NORAD, the US (and Canadian) air defense command for North America, has been "tracking" Santa Claus since the 1950s, and this year, for the first time, it's going to include fighter jets in the animation video (still pictured right) it produces of Santa's flight. The move has some children's advocates claiming the military is trying to covertly advertise to children through the Santa program. Via the Boston Globe:
"Children associate Santa with gifts and fun and everything else that is positive about Christmas," said Allen Kanner, a California child and family psychologist and cofounder of the Boston-based Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood. "They are associating this with the military in children's minds. It is completely out of line."
…Some worry that American youth are already sufficiently indoctrinated by the military — and wonder why the Department of Defense would deem it necessary to target little kids who still believe in Santa Claus.
"I think people are quite aware of the military's true mission," said Amy Hagopian, a professor of public health at the University of Washington, who has written extensively about military recruiting of youngsters. "If the military wants to keep its ranks stocked, it needs to appeal to children. The military knows it can't appeal to adults to volunteer. It is like the ad industry."
Though the inclusion of fighter jets in the actual animation of Santa Calus is new, a spokesperson pointed out to Reuters that NORAD's Santa-related activities have linked fighter jets to the imaginary character's make-believe flights since the 60s. The Santa tracking program began in 1955, when a Sears ad accidentally listed NORAD's predecessor's phone number in a campaign to call Santa, and is reportedly funded entirely through corporate sponsorships, at no taxpayer expense.
You can watch a NORAD video explaining the program here and the video featuring the fighter jets below: