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Life Arts    H1'ed 12/25/16

The Ultimate in Fake News: The Santa Story

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"We are going to have a white Christmas this year, with three inches expected by morning! The storm however won't be slowing down Santa Claus, kids. In fact the snow just makes it easier for his flying reindeer to land and take off, from what I understand. I just got off the phone with NORAD and we're tracking Santa right now. Their up to the minute tracking information concludes he's making good time despite the headwinds and should be in our region by two or three o'clock this morning. We'll keep you posted on his whereabouts on the evening news" and now back to you, Chuck."

The first four or five years of our lives are the most formative years of our lives. Our minds are like dry sponges, absorbing everything around us. In our most impressionable state, we learn from our parents, friends, family, teachers, neighbors, and everyone we interact with, as well as media, conventions, traditions and institutions of all sorts. We learn what we're taught, but we also pick up on queues and absorb lessons from our experiences and observations, both subtle and obvious, direct and indirect, as we learn to navigate and interpret the world around us.

Incidentally, these are the very same years most children in Christian-based societies are influenced by, even infatuated with, the Santa Clause myth -- a common sociological influence we share.

As children the Santa story seems magical, replete with elves, flying reindeer, a benevolent (yet judgmental) patriarch and shiny new gifts. Then, as we grow older, comes the letdown. The truth is revealed as our common initiation -- our first taste of 'adult' society.

When the truth is revealed it can all seem like a cruel celebration to a sensitive young mind. With the magic of our early childhood taken from our Christmas, we learn in that moment that everyone, from parents and teachers to news presenters and institutions of all kinds are capable of lying to our faces, straight up, with a smile, in perfect unspoken coordination. We learn that there is not enough magic in the real world, and that our sense of wonder can only be satisfied by artificially constructed mythology, and remains the domain of early childhood unknowing. Not only that, we learn that once such a societal lie is realized, our role as "grownups" is to maintain the lie as truth, in this case, because everyone else of a vaguely Christian heritage does it. (Never mind the children of other faiths.)

For children who have just learned or realized the truth, the lie is everywhere we look at Christmas time. It's at home, in schools, on the news; even the local weather forecasters cooperate with powerful military institutions like NORAD (the North American Aerospace Defense Command) lie to us! And we play along without a moment to process our loss, lest we poop the party for younger, still-ignorant children. (Never mind that ours is the only culture on Earth to base its major holy-day on a foundation of pure fictional fabrication, forgoing reality to celebrate the bounty of a deliberately false patriarch.)

Space StationChristmas - NASA Science

The tradition of the North American Aerospace Defense Command actively partaking in the lie of the Santa Claus story and claiming to track Santa Claus on their radar -- helping to initiate children into a world of socially-sanctioned lies -- began at Christmas time in 1955. This newspaper clipping (pictured) initiated NORAD's involvement in the Santa Claus story with the most celebrated wrong number in history. Although, ironically enough, the small note to the right of it explicitly states, 'Kiddies be sure and dial the correct number.' The advertisement for a shopping mall appeared to include a Colorado telephone number for "Santa Claus" himself, but the advertisement ran with the wrong phone number; the number printed was for the Continental Air Defense Command located in Colorado Springs, which eventually became NORAD.

Even the least conspiratorially minded among us has to wonder about such a coincidence. The publication's insistence that "kiddies" dial the correct number, which was itself wrong, combined with the fact that NORAD, a government agency that literally takes part in watching the world, now also pretends to watch over Santa Claus as Christmas tradition, is not only laughable, but questionable too. Inviting children to 'call me on my private phone and I will talk to you personally any time day or night', decades before 24 hour call centers? One has to wonder if the folks at NORAD knew the 24/7 surveillance crew would be there 'any time', or if they planned on employing some poor old HoHoHo to man a telephone somewhere in the mall. But I digress"

Colorado children called the line and the officer in charge dutifully decided to go along with the misprinted advertisement, and tell the kiddies that Santa Claus was about two ticks off the Eastern Seaboard, or was being delayed by commies in Germany, or whatever lie would fulfill their innocent curiosity -- but he would be here soon, though probably too late for children to wait up for. Today, as a result of that fateful error, kiddies from all over the world can call and contact NORAD -- a government agency -- to find out exactly the whereabouts of Santa Claus -- a Christian construct -- and, with the help of a team of non-military volunteers, NORAD gladly lies. (Never mind the separation of Church and State.)

Let's assume NORAD was not intended as the original target for these phone calls, and that this "error" was not intended to normalize the concept of government surveillance and tracking in the minds of young children -- a phenomenon that today, just a few decades later, is accepted as a 'normal part' of our Big Brother culture. At best, the officer in charge played along with the lie because those who don't go along with the lie, those who reveal the truth to young children, or who just refuse to lie, are considered by our society as an affront to a childhood innocence.

Indeed, as we observe from childhood, everyone we know and love, acquaintances, strangers and the watchers of the mighty military industry, all participate in the lie for a variety of reasons, comfortable in the misconception that the truth of the lie has a more devastating effect on the innocence of young children than the act of the lie itself, substituting fiction in place of nature, mythology in place of reality -- mythology which, incidentally, also teaches children that the reward for "nice" behavior is magically-derived material possessions. (Never mind the poor kids.)

As children we learn how the world is, and we learn to conform to it, modeling ourselves, our morality and our behavior on those around us. Biological impulses make us want to be a part of the group, and we don't want to be ostracized and excluded (like the kids of other faiths are) among tribal and societal units. So, at a tender single-digit age, we confront the possibility that those not-so-magically-derived material possessions we receive each year may now cease by our knowing, and are charged with preserving the "magic" for others. So we adhere to the lie. The magic may be gone, but we're sure not going to be excluded, or miss out on the kind of rewards we've received each year since birth!

What's in a little lie, eh? Besides, it must be important, since even the media and mighty military yields to the Santa Claus storyline"

At that moment, we make the choice for the first time in our young lives to knowingly partake in a collective deception, because it is both socially acceptable and materially beneficial to do so. On its own, this might not be so bad, and may even be considered a rite of passage. But that program stays with us through adulthood. Incrementally, decision by decision, we come to view accepting lies as a normal part of adult society. Government, advertising, news, corporate shenanigans -- It's all "just politics", right? (Never mind the weapons of mass destruction.)

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Ethan Indigo Smith Social Media Pages: Facebook Page       Twitter Page       Linked In Page       Instagram Page

Ethan was raised in Maine, Manhattan, and Mendocino, California. Ethan has traveled the world and has been employed as a Private Detective, a dishwasher, a valet, a snowboard instructor and always a poet. Ethan Indigo Smith (more...)

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