A HuffPost article is playing the role of a proverbial shot heard round the dinner table in the “War on Thanksgiving” -- at least that’s the narrative right-wing media is trying to will into existence.
The article, written by Alexandra Emanuelli, was pretty clearly just an attempt to find a new angle on an extremely well-worn topic. In a sea of blog posts offering advice on how to talk to your relatives and a deluge of turkey preparation tips, Emanuelli wrote something a bit different, discussing ways people could limit their holiday-related carbon footprint while also noting that “no one should be discouraged from enjoying the holiday or celebrating with family and friends."
Emanuelli’s tips included commonsense advice like buying locally sourced ingredients, planning out meals that use as much of the preparation materials as possible to minimize food waste, and, if you’re open to it, considering a plant-based turkey alternative.
The takeaway? Thanksgiving is a time of gratitude and family for many people. Some simple recommendations for your meal include choosing a smaller turkey or ensuring that fewer ingredients are sourced from great distances. Celebrating with friends and family locally or finding a spot that requires less travel for everyone are a few ways to lessen your impact on the environment while celebrating the holiday.
Bizarrely, some conservatives viewed the existence of HuffPost’s article as a personal attack on them, and they wildly distorted its message in airing their complaints.
On November 7, Fox News’ Fox & Friends ran a segment about the article in which co-host Ainsley Earhardt claimed that it was “telling America cancel Thanksgiving because of the carbon footprint, telling you not to travel to see family, don’t eat meat, eat veggies.”
“I get tired of people that has lived their life and have ate meat telling others not to eat meat. Don’t tell us what we can and cannot eat,” said guest Lynette Hardaway, better known as “Diamond” of Fox Nation’s Diamond and Silk. “If you have a problem with climate change, stop driving cars, ride on your horse to work, you do everything you can to fix the climate, but don’t infringe upon my right to have Thanksgiving with my family.”
The HuffPost article, it should be noted, was framing this discussion as a personal choice, something Hardaway may have agreed with had she read it. While Emanuelli includes suggestions from experts that include limiting travel, contrary to the conservative narrative, she is clearly not arguing in favor of forcing people to cancel Thanksgiving. Fox & Friends’ unwillingness to accurately describe the article was part of a much larger trend on the right.
Tucker Carlson falsely claimed that the article was “demanding that you cancel Thanksgiving dinner” during the November 7 edition of Fox News' Tucker Carlson Tonight, and on the morning of November 8, a Fox & Friends First segment bemoaned that “cancel culture has turned on the holiday.”
“Liberals are coming for your Thanksgiving turkey!” said co-host Greg Gutfeld during the November 6 edition of Fox News’ The Five, teasing an upcoming segment discussing the HuffPost article in front of a giant “War on Thanksgiving” graphic.
The story was even mentioned during the November 5 edition of Fox News @ Night with Shannon Bream, ostensibly a “straight news” show, sandwiched between news items about partisan newspaper endorsements and supposed anti-conservative bias in tech.
“Social media exploded with ridicule and vituperation after a Huffington Post article proposed cancelling the beloved national holiday of Thanksgiving over its carbon footprint,” read a seemingly thesaurus-assisted article at TheBlaze pushing the cancellation canard.
The Daily Wire ran an article accusing HuffPost of trying to “guilt” people out of participating in the holiday, rattling off a list of things neither said nor implied by the article:
Your Thanksgiving, they’d like to remind you, is slowly destroying the climate and killing the earth. Your turkey is choking off the planet and probably leaving your children to die vying for the last can of tuna in an arid, apocalyptic landscape. Your mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce is causing your next mass extinction.
The Washington Times’ Cheryl Chumley worked herself up into a lather over the “pinhead post,” asking, “But does anyone this side of Loonsville give a rat’s you-know-what about the ‘environmental impact’ of Thanksgiving?”
Naturally, a bunch of conservative media figures couldn’t resist complaining about the article on Twitter, mocking it based on HuffPost’s tweet.
Conservatives are more than willing to contradict their own messages if it means advancing a culture war.
As Hardaway said during Fox & Friends, people are free to take whatever personal actions they want to address climate change. Like many on the right, she disagrees with government-imposed actions to address the environment -- this was the exact argument she made in a video opposing the Green New Deal.
But the approaches of Green New Deal-style government-led climate intervention on a massive scale and the types of individual-level actions suggested in the HuffPost blog couldn’t be more different from each other, demonstrating exactly how intellectually bankrupt the right-wing discourse is about an anodyne blog post offering a handful of tips to those who want them.
Substantive discussions from people within conservative media are hard to come by because it honestly doesn’t seem as though many hold any actual beliefs outside of opposing whatever someone on the left is in favor of; they are a movement based on little more than “owning the libs.” Rather than make arguments for what they actually support, many simply invent controversy about things like a HuffPost blog, apparently in hopes that it’ll convince their viewers that liberals are trying to “cancel” Thanksgiving.
If this sounds silly, it is. Even so, sometimes “silly” works. Last year, conservative media convinced audiences that liberals were trying to ban the movie Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, basing it on their (perhaps willful) misinterpretation of a video of people making jokes about the film. No such movement to ban or even to substantially critique the movie existed. This was the same approach the right took in inventing the “War on Christmas” narrative.
Right-wing media figures frame so many harmless blogs or suggestions as attacks because being able to frame themselves as victims within a culture war is a core component of their identities. They want their audiences to be outraged about a supposed attack on an American tradition when those audiences should instead be outraged that they’re being lied to yet again by conservative media.