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December 13, 2011

The AFA's War on the War on Christmas Begins!

It's the most wonderful time of the year! The American Family Association is again leading the charge in the War on Christmas by putting out their annual Naughty or Nice list of retailers. Blogging about this list is one of our favorite ESC holiday traditions, so we're excited to tackle this year's offering from the AFA.

If you're not familiar with the Naughty or Nice list, here's how the AFA describes it:

AFA's 2011 listing of top retailers and how they recognize Christmas

Color Code:
GREEN: Company uses the term "Christmas" on a regular basis, we consider that company Christmas-friendly.
YELLOW: Company refers to Christmas infrequently, or in a single advertising medium, but not in others.
RED: Company may use "Christmas" sparingly in a single or unique product description, but as a company, does not recognize it.

Criteria - AFA reviewed up to four areas to determine if a company was "Christmas-friendly" in their advertising: print media (newspaper inserts), broadcast media (radio/television), website and/or personal visits to the store. If a company's ad has references to items associated with Christmas (trees, wreaths, lights, etc.), it was considered as an attempt to reach "Christmas" shoppers.

If a company has items associated with Christmas, but did not use the word "Christmas," then the company is considered as censoring "Christmas."

Note: AFA does not list local or regional companies. Only nationally-recognized companies will be listed. This list only reflects a company's "Christmas" advertising and does not take into account other corporate policies AFA may not agree with.

And if you're not familiar with our reasons for writing about this list every year, here's a summary:

-There's nothing wrong with stores using 'happy holidays' instead of 'merry Christmas', and the "war on Christmas" exists only in the minds of people like Bill O'Reilly and the AFA. Christmas is celebrated openly pretty much everywhere in this country, but there are many other holidays that are also celebrated at this time of year and there's nothing wrong with stores choosing to use an inclusive term like 'happy holidays'. It's really not a big deal, as we said when we first wrote about this back in 2009:
Yes, the fact that some stores choose to use a general holiday greeting that applies to everyone is a horrible nightmare. Sometimes when I'm out shopping for gifts and someone in a store wishes me "happy holidays", I find myself losing my moral and spiritual bearings and beginning to question who I am as a person and reevaluating the meaning of life, and then I have to get a lemonade from Auntie Anne's and sit on a bench outside of Socks Appeal until I feel better. It's a challenging experience.

-Buying stuff at a store really has nothing to do with the true meaning of Christmas anyway, so we don't see why Christian groups like the AFA spend so much time and effort every year on trying to force stores to be as "pro-Christmas" as possible. Someone attempted to raise this point on the facebook page of the One Million Moms (a division of the AFA), and this was the OMM's reply:
Teaching your family the real meaning of CHRISTmas is extremely important. Since the retail stores would like to profit from those who do buy Christmas gifts then they need to advertise what it is we are actually celebrating. Christmas, not Holiday. People do not buy Winter Solstice gifts, etc.
Ah, CHRISTmas, I see what you did there. It's pretty sad that they're so desperate to believe that there's a "war" on their holiday that they're reduced to obvious nonsense like claiming that only Christians buy and exchange gifts during the winter.

-The AFA uses this list as a way of trying to make money for themselves. Every year their action alerts on this topic are accompanied by sales pitches for their Christmas buttons and signs. This year they've also taken it a step further by listing the AFA Online Store as the first retailer on the green list.

-There are way more retailers on the green list than there are on the yellow and red lists combined, and it seems to grow more lopsided each year, which would make most rational people question just how big of a problem this really is. The green list has 54 retailers, the yellow list has 10, and the red list has 14. And, like last year, some of the entries on the yellow and red lists seem to be there just to make those lists look longer. For example, Limited Brands is listed on both the yellow and red lists for no apparent reason even though it shouldn't be listed at all because the retailers owned by Limited Brands are already listed separately. They also include stores like supermarkets and office supply stores that wouldn't exactly be at the top of most people's holiday shopping lists anyway. They also break their own rules about only listing "nationally recognized companies" by including regional stores like Belk and Meijer, smaller web or catalog-only retailers like Uncommon Goods, and stores I've never heard of in my life like Maurice's and Scheels Sporting Goods.

Finally, there's the fact that they're actually wrong about many of the stores that they put on their yellow and red lists being 'anti-Christmas'. So even if we were to overlook all of the reasons that a list like this is misguided and unnecessary and pretend that it's a totally legitimate idea, the execution totally sucks. If the AFA is going to encourage their followers to boycott these retailers during the holiday season, we feel that they should at least make some attempt to make a list that's accurate based on their own criteria. Every year they fail to do so, so every year we help them out by fact-checking their list. We like to think of it as our holiday gift to them.

Our posts about specific retailers on the 2011 Naughty or Nice list are coming very soon, but if you'd like to revisit the wars of Christmas past in the meantime, here are a few of our favorite posts from the last few years:

-Debunking the AFA's Christmas Boycott: Bass Pro Shops - Because stores that offer their customers free photos with Santa are totally out to marginalize Christmas. This post is from 2009 and they were moved to the green list in 2010, which we take full credit for. You're welcome, Bass Pro Shops.

-Debunking the AFA's Christmas Boycott and Our Long National Nightmare is Over: The AFA's Gap/Old Navy Boycott Ends - Gap and Old Navy are favorite targets of the AFA, but they really lost it when Old Navy ran an ad that mentioned Christmas along with other winter holidays including the Winter Solstice, which as everyone knows is a "pagan holiday...celebrated by Wiccans who practice witchcraft!" Oh, the horror. Of course, the AFA is just fine with all of the current Christmas traditions that were 'borrowed' from the pagans by early Christians.

-Debunking the AFA's Naughty or Nice List: Limited Brands - Our attempt to figure out how the AFA can be so fixated on Limited Brands and so wrong about them at the same time.


Anonymous said...

For the record, Maurice's and Scheels are common chain stores where I'm at, which is the midwest.

Jezebel said...

Thanks Anon, I figured they were regional stores but I'm pretty sure there are none in my area. Further proof of the AFA breaking their own rules.