Sanity Injection

Injecting a dose of sanity into your day’s news and current events.

Archive for December, 2015

I believe in Santa Claus

Posted by sanityinjection on December 25, 2015

For a very long time, parents have struggled over what to tell their children about Santa Claus, and particularly the question: At what age should we tell them the “truth about Santa Claus”?

We know certainly that this dilemma dates back well over 100 years, as evidenced by the now-legendary 1897 newspaper editorial popularly known as “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus”. In that piece, which subsequently became the most reprinted editorial in the entire English language, New York Sun editor Francis Pharcellus Church answered a little girl’s letter with an emphatic declaration that Santa Claus not only exists, but that his existence is necessary.

We can certainly sympathize today, 118 years later, with Church’s assertion that the children of that day “have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age.” Is it wise, we still wonder, to encourage our children to continue to believe in something – or someone – that can’t be seen or heard? (Never mind that most of the religions of the world propose exactly that.)

As is so often the case, the problem lies not in the answer but in the question. In asking what to tell children about Santa Claus, we have created a false dichotomy, in which our children must either believe in Santa as a living being who magically flies around the world, physically enters their homes on Christmas Eve and leaves them presents, or they must reject him as nothing more than a fairy tale for the ignorant. We can hardly be surprised that such a choice is as unappetizing as that rock-hard, decade-old fruitcake that is still being regifted among our friends and relatives every year.

If we want our children to have an adult understanding of Santa, should we not begin by having an adult understanding of him ourselves – one that allows for nuance and incorporates something of philosophy? Church pointed us in the right direction when he wrote that Santa “exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist”. I can recall in my childhood, on Christmas Day there would be presents under the tree with tags that read, “FROM: Santa Claus”, but they didn’t all have my name in the “TO:” line.  Some were addressed to my mother, and some to my father. In this way, I was taught early on that Santa Claus isn’t just a figure who brings toys to children, but represents something much more universal.

Coming as he does at the one time of year when we are encouraged to forget our woes and try to be kind and generous to one another, is it not an honest answer to say that Santa Claus is the personification of the spirit of human kindness, generosity and love – particularly toward children, but really toward everyone? (I welcome you to go back and watch the classic 1947 Christmas movie “Miracle on 34th Street” and ask yourself if the little girl played by Natalie Wood is the only character whose life Kris Kringle affects for the better.) If we choose to imagine that spirit as a jolly fat bearded man in a red suit, is that wrong? What is the correct visualization of a spirit?

We ought to be able to say, without hesitation, that Santa Claus truly exists as long as we can know the joy of giving; as long as we are capable of feeling love for friends and family, and kindness toward strangers; as long as we have not forgotten that man does not live by bread alone, but that we all from time to time need something – or someone – to inspire us to rise above thinking only of ourselves. People who believe in Santa Claus are people who can love. When parents tell their children about Santa Claus, they are not perpetuating a childish fairy story; on the contrary, they are telling their children about the very nuanced and multifaceted concept of love in a simple way that children can accept and understand. If, as we grow older, we come to have an enlarged understanding of that concept, it does not mean that we must discard or reject Santa Claus, any more than we reject 2+2=4 when we have learned to do algebra. Let us not become so one-dimensional in our thinking that, like Shakespeare’s Horatio, we earn Hamlet’s admonition that “There are more things in heaven and earth…than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

So let me state as vigorously as Church did over a century ago: Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. To tell children otherwise is to do them no favor. I am past the age of forty, and I believe in Santa Claus, and I plan to keep on believing in him.

Posted in Current Events, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Why can Hillary Clinton make up fake statistics and no one in the media challenges them?

Posted by sanityinjection on December 3, 2015

Following up on my previous post, here is another example of how the media does not give the same scrutiny to the statements of someone they like, such as Hillary Clinton, as they do to someone they dislike, such as Donald Trump.

I first noticed this statement by Ms. Clinton during one of the recent Democratic presidential debates, and according to this from Politico.com, apparently she is now repeating the claim in one of her TV commercials: Clinton states that between 88-92 people are killed every day by guns.

Now, that would seem like an easy thing to fact-check wouldn’t it? After all, the FBI reports crime statistics on an annual basis. In 2014, the *total* number of murders and non-negligent manslaughters in the US was 13, 472. Ms. Clinton’s lowest figure of 88 per day, multiplied by 365 days, would give a total for gun murders alone of 32, 120.

Clearly, this is not a slight exaggeration. Nor is it an isolated mis-statement, since Ms. Clinton has repeated the claim multiple times. It is quite a simply a deliberate and blatant falsehood designed to trick people into thinking that gun violence is a much larger problem in this country than it actually is (the recent terrorist attack in San Bernadino notwithstanding) in order to win support for further eroding that pesky Second Amendment to the Constitution. (In fact, the 2014 homicide rate of 4.5 per 100,000 people is the lowest since 1963.)

Now, does anyone doubt that if Donald Trump had uttered a massive falsehood like that even once, every major media outlet would be holding it up and trumpeting it as an example of his unfitness for office?

Which is worse: when the mainstream media tells you what they want you to know? Or when they deliberately don’t tell you what they don’t want you to know? At this point, Ms. Clinton could simply declare – as O’Brien famously did in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four – that 2 + 2 = 5, and you would hear nary a peep from the New York Times, NBC, ABC, CBS, and their assorted imitators.

Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Dissecting media bias: Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and the anatomy of propaganda as news reporting

Posted by sanityinjection on December 3, 2015

I call your attention to this superb piece by Emmy-winning investigative journalist Sharyl Attkisson. In it, she uses the recent controversy over Donald Trump’s remarks about Muslims in New Jersey celebrating on 9/11 to illustrate the fundamental double standard the mainstream media applies to politicians they don’t want the American people to vote for.

It’s hardly a secret that many mainstream media reporters, editors, and talking heads abhor Mr. Trump and are appalled by the possibility of him becoming President. (I happen to agree with them.) Ms. Attkisson uses a technique she calls “the Substitution Game”, giving specific examples of how the media’s behavior would be very different if the person in question were someone they approve of such as President Obama or Hillary Clinton. She also points out how convenient it is for Ms. Clinton’s campaign to have the national media painting her potential election opponent as dishonest even as polls suggest that perecptions of her own dishonesty are one of her biggest problems with voters. Attkisson isn’t necessarily suggesting a well-orchestrated media conspiracy, but rather a culture of bias that permeates the major television news networks and newspapers.

If this bias were to be stated in its most naked form, it would be something like this: Dishonesty, in the form of intentional misrepresentation of facts or outright lying, is OK as long as it is in service of good liberal causes, but it’s abhorrent whenever it’s done by someone we don’t like or someone who disagrees with us. This fits in with a more general theme that the end justifies the means: that it is OK for the “good guys” (which in the view of so many influential media members means the liberals) are justified in lying, cheating, stealing, or doing whatever is necessary to advance their noble aims, but the “bad guys” – Second Amendments rights advocates, climate change skeptics, etc. –  are abhorrent if they use the same methods, because they have the wrong aims.

Attkisson is not saying that the media should not challenge counterfactual claims by public figures. Rather, she is questioning why they only seem to beat the drum about such claims when those figures are on one side of the political spectrum. When a huge segment of the broadcast and print media spends a lot of time making a huge deal out of controversial statements by Mr. Trump while deliberately downplaying and even ignoring those made by Obama and Clinton, even a relatively savvy news consumer who is not paying close attention can, over time, absorb that implication of what is important. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how propaganda works.

Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »