News & Politics

SantaGate: Microsoft Removes Santa Hat Icon After a Single User Complained It Was 'Pushing Religion'

(Image by MasterTux from Pixabay)

There was a huge dust-up in the IT community this week after Microsoft caved to a developer who complained about a festive Santa hat embedded in the code, saying the “religious” symbol was “offensive.”

The drama played out on GitHub, the leading open-source code repository, which hosts Microsoft’s open-source projects, including the popular developer tool VSCode.

Earlier this week, a user named Christian-Schiffer opened an “issue” on the platform complaining that someone at Microsoft had inserted an “Easter egg” into the code, displaying a Santa hat to users. “Santa Hat on vscode insiders and pushing of religion is very offensive to me,” he wrote in the subject line.
“Additionally xmas has cost millions of Jews their lives over the centuries, yet even if that was not the case, pushing religious symbols as part of a product update is completely unacceptable,” he went on to say. “Please remove it immediately and make it your top priority. To me this is almost equally offensive as a swastika.”
Yeah, right. Exactly like a swastika. I mean, who doesn’t remember the jackbooted Santas storming the Warsaw Ghetto?
Let’s take a moment, shall we, to appreciate the irony, not to mention the cognitive dissonance and hubris, of a user with the name “Christian” complaining about a Santa hat as a “religious  symbol.” (We’ll get back to him in a moment.)
Christian-Schiffer included a screenshot of the itty bitty Santa hat that had offended his fragile sensibilities.

Yes, that’s it. That microscopic little Santa hat is what has caused our Grinch so much consternation.

That should have been the end of it, but because it’s 2019 and the snowflakes must never be made to cast their gaze upon anything they disagree with, Microsoft stepped in to save our hero.

Kai Maetzel, whose LinkedIn profile describes him as a “Partner Software Engineering Manager” for Microsoft, responded with: “@Christian-Schiffer we’re sorry we hurt your and other’s feelings. We’ll remove the Santa Hat.”

And that’s just what Microsoft did. The company removed the Santa hat, which has nothing to do with the Christian holiday Christmas, to appease the developer whose heart is three sizes too small.

Mission accomplished. Christian-Schiffer was elated.

“Thank you Microsoft, I am very pleased with that decision,” he wrote. “I understand many find this strange, therefor [sic] I would like to add an article about how offensive xmas is to many so you understand why.” He linked to an article about the Jewish view of Christmas and went on to complain about people who “did not understand the offence, I am very surprised and in fact shocked about that.” Poor dear.

Blowback over the decision came fast and hard, with developers in user forums blasting Microsoft for caving in to one lone complainer.

“Removing the Santa Hat on vscode insiders is very offensive to me,” wrote LibraryFormid. “Getting offended by one person is against my atheist religion. Bowing before SJW’s as part of a product update is completely unacceptable. Please readd [sic] it immediately and make it your top priority. To me this is almost equally offensive as censorship.”

And there were more. Lots more. Here are just a few of the (unedited) comments, culled from the VSCode user forum and Reddit:

  • “Comparing my religion to nazi germany is incredibly hateful, and I don’t think this is a story microsoft wants getting to the news.”
  • “I mean.. at a certain point someone is just looking to be offended and will continue to be offended no matter how many times you capitulate.”
  • “The funny thing is that santa hats barely have anything to do with modern religion. It’s not like Santa is a biblical figure.”
  • “His angle seems to be ‘now that I have your attention I need you to all stop this Christmas thing because it makes ME uncomfortable.’ I’m not even religious but holy hell he can take a long walk off a short pier.”
  • “It’s a hat. It’s a red stocking hat with a white (furry?) hem. Santa is NOT a religious symbol. That’s like saying the ‘ok’ hand gesture is a white supremacist symbol.”
  • “If that’s true, then literally everything is offensive. Some people may be offended that most code is written in a form of English, which is clearly a case of Anglo/European/Western imperialism!”
  • “Why not just tell that time traveling snowflake to stop using VSCode? I will celebrate the day a company like MS or Google etc tell people to take a hike and use some other sh** product if they are offended by something so trivial that makes most people/users/customers happy.”

My thought exactly.

PJM reached out to Microsoft for comment and was told: “Microsoft has no comment. Please see below for the updated GitHub Issues page.”

“Well, that was unexpected,” Chris Dias wrote on the Issues page. “If you didn’t notice, we locked down the vscode repository for the last ~24 hours because of what some are calling ‘SantaGate’. We learned a lot, made some changes, and now we want to share with everyone what happened, how we handled it, and how we will handle this going forward.”

“Earlier this week, we were notified through an issue (and on twitter) that the design of the gear with the Santa hat was divisive and offensive to some of our users (even a single person being offended is one too many), meaning it represented the opposite of what we wanted to convey to our users,” Dias explained. “In the spirit of the season, and to practice inclusiveness, we reverted the gear to something (hopefully) less controversial (a snowflake) and checked it into the Insiders build.” [Emphasis added]

Yes, you read that right. The tech giant swapped out the offensive Santa hat for a snowflake:

(VSCode screenshot)

This was a brilliant move by Microsoft — assuming it was their intention to jab back at the whiny snowflakes who objected to a digital Santa hat.

There was more from Dias:

As a result of the massive blowback, Microsoft had to lock down comments:

To adhere to our values and the Code of Conduct, we had to delete a handful of comments, which is unfortunate but not uncommon. Our responses triggered more responses. Bots were being employed to create issues and comments. Temporary accounts were being created to spam the system. Offensive issues were being created. The repository was filling up with issues which, frankly, were uncalled for, and we needed to do something, fast.

It was at that point we decided to lock the repository down to contributors using the Moderation feature of GitHub, so that we could clean up the backlog and let emotions settle. We posted this issue (which was titled “Why can’t I file an issue right now?”), locked it, and then went to work cleaning up the backlog.

Eventually, they decided to give users the option to customize their holiday icons in an attempt to make everyone happy.

(VSCode screenshot)

No word on whether they plan to incorporate a gender-fluid bi-racial snowman.

Getting back to our hero, many are claiming he’s a troll. A user named Xaekai wrote:

Given that the article the original author of #87268 cited was titled “What does Judaism say about Christmas”, the site it is hosted on is a self-identified religious text repository, and the article itself describes how Christmas is now de facto secular holiday, I believe the original issue author was incontestably acting in bad faith when he purported this request was motivated by offense to religious symbols.

Additionally, examination of his GitHub profile reveals just two non-fork repositories with a total of 8 commits. The combinations of name/employer/country revealed no other matching social media accounts in a web search. However the profile image shows up in reverse image search to public profiles of accounts on other sites with a different name. This is at minimum very suspicious.

There has been overwhelming opposition to this decision, and I believe it would damage public faith in the maintainers ability to discern when they are being trolled if it moves forward.”

Whether or not our hero is actually a troll (if he is, I salute him for his masterful gaslighting of the insane SJW cancel culture), the dust-up at Microsoft is but a small skirmish in a war that’s being played out in tech companies large and small, with SJWs becoming more unhinged with every passing day, demanding ever more radical codes of conduct. A year ago Richard Hipp, the founder of SQLite, ignited a firestorm in the tech community after it was revealed that he had posted a code of conduct for users based on the teachings of the Bible and an ancient order of monks founded by Benedict of Nursia. I wrote at the time:

Many in the tech community, accustomed to CoCs focused on sexual diversity, an obsession with gender, and safe spaces, were startled by Hipp’s move to adopt the overtly religious Code of Benedict.

“After the SQLite CoC went viral, I began seeing lots of comments on Twitter rebuking me for doing the CoC wrong,” Hipp told PJM. Critics said that his CoC lacked a means of enforcement and insisted that a CoC must make people feel safe and welcomed.

That was news to Hipp. “Who decided this?” he asked. “Did I miss a memo? All this time, I was thinking a CoC was what it says — a set of guidelines (a ‘code’) on how to behave (‘conduct’). Who knew that there were all these other requirements?”

“I’m now beginning to understand that, unbeknownst to me, an entire subculture of codes of conduct has sprung up, with lots of specifications on what a good code of conduct should and should not do,” he lamented, noting that the Rule of St. Benedict does not meet those specifications.

Most of this garbage originates on the Left Coast, but the rank and file in the tech community are fighting back. Talk to some devs who frequent these online forums and they’ll tell you they’re sick and tired of having their creativity and ingenuity stifled by SJWs who show up to cause problems and insert politics into their profession.

As a user on Reddit pointed out, “The biggest problem with nonsense like this is it never ends.”

Giving in to these miscreants just emboldens them and they always come back for more. One can never be woke enough to please them, and we’re all just a misstep (or mis-tweet) away from having our lives blown up over some imagined offense.

Follow me on Twitter @pbolyard.