NORAD, the joint U.S.-Canada military force that protects our skies and runs the beloved Santa Tracker each holiday season, is under fire.
The reason? A video that shows Santa and his reindeer accompanied by a military fighter-jet escort.
The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood has criticized the video, and, in turn, the campaign has been criticized for its criticism.
“We’ve gotten some angry emails … questioning my manhood,” Josh Golin, the campaign’s associate director, said Wednesday. So Golin and the campaign’s co-founder, Berkeley child and family psychologist Allan Kenner, would like the opportunity to give a full airing to their side of the controversy:
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They say they are not anti-military or anti-American — but they are against any kind of advertising aimed at young, vulnerable minds.
“What’s getting lost in the controversy is the child-development piece,” Golin said. It’s easy for adults to look at the video above and say “What’s the big deal?”
“But we are talking about 4-year-olds and 6-year-olds,” Golin said. “For young children, the idea of Santa, and that there are ‘bad guys’ who might want to ‘get’ Santa, so he needs the jets, that can be very disturbing.”
He said there was no shortage of studies that tie child-aimed advertising and media influences to a variety of ills, such as childhood obesity, violence and bullying.
Kenner said in a separate interview Wednesday that advertisers aimed to manipulate and poison young minds to create “cradle-to-grave brand loyalty.” He called it “very cynical manipulation.” And he believes the video is a sign that the military is using some of these very same methods to indoctrinate children into supporting, endorsing and perhaps even one day joining the military.
“It is essentially a marketing device for the military in search of future recruitment,” he said.
The Los Angeles Times contacted NORAD, but no comment was forthcoming. Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, however, told The Boston Globe that the video simply gives children a glimpse of “our true mission.”