The Thanksgiving leftovers are gone by now. Memories of oppressive Black Friday crowds (or the social signaling from those who refuse to participate) are fading. The Christmas holiday season is in full swing, and with it comes all the news hooks from people being just stupid about it all.
Welcome to another viral outrage Christmas, full of media stories about how the tidings of comfort and joy are cultural appropriation, or colonialization, or denials of the glory of Christ (the reason for the season!), or bad for children's psychological development, or in some other fashion not being observed the way it ought to be.
Let's take a look at what's on the menu just today. It's too soon to say whether this may end up being a recurring feature across the month, but all these stories bouncing around all at once already suggests the culture war has something important to say about egg nog and candy canes.
The Myth of Santa Claus May Cause Kids to Distrust Adults. So … What's the Downside?
If CBS wants to pay to read some British psychologist muse in the pages of Lancet Psychiatry over whether it's wrong to lie to children about the existence of Santa Claus, more power to them. I'll politely decline and draw from their reporting.
What does researcher Christopher Boyle think is the problem? When kids find out the truth, it challenges their perception of their parents as the ultimate omniscient narrators of how the universe works:
The paper, entitled "A wonderful lie," suggests that children's trust in their parents may be undermined by the Santa myth.
"If they are capable of lying about something so special and magical, can they be relied upon to continue as the guardians of wisdom and truth?" the researchers write. "If adults have been lying about Santa, even though it has usually been well intentioned, what else is a lie? If Santa isn't real, are fairies real? Is magic? Is God?"
For psychologist Christopher Boyle, a professor at the University of Exeter in the U.K., one of the authors of the paper, the "morality of making children believe in such myths has to be questioned."
"All children will eventually find out they've been consistently lied to for years, and this might make them wonder what other lies they've been told," he said in a statement. "Whether it's right to make children believe in Father Christmas is an interesting question, and it's also interesting to ask whether lying in this way will affect children in ways that have not been considered."
God, just imagine if the kids grow up and start questioning other things they're told by authority figures! Just think what terrible, terrible outcomes those would be!
Surely Somebody on Twitter Must Be Offended by Black Santa!
Mall of America in Minneapolis has a black Santa Claus for the very first time this year, the result of a lengthy search for a "diverse St. Nicholas that kids of color would relate to," according to the Star Tribune.
They tracked down Larry Jefferson, who will be at the mall for four days before heading back to the Texas to play black Santa down there. Yes, see, it turns out that Jefferson has been playing Santa Claus since 1999 for kids and it's no big deal. It's easy to see why the Star Tribune would want to report on the first appearance of a non-white Santa in its major mall, but the story for some reason has gone national.
I suppose it would be cynical and unseasonably mean of me to wonder if there are other media folks combing the Twittersphere looking for four or five random people to express outrage that Santa is not white in order to write a piece about angry racists?
Sure enough, it turns out the Star Tribune has turned comments off on the story, though the Daily Dot was unable to determine whether there were any comments offensive enough to mandate such a measure. People's responses on Facebook tend to be telegraphing their own ideas about what the "other side" is going to say about the Santa Claus rather than their own opinions.
Your Gigantic Door Santa Is Triggering Me
Outrage is also the order of the day at the Hillsboro School District in Oregon. In previous years, apparently some educators or classes went a bit overboard with Christmas-themed door decorations as part of a competition. This, according to the district's human resources department, led to complaints. From a district memo: "we had some staff members and visitors to our building indicate that they were uncomfortable and didn't feel welcome due to the overwhelming Christmas atmosphere that had been created."
So they canceled the competition entirely. They did not ban door decorating, but did advise schools to try to be inclusive with their holiday representations and not overwhelm with images of Santa Claus. At least, that's what the school district says they did. But the portion of a memo that made it out to the press read:
"You may still decorate your door or office if you like, but we ask that you be respectful and sensitive to the diverse perspectives and beliefs of our community and refrain from using religious-themed decorations or images like Santa Claus."
That kinda sounds like a ban.
Here's Why Your Company Might Never Have Another Christmas Party Ever Again
Every human resources department and company "risk assessment" legal team is going to be reading the one-year-later reports coming out now about the Muslim terrorist couple who killed 14 people at a holiday party last December in San Bernardino, California.
The latest reports indicate the couple was offended when the husband, Syed Rizwan Farook, was required to attend a work training session and event that had been dolled up with Christmas decorations back in 2014. Farook's wife (and partner in the attack), Tashfeen Malik, posted on social media that she didn't think Muslims should have to participate in such an event.
It should go without saying (he said, before saying it anyway) that it's absurd to think that a holiday party actually triggered a desire to kill people. Nobody is actually saying that, and police are not declaring that this was their actual motive. This is information coming out of the investigation trying to figure out exactly why the couple became radicalized (recall that Farook was an American citizen born in the United States to parents who had come here from Pakistan).
Nevertheless, this violence is undoubtedly going into the "case study" file for every company human resources or legal department when developing policies and procedures for having parties. While I doubt many people are actually genuinely afraid that this sort of violence is going to be repeated in their own workplaces, just imagine how many times the word "liability" is going to be thrown around in internal memos.