Winterval 1998 was going to be bigger and better.

If you care about the state of journalism, or you want others to realise just how happy newspapers are to make stuff up to incite hatred towards target groups, then please buy and read my E-book on the Winterval myth. It will – I think – open the eyes of any reader as to how one little myth can fuel a media narrative (atheists / Muslims / PC brigade are banning Christmas) for over 15 years, and how in each passing year the original myth becomes more and more embellished to suit the political needs of the newspaper at the time.

In other news, Ann Widdecombe recently crammed as many media myths into a few hundred words as I’ve ever seen, including Winterval and a Dr Chris Allen has completely ripped-off all of my research into Winterval in a blog post in which he basically rejigs my writing on the topic – adding nothing new.

The only way anyone can make me feel better is to buy my E-book:

winterval-book

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.

George Carey: ‘Challenged’

George Carey, former Archbishop of Canterbury, weighed in a couple of days ago (not sure how I missed it) on the BBC unequivocally NOT BANNING THE USE OF AD/BC: ‘Why are we letting the BBC abandon the Year of our Lord?’.

This myth is interesting because we’ve all been there at the inception of it – that first article plastered on the Mail on Sunday front page. We’ve all known from the off – simply by reading the whole article – that it was complete rubbish and every single idiot that has repeated it since whilst frothing away at a keyboard should hang up their rage-worn fingers in shame. If they did we could kiss goodbye to the following ‘writers':

  • James Deliingpole
  • Richard Littlejohn
  • Melanie Phillips
  • Steve Doughty
  • Boris Johnson

What a wonderful world that would be.

Anyway, Tabloid Watch has carefully documented the way this myth has been happily repeated by people who must be aware that it is a complete lie, but just don’t care. It’s even won the Tabloid Bullshit of the Month award – for which it was necessary for the award to be issued to everybody writing at both the Mail on Sunday and the Daily Mail.

Anyway, in wades the Bishop irrespective of all this:

Dionysius Exiguus would be dumbfounded at the attempts by the BBC to issue guidelines that amount to ditching the well-known terms in our calendar, BC and AD…

[so] why does the BBC wish to challenge and, we assume, discard this ancient usage?

Wait, sorry Mr Carey, did you just write ‘assume’? You ‘assume’ they are trying to ‘challenge’ or ‘discard’ BC/AD but surely you’ve had enough time to look into the matter? I will not bore you with the whole piece of persecution-complex drivel but I will pick out a few classic Daily-Mail-reader/writer devices/ For example, the classic ‘I’m not… but’ used here:

I am trying to be charitable to the BBC in not seeing this as a deliberate attempt to sideline the Christian faith, but I am quite sure that it amounts to a denial of our Christian heritage.

Breathtaking. Absolutely breathtaking. Just re-read that a couple of times to appreciate the mental leap it takes to join those two opposed ideas together in one sentence.

Next up, wheel out some more tabloid lies to support the lie you’re currently writing about:

The BBC changes are only a symptom of this crisis of historical memory.

We have recently seen the police investigate a cafe owner for displaying biblical texts. Street preachers have been arrested for handing out leaflets about the Christian faith. Nurses and other workers have been barred from wearing crosses.

A doctor is currently being investigated for praying with and for a patient.

The cafe owner was spoken to after the police received complaints that what was being displayed was homophobic – nothing to do with it being a Christian text. Nurses have to remove all jewelry – and a cross is not classed as being an essential part of the Christian faith – i.e. it is not standard practice to wear one, but personal choice (see Bill Hicks on why Christians should perhaps stop wearing them). Basically, tabloid stories about Christians being persecuted should always be taken with a huge dose of salt, not repeated as fact to support the lie you’re currently spreading.

To round off a thoroughly ignorant article Mr Carey finishes with a wish I’ve read all too often lately:

I would like to think that the BBC might rethink the guidelines it has sent out to its programme directors but, if that is too much to expect, is it too much to hope that presenters will use their intelligence and ignore such silly and yet potentially harmful advice?

Editorial decision rests with each producer / presenter Mr Carey, hence why the Daily Mail have also been moaning that different programmes switch between the two – and some programmes even use the terms interchangeably. I do recall watching QI on the weekend and Stephen Fry used BC. What you ‘would like to think’ about the BBC is actually the reality, had you only looked briefly into the matter you could have avoided inflicting your stupidity on the world.

For once, I will leave the (almost) last word to the utterly, utterly brilliant Mail sub who wrote this caption underneath a photo of George Carey:

Challenged

I could not think of a more fitting term.


With thanks to Metaltoast for pointing out this article to me.