Does this M&S Christmas ad debacle prove cancel culture has gone too far? #HolidaysMonth

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Cancel culture is a funny thing. It’s all well and good to declare yourself a scion of virtue and leap to the gallows with torch in hand whenever a new celebrity is outed as a sexual criminal but what happens when the source of the (in this case incredibly disproportionate) ire is entirely, demonstrably accidental?

This is the situation we once again find ourselves in this cold November morning as the Israel-Hamas conflict bizarrely finds itself being referenced in a Marks & Spencer Christmas ad.

Burning Flags… Literally?

The offending outtake from the latest M&S Christmas ad depicts burning paper hats in red, silver, and green, resembling the Palestinian flag. The British retailer, in its Christmas clothing and home advert on Instagram, revealed these hats being tossed into a burning fireplace under a caption reading, "This Christmas, do what you love... like saying no to paper hats," along with the hashtag #LoveThismasNotThatmas, the supermarket's festive season slogan.

The ad, of course, aimed to encourage people to enjoy themselves rather than conform to traditions they may not like, as per the theme of its Christmas advert. However, some social media users pointed out that the hat colours resembled those of the Palestinian flag, amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict in the Middle East.

M&S deleted the Instagram post and issued a statement on X (formerly Twitter), apologising for any unintentional hurt caused. They clarified their initial intention and left it at that. But should they even have removed the ad in the first place? Let alone apologise? It’s a situation that we’re finding ourselves in more often these days, when people are quick to scream “offence” before even processing what it is they’re offended by and why.

Calmer Heads Prevail

Of course, the usual right-wing nutjobs have been crawling out of the woodwork, with chief Brexit negotiator Lord David Frost declaring: “it marks a symbolic distancing not just from the original Christian meaning of Christmas but also from its secularised successor and in that sense, it is entirely in line with trends in society more generally, including a devaluing of tradition and a distancing from the Christian roots of our society.”

On the other side of the aisle many have argued it’s got to be intentional; Occam’s Razor be damned! It all plays into the narrative of “woke culture” going too far, something that certainly hasn’t been helped by recent stunts such as pro-Palestinian activists releasing live mice inside McDonald’s.

Both sides, I think, are trying to weaponise a simple misunderstanding and it’s genuinely infuriating, particularly considering, the ad from which the still image has been pulled was called out by right-wingers earlier this week for being “too woke”.

You can’t win anymore, it seems. My message then? Ignore it. Creatives keep creating and you’ll surely find somebody willing to accept your message as it was intended. Let the wolves take their share and laugh it all off, tis the season, after all.


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