Attack of the mutant artificial Christmas trees -- from China

Non-biodegradable, nonrenewable and, worst of all, they contribute to the trade deficit.

Published December 21, 2006 5:12PM (EST)

With Christmas looming, the Wall Street Journal has an amusing, fact-filled story on the war between fake and real Christmas trees. This is a predictable journalistic development, and How the World Works will follow the Journal's lead by going holiday-themed today, before heading back East for an extended break.

But perhaps it is a little less predictable that the National Christmas Tree Association is distributing an online game called "Attack of the Mutant Artificial Trees" as part of its propaganda effort aimed at convincing consumers that real trees are good for you and the environment and artificial trees are Satan spawn.

I won't try to hide my own feelings on this. I've always believed that fake trees are vile blasphemy against ancient pagan rituals. The Druids saw evergreen trees as symbols of everlasting life. (So we kill them, but Christmas in my family, where a bunch of unbelievers get together to sing hymns in praise of the Savior, has always been packed with paradox.) The burning of the yule log was a tradition co-opted by the Christians, and, I tell you, it just isn't satisfying to smell a fake tree melt.

But anyway. Being a responsible journalist, I knew that my contribution to covering this important issue was to actually play the online game, the one aspect of the story that the very thorough Wall Street Journal reporter neglected (or was too ashamed to admit.) I'm sorry to say, I can't recommend it. It's your basic whack-a-mole exercise in which you pelt the mutant trees with snowballs. It is diverting for about three nanoseconds -- less, if you give in to the urge to pelt the annoying elf, for which you are unfairly punished.

However, as diverting entertainment in between levels, there are didactic little warnings about the evils of fake trees.

Which is where it all comes back around to the core concerns of this blog. Because, I was informed, in tones of horror, despair and blatant xenophobia that could be heard only in my mind: "85 percent of artificial trees are manufactured in China!"

I have no idea if this is true. The Journal would only say that "most trees" are imported. But it feels true. And of course, it must clinch the deal for American consumers. Because, as we all know, if something is made in China, nobody in the U.S. will want to buy it.

Ho ho ho.

By Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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