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The War on Halloween: A Mixed Message from Fox News and the Right

Conservatives can't make up their mind: is Halloween Satanic or an all-American tradition being sabotaged by immigrants?

The following article first appeared on the Web site of the Nation. For more great content from the Nation, sign up for its email newsletters. 

Have you heard? The War on Halloween is on! But, unlike other culture wars, this one could become very confusing for conservatives to decide which side they’re on.

The “War on Halloween” is not as simple as the “War on Christmas,” that package of phony fury O’Reilly and Limbaugh give to the nation annually. The politics of that holiday are clear-cut: Christmas=America. Those who don’t obey the equation are essentially crucifying Christ, nailing Him to the cross with the dozens of flag pins they ripped from the lapels of His tunic.

But Halloween is a trickier matter. Many on the religious right have long shunned the holiday as a force of evil. As a Christian website puts it, “Halloween is based upon modern Wiccan interpretations of pre-Christian paganism and involve occultic rites and practices that Christians should have no dealings with.”

“Halloween is Satan’s night,”  Pat Robertson concurs. “It’s the night for the devil.” A now-deleted 2009  article on his CBN website, goes even further, right down to the candy corn: “[M]ost of the candy sold during this season has been dedicated and prayed over by witches,” the writer asserts. “Curses are sent through the tricks and treats of the innocent whether they get it by going door to door or by purchasing it from the local grocery store. The demons cannot tell the difference.”

But now  Fox & Friends  is defending Halloween as a force for all-American good. Because the real demons,  F&Fhas decided, are immigrants and the politically correct elementary schools doing their bidding by cutting back on Halloween festivities.

“It’s an all-out assault on Halloween!” Brian Kilmeade opened the  segment last week. “Schools across the country are doing everything from banning costumes to even removing the holiday because it may offend immigrants.” “I’m just sad,” said Gretchen Carlson, “because I have two little kids, and I’m wondering if they’re not going to ever see the American traditions that all of us had.”

There are reasonable arguments pro and con for grade-school Halloween hoopla. But Kilmeade chose to shout “Boo!” at the audience by framing the issue around immigrants. As  Mediaite points out, “The commentators appeared to be basing their whole report on an  editorial by Todd Starnes who cited one quote (!) to make a sweeping declaration that schools across the country were becoming over-sensitized to the concerns of immigrants.”

Indeed, in “ Schools Declare War on Halloween,” contributor Starnes mentions lots of reasons elementary school principals give for downplaying Halloween (kids who can’t afford costumes feel left out, it causes classroom disruption, it’s enough candy already), but he quotes only one principal, Brian Anderson of Buckman magnet school in Portland, OR, who says anything that even touches on immigrants. "There are social, financial, and cultural differences among our families that we must respect," Anderson wrote in a letter to parents, while he told the Portland Mercury, “We’re pushing our traditions on an ever-changing population….Halloween is, in many ways, personal to some people and to other people it’s very offensive.”

So it’s a dilemma for the right and its media: Do they solemnly honor the cultural differences of Christian conservatives offended by Halloween, or do they embrace Halloween as another way to drum up contempt for “illegals” and the liberals they say are coddling them?

(Well, for Fox News it  would be a dilemma, but Roger Ailes’s producers never met a dilemma they couldn’t make vanish: they’ll simply yank any syllable of any word, any pixel of any image, out of context and twist it to mean whatever they want. It’s magickal!)

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