Opinion

Please Advise! All Harper Wants for Christmas Is Good PR

But how to appeal to all the godless holiday heathens, he asks spinmeister Steve.

By Steve Burgess 18 Dec 2013 | TheTyee.ca

Steve Burgess writes about politics and culture for The Tyee. Read his previous articles here.

[Editor's note: Steve Burgess is an accredited spin doctor with a Ph.D in Centrifugal Rhetoric from the University of SASE, situated on the lovely campus of PO Box 7650, Cayman Islands. In this space he dispenses PR advice to politicians, the troubled and well-heeled, the wealthy and gullible.]

Dear Dr. Steve,

Christmas is supposed to be a season of peace. So why is it that every Christmas it seems the world is divided into heroes and villains? Those of us who champion personal responsibility are reviled by every pissant Cindy Lou Who as the greedy Bob Cratchits of organized labour whine for a half-day off. At least we've taken steps to ensure that Canada Post will no longer deliver the stacks of "Season's Greetings" cards sent out by holiday Christ-haters, but still I'm tired of being painted as Scroogey McGrinch every December. What can I do to get on Santa's good PR list?

Yours in Christmas fellowship,
The Right Honourable Stephen Harper

Dear PM,

I'm afraid you haven't started off well, honourable sir. Sending out the Minister for Whoville James Moore to announce he was not running a soup kitchen for Who pudding and rare roast beast was perhaps not wise. In fact, Moore's recent remark to a News 1130 reporter -- "Is it my job to feed my neighbour's child? I don't think so" -- sounds remarkably like old Ebenezer Scrooge's famous suggestion for decreasing the excess population. It seems timeless holiday traditions never go out of style.

Minister Moore later apologized, having been visited overnight by the Spirit of a Swift Boot in the Ass. But the incident once again cast your government as a group of folks still on the waiting list for Dr. Seuss' patented three-times-heart-enlargement surgery.

In your battle for good Christmas PR, Prime Minister, it would help if you had a Fox News to play the role of Christmas Nutcracker for you. Sun News isn't quite the same, although Ezra Levant certainly does his best. I used to shed a tear for Ezra at this time of year -- it had to be tough watching the Fox News crowd foam at the mouth over liberal atheists pushing the Christ out of Christmas, leaving Ezra, who celebrates Hanukkah, on the sidelines like a haemophiliac at a hockey game, longing to get in on the fun.

But I needn't have worried for the man; Levant has never hesitated in his enthusiastic cudgelling of the politically correct. He has enlisted Mark Steyn and others to reinforce the modern view of Christmas as a big candy-cane-striped stick with which to beat Satan and his pals at the ACLU. Ironically, Levant has thus proved Christmas truly is more than just a religious holiday. It has become a time for conservatives of every faith to join together and make festive cultural war upon their foes.

And not a moment too soon -- it appears the godless holiday heathens infiltrated the Salvation Army. An Arizona woman collecting for Sally Ann outside a Walmart this week was punched for saying "Happy holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas." What is the world coming to when you can't even count on the Salvation Army to be Christian soldiers? Next we'll hear somebody wants to use drones to deliver books.

A great Grinchy trick

Prime Minister, I know it's a thankless task to fight for Christian traditions while resisting the urge for Christian charity. You take some knocks for it. If you feel hard done by, Your Stephenness, try to remember that media coverage is inherently unfair. There's no telling who will get good press and who will get slagged. Why do some people get great Christmas publicity and well over 28,500,000 YouTube views just because they do stuff like getting Santa to ask airline passengers what they want for Christmas and then running out and buying everything and wrapping it all up in time to deliver when the planes land? Why? So unfair.

After fulfilling two planeloads full of Christmas wishes, WestJet earned an outpouring of gratitude and an avalanche of fabulous publicity. Bah! Humbug. In a just world, WestJet would now be the target of more lawsuits than a self-accelerating Toyota. The whole thing was terribly unjust. One pair of WestJet passengers asked for a big screen TV. They got it. Another guy asked for socks and underwear. Bingo again. If WestJet ever repeats this stunt, that guy needs to ask Santa for a lawyer. Of course, now that people are wise WestJet will never be able to do this again, unless they can figure out how to get 350 gift-wrapped Ferraris and Caribbean vacation homes onto a baggage carousel. Bad enough that one Torontonian (featured on an accompanying "blooper reel") asked Santa for Calgary's mayor. A ridiculous request -- Santa has no jurisdiction over Muslims.

Meanwhile, Air Canada got little credit recently after giving a planeload of passengers something much more precious. After an engine flamed out on a Dec. 12 Nanaimo-to-Vancouver flight shortly after takeoff, the pilots extinguished the flames and safely landed back at Nanaimo Airport. I'll take that gift any day of the week, but Air Canada got far from 28,500,000 YouTube views for it (although that gift was unfair too. Everyone was given the chance to live another day, but different passengers were granted different lengths of time. It will be years before we know who was cheated.)

So Prime Minister, what PR lessons can you learn? One possible take away from the WestJet event is that with the right approach, you can make Santa wear Tory blue. But a more important one is that at this time of year, like it or not, the public is always suckered by socialist Christmas propaganda about giving and sharing.

So the thing to do, PM, is to pull a great Grinchy trick. In a coat and a hat, you'll look just like St. Nick. After all, there is one aspect of the Grinch story that is rarely remarked on -- in the end the Grinch becomes a hero just by giving back all the presents he stole. He's bribing Whoville with its own money, in effect. And that's something every government knows how to do. Go to it, Steve, you seasick crocodile. Pretty soon they'll give you the honour of carving the roast beast. And if that's James Moore, so much the better.  [Tyee]

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