'The War on Christmas' mirrors anti-LGBT movement's current playbook

Just like most American retailers, it seems the American far-right sets an earlier and earlier start to its annual "War On Christmas" with every passing year.  In fact, the anti-LGBT Alliance Defending Freedom, the group that fights us in court on most every major case, went ahead and announced this year's effort a few days before Halloween:


Ooh, broken ornaments! Scary! 

But before I get too far ahead of myself with mockery of shattered candy canes and grounded reindeer, let me make sure we all know what the "War on Christmas" is all about.  Basically it's a yearly tradition in which groups like the ADF, in tandem with other anti-LGBT enterprises like the American Family Association (which literally runs a "naughty or nice list") and receptive conservative media outlets who are eager to push their point of view, work to convince the masses that Christmas is being written out of existence.  From public school districts who understand the proper line between church and state to retailers that make the understandable choice to use words like "holiday" and "joy" rather than (or even in addition to) specifically limiting their marketing to Christmas, this conservative consortium goes around insisting that any for-profit outreach effort that doesn't play out exactly the way they and their yuletide spirit want it to play out is deeply offensive to them and their values, and is therefore in need of public shaming.  Because these groups own the holiday season, in case you didn't get the memo.  

One can only assume that the far-right groups' eagerness to push this "war" earlier and earlier each year also mirrors that of retailers in that it is one of their most profitable annual campaigns.  Just like all people are typically more willing to open their wallets at the holiday season, it seems like devout social conservatives are also more receptive to this annual attempt to tell supporters that only their hard-earned money can stop the supposed Grinches.  This means that right around the time the rest of us start thinking about pumpkin flavored foods and our sudden interest in the color of drying leaves, we start seeing imagery and copy like the above: broken ornaments and toppled trees (neither of which are rooted in Christianity; but I digress) coupled with fearful language about "religious freedom" and its supposed regression. 

Sound familiar?  Well if you follow LGBT rights debates, this kind of talk and imagery certainly should feel recognizable since the "War on Christmas" strategy of self-victimization is nearly identical to the constant string of faux "victim" stories that these very same groups concoct and gin up. For the past few years, the anti-LGBT movement has essentially built its entire gameplan around the notion that they, the aggressors who "culture war" against LGBT civil rights, are actually the injured parties, and therefore the protagonists, of the LGBT rights debate. It seems to me that the "War on Christmas," which really got going in the early 2000s and managed to drum up much press attention because of its oddball nature and the media-sexy controversy attached, might have been the model for the eventual anti-LGBT tactic.   

Consider those wedding vendors, from florists to cake bakers to chapel owners, who the anti-LGBT movement portray as victims simply because they have to comply with local nondiscrimination ordinances that include LGBT consumers. The suggestion is that these retailers should get a special carve out that allows them to ignore such laws, so long as they claim their objections are due to deeply-held religion.  Now compare that to the retailers that these same groups and individuals insist must say "Merry Christmas" in their ad copy or else run afoul of all that is good and decent in society.  While the former involves support for the retailer and the latter involves suggested support for the Christian consumer, the mindset among the two is a shared one.  The driving idea in both cases is one suggesting the marketplace owes evangelical Christians a special distinction, be it in the form of an exclusion or a specific marketing plan.

Or what about the public schools who understandably choose to shape their holiday celebrations in a way that includes many different winter celebrations without highlighting the religious beliefs of only some students?  The "War on Christmas" groups find this deeply offensive and yet again claim they are the victims.  Which is kind of like how these very same folks claim they are being bullied when schools simply choose to adopt inclusive curriculum or anti-bullying efforts that protect and/or honor all students.  Yet again their suggestion, be it implied or explicit, is that simply acknowledging that the fabric of public schooling, just like the fabric of society, is a melange of many threads is offensive to people who believe in the cocksure way that they do.  These groups suggest that mere inclusion, be it of gay students or of dreidels, is itself exclusionary to those who are heterosexual and Christian.    

Then there are the public displays.  Most years the "War on Christmas" features at least one town where a public nativity scene comes under contention because it is displayed on taxpayer-funded land.  Sometimes the mangers and shepherds prevail, and other times the towns opt for displays that are less specific to one faith.  Either way, groups like the ADF and AFA go into a rage spiral at the mere suggestion that city halls and other government building might have to give a little more thought to whether or not they can so specifically speak to one religion.  Which is interesting, considering these same folks rage just as hard (if not harder) when towns choose to honor a 100% secular notion like LGBT Pride Month, fly a rainbow flag, or merely acknowledge the contributions of LGBT residents.  In both scenarios, groups like the ADF insist they are the "victims" of supposed bias, even though both considerations are geared toward the interests of proper civil government, necessary boundaries, and fair service to all of the people.  To these groups, merely considering the line between church and state is portrayed as personally insulting, and should they not prevail once the situation is unpacked and considered, then the decision is always portrayed as an "attack."

But that's perhaps the biggest overlap between the "War on Christmas" and the new strategy that the anti-LGBT crowd has adopted to fights its ongoing "culture war" against LGBT rights: Both are forums where rational consideration goes to die.  Both are defined by stories that are both exaggerated and reduced so that nuance is stripped away and screaming headlines come at the expense of reasoned conversation.  In both, the interest is much more in stirring up base anger than it is deep conversation on civil matters.

And in both, they want you to believe that whatever is happening is just the beginning [::dum dum dum!::].  The ADF puts it like this:

Of course it's about "a lot more than Christmas."  Just like our marriages are supposedly the beginning of a slippery slope, laws that protect us from discrimination are supposedly overreaching bully clubs, hate crimes protections will supposedly criminalize speech, and basically anything that involves LGBT people getting an easier and more equal shake is, when put through these groups' talking point machine, morphed into the first tick on a larger and more destructive time bomb.  That's how fear works, and let's be clear: both the "war on Christmas" and the war on LGBT rights exist only because of fear.

The anti-LGBT "victim" campaigns are essentially mini "Wars on Christmas" that they spread throughout the year.  The gift that keeps on giving, if you will.