It's the question that drives editors crazy in this age of click-bait media: Why do some stories go viral, while others do not?
How about viral news stories in which there is little or no evidence that there is actually a story to be reported in the first place?
I'm talking, of course, about the spew your liquid caffeine on your keyboard levels of media attention dedicated to the Starbucks hates Christmas story that broke out this week, after the usual craziness in social-media land. See the post by our own James Davis with the pun-tastic headline, "Red Cup Diaries: Mainstream media cover Starbucks' Christmas brew-haha." Apparently, there is some kind of pay-cable reference in that naughty headline, too, but that went over my head.
On Facebook, I offered this mini-rant:
Is it acceptable for me to be very upset that millions of Xians think that it's already Christmas and we haven't even started Nativity Lent yet? I mean, who runs their churches, the god of the local mall?
The graphic at the top of this post, passed along by the edgy and hilarious graphic novelist Doug TenNapel, says it all.
At least, I thought it said it all, until M.Z. "GetReligionista emeritus" Hemingway, now with The Federalist, went old-school GetReligion on this mess in a piece that ran under this headline: "Nobody Is Actually Upset About The Starbucks Cup. Stop Saying Otherwise." MZ did her thing, but then turned this piece into some completely different -- making it must reading for journalists facing the challenge of finding valid pre-Christmas stories to cover this year (and every year, come to think of it). Her piece opened with this summary:
For those of you who are confused, here’s a quick explanation of where things stand. On November 5, Raheem Kassam of Breitbart London wrote a pretty tongue-in-cheek report on the new “This is really not a Christmas cup but sort of vaguely holiday-themed” to-go cup from Starbucks. You can tell it was not the most earnest of jeremiads because of lines such as:
"And behold, Starbucks did conceive and bear a red cup, and called his name blasphemy." ...
I thought it was a totally fine piece that poked fun at the cup for being even more bland than normal, but I noticed that some of the more liberal Christians (names hidden to protect those of us who tweet impulsively) I follow were immediately aghast at this Breitbart piece, on the assumption it was meant to launch a serious War on Christmas battle.
Then some Christian shock jock type ran with it and made a video, and a set of hashtags, and Facebook links to his ad-supported web page. This, I think, is what produced not just the Christian response of “No, really, we don’t care” but the many articles claiming that Christians were freaked out by Starbucks cups.
Hemingway then served up a very interesting summary of the long history of conflicts between the cultural, commercial Christmas (with some government entanglements as well) and the actual Christian holy day and the 12-day season that is supposed to follow it, according to centuries of tradition.
Journalists who want to do more than cover the annual Christmas creche church-state wars will want to file a copy of this, along with the many hyperlinks to interesting sources.
This brings me to where M.Z. parked this baby, at the very end.
An article noting the rather lacking homage to anything even remotely Christmas-season-related on the Starbucks Christmas cup is nothing to get your panties in a twist about. It’s actually an interesting observation about the ebb and flow of both capitalism and Christianity.
While we’re thinking about how we mark sacred days in a commercialized culture, I’ll offer a humble plea that the real War on Christmas is the destruction of Advent, the penitential season that precedes and prepares us for Christmas. Liturgical seasons are a great way to get the proper amount of preparation and contemplation before the big celebration.
Preach it. As shopping-mall Christmas gets bigger and bigger, it continues -- way more than any local group of secular lawyers -- to crush and bury the actual season of Christmas, as in the actual "Feast of the Nativity of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ," as we would call it in the East.
Christmas wars? Try to cover some of the real ones.
As opposed to this intentionally snarky Washington Post piece -- must click here -- blaming the Christians who are supposed to be mad at Starbucks once again for thinking that snowflakes are Christian symbols, or something like that.
GRAPHIC: From the epic Twitter feed of Douglas TenNapel.