The War Against Christmas

by the Nazis:

“The baby Jesus was Jewish. This was both a problem and a provocation for the Nazis,” explained Judith Breuer, who organised the exhibition using the items she and her mother collected at flea markets over 30 years. “The most popular Christian festival of the year did not fit in with their racist ideology. They had to react and they did so by trying to make it less Christian.”

The regime’s exploitation of Christmas began almost as soon as the Nazis took power in 1933. Party ideologists wrote scores of papers claiming that the festival’s Christian element was a manipulative attempt by the church to capitalise on what were really old Germanic traditions. Christmas Eve, they argued, had nothing to do with Christ but was the date of the winter solstice – the Nordic Yuletide that was “the holy night in which the sun was reborn”.

The swastika, they claimed, was an ancient symbol of the sun that represented the struggle of the Great German Reich. Father Christmas had nothing to do with the bearded figure in a red robe who looked like a bishop: the Nazis reinvented him as the Germanic Norse god Odin, who, according to legend, rode about the earth on a white horse to announce the coming of the winter solstice. Propaganda posters in the exhibition show the “Christmas or Solstice man” as a hippie-like individual on a white charger sporting a thick grey beard, slouch hat and a sack full of gifts.

But the star that traditionally crowns the Christmas tree presented an almost insurmountable problem. “Either it was the six-pointed star of David, which was Jewish, or it was the five-pointed star of the Bolshevik Soviet Union,” said Mrs Breuer. “And both of them were anathema to the regime.” So the Nazis replaced the star with swastikas, Germanic “sun wheels” and the Nordic “sig runes” used by the regime’s fanatical Waffen SS as their insignia.

Housewives were encouraged to bake biscuits in similar shapes. One of the exhibits is a page from a Nazi women’s magazine with a baking recipe: “Every boy will want to bake a sig (SS) rune,” proclaims the accompanying text.

The Nazification of Christmas did not end there. The Christmas tree crib was replaced by a Christmas garden containing wooden toy deer and rabbits. Mary and Jesus became the Germanic mother and child, while dozens of Christmas carols, including the famous German hymn “Silent Night”, were rewritten with all references to God, Christ and religion expunged. At the height of the anti-Christian campaign, an attempt was made to replace the coming of Christ the Saviour with the coming of Adolf Hitler – the “Saviour Führer.”

“We cannot accept that a German Christmas tree has anything to do with a crib in a manger in Bethlehem,” wrote the Nazi propagandist Friedrich Rehm in 1937. “It is inconceivable for us that Christmas and all its deep soulful content is the product of an oriental religion,” he added.

This kind of thing would be a palliative against the historically ignorant who think that Nazism, or fascism in general, is a “right wing” or “Christian” phenomenon. But they won’t read it — it conflicts with what they were taught in government schools.

Conflict Of Interest?

Mark Matthews and Bobby Block have the most in-depth reporting on Chairwoman Giffords’ too-cozy relationship with NASA and Constellation defenders that I’ve seen to date. But is it actually a conflict of interest? I’m not sure about that. As the article notes, her husband is unlikely to fly on anything resulting from the POR, and while he may have a job lined up with one of the usual suspects, he’d probably be able to get it regardless. If anyone is aware of a more quid-pro-quoish possibility on this front, I’d be interested to hear about it, though, in light of the history of the Horowitz revolving door with ATK.

But what I do think is happening is that her husband is a big supporter of the POR, and he has no doubt influenced her to be one as well. I’m not excusing her behavior toward the committee or Chairman Augustine, or her apparent ignorance or flawed understanding of the issues about which she has oversight responsibility, and I wish that someone else had her job, but I just don’t see it as corrupt. I do think, though, that the criticism of her husband for romancing her with taxpayer resources is fair and legitimate.

Avatar

Is one of the stupidest movies ever made:

If Avatar were drawn like a regular cartoon, or had been made on soundstages with sets and the like, would it be interesting? Would it hold our attention? The answer is, unquestionably no. There’s no chance anybody would even have put it into production, no matter that Cameron made the box-office bonanza Titanic. So the question is: Does the technical mastery on display in Avatar outweigh the unbelievably banal and idiotic plot, the excruciating dialogue, the utter lack of any quality resembling a sense of humor? And will all these qualities silence the discomfort coming from that significant segment of the American population that, we know from the box-office receipts for Iraq war movies this decade, doesn’t like it when an American soldier is the bad guy?

Podhoretz’ review is chock full’o’spoilers, but when something is as apparently ridden with PC cliches as this, it’s pretty hard to spoil it. Let’s hope they can apply the film-making technology to a good movie soon.

[Monday morning update]

Kurt Loder over at MTV has similar thoughts:

Cameron is a great action director. There’s a lot to look at here: the luminescent glow of the jungle in which the Na’vi live, the ancient Tree of Souls with which they commune, a spectacular range of mountains hanging high in the sky up above Pandora — and there’s a lot going on. The director and his battalion of digital technicians have cooked up a fantastical bestiary of Pandoran creatures — futuristic hammerhead rhinos; dogfighting battle dragons; and, in one virtuoso sequence, a vicious six-legged thingy that chases Jake through the jungle and off the edge of a cliff (see trailer). The meticulous detail in which these creatures have been rendered, and the complexity with which they’re arrayed in the film’s exotic environments, are undeniable marvels of moviemaking art.

Unfortunately, whenever the action lets up and we’re returned to the piddling story, the picture slumps like a failed soufflé. It’s also heavily laced with political instruction of a most familiar sort. Cameron, who’s now 55, is a self-acknowledged aging hippie, and his boomer worldview is strictly by-the-numbers. Quaritch and Selfridge are evil Americans despoiling the Na’vi’s idyllic planet in exactly the same way that the humans have (we’re told) trashed their own native orb. The invaders are armed with deplorable corporate technology (an odd animosity in a major-studio movie that reportedly cost more than $300 million to make), and they speak the familiar — and here rather anachronistic — language of contemporary American warmongering. (“We will fight terror with terror!” “It’s some kind of shock-and-awe campaign!”)

The Na’vi, on the other hand, with their bows and arrows and long braided hair, are stand-ins for every spiritually astute and ecologically conscientious indigenous population ever ground down under the heel of rampaging Western imperialism. They appear to have no warlike impulses themselves, and they live in complete harmony with their environment. (They even talk to trees.) Why, the movie asks, as if the question were new, can’t we be more like them?

No one argues that it’s not a brilliant technological feat. It’s just a shame that it seems to have a cliched, politically infantile story line.

I Love The Sound

…of exploding watermelons in the morning:

Polly Toynbee is blaming the whole fiasco on false consciousness.

…Sometimes we’re inclined to dismiss Polly as a loveable comedy figure, what with her lovely house in Tuscany contrasting so amusingly with her prolier-than-thou politics, and the never ending japesomeness of her deft, lighter-than-air prose.

But you know what? When she reveals her true colours, as she does here, I think she’s really, really scary. Her whole article teeters on the brink of demanding an eco-fascist world government to save us all from ourselves.

Save us from people wanting to save us from ourselves.

Top Science Stories Of The Decade

Without getting into the issue of whether this year is the end of the decade, Alan Boyle has a list of science stories of the ten years of the double goose egg, of which this is definitely the last. I have a couple nits, though.

First, SpaceShipOne and the X-Prize had nothing to do with science really — they were engineering achievements. Spaceflight is not synonymous with science, and the notion that it is is one of the things that holds us back from doing more of it, and more cost effectively.

And if the 2007 Nobel prize to which he is referring was Al Gore’s, it had nothing to do with science either, unless it was bogus science, as his “documentary” was (for which the Oscar should also be revoked). It was a Peace Prize, not a science prize.

Lit Crit

…of Al Gore’s poetry:

I have read worse poems than “One Thin September,” but not all that many. It is a dull, anaphoric litany riddled with malapropisms and marred by an unabashed tendency to pure bathos — no different from his prose. Close assessment of the piece might offer a corrective to those who continue to venerate its author.

…In sum, “One Thin September” is a dreadful piece of unmitigated fustian in every possible respect — tonal, structural, lexical, semantic, metaphorical — and should never have seen the light of print. If anyone ever needed fresh evidence for Al Gore’s want of discernment and unstinting self-infatuation, this is it. Those who don’t have the time to wade through 400 pages of largely tendentious argument and special pleading may content themselves by reading the poem. It tells them all they need to know. And the irony is unmistakable. For no matter how reluctantly, we owe him a debt of gratitude for this unintended exhibition.

One of my tests of someone’s political judgement is whether or not they any longer take Al Gore seriously.

Biting Commentary about Infinity…and Beyond!