Teach your children well

From the Washington Post (of all places), comes this piece on the normalization of the surveillance state via a childrens’ book.

(My wife and I are both in agreement on this; we won’t have the little informer in our house).


Incidentally, I find it interesting that you apparently have to break an ingrained more against “tattling” or “telling.” There is something very low-level in our makeup (either social, culturalm or genetic) that works against providing negative information to an authority (be it parental or outside the family unit).

14 thoughts on “Teach your children well”

  1. Oh brother, this again. Aside from questioning the “digital technology” professor’s credentials to be opining on the psychological impact on children of the Elf on a Shelf, this is hardly the first thing used to try and get kids to behave.

    Let’s see, God, Jesus, Santa Claus, the boogeyman, etc… All of which “know when you’ve done something bad – so behave!” I guess this doll is more of a physical presence than the above tools, but it’s hardly a new concept.

    I do not think Elf on the Shelf or any other tools like that are the only thing that should be used to teach your kids good behavior. But I also think the idea that it will turn all of our kids into mindless zombies who placidly accept our new overlords and their police state is ludicrous.

    There are plenty of other REAL threats out there such as the erosion of the value of personal privacy due to social media, surveillance cameras on every corner etc…

    Stop worrying about a stupid doll.

    1. I would submit there’s a difference in expectation between a supernatural entity you “knows when you’ve been bad or good,” and one who has a visible spy in the home. It’s not the “knowing” that irks me – as you say, plenty of supernatural beings of folklore know what naughtiness lurks in the hearts of children. It’s the bald-faced placement of a visible agent of The Man. One more thing (no big matter by itself) to condition the acceptance of the Panopticon.

      And I’d say, yes, this is at least as important to fight against as the more overt and present threats to privacy. This is an attack on the concept of privacy, to normalize the agents of The Man while the targets are still learning what “normal” is. I will submit that supporters of freedom don’t do memetic warfare very well. This (probably) isn’t a deliberate attempt by the State to normalize quite frankly creepy behavior, but it tends to that anyway. I oppose the surveillance state because I value privacy. I don’t want a spy of ANYONE in my house, why should I allow this one?

      1. The growing surveillance state is hideous. Damn the NSA and all the SOBs who work for it in any capacity. They are little Nazi wannabes.

        Now for the latest…

        How about Illinois making it illegal to videotape the police?

        That is insufferable and needs to be tossed by the first judge that hears a case about it. The police can tape everything and you cannot return the favor? Really? Who’s watching the watchman?

        Orwell on steroids. Illinois is as close to a totalitarian state as you can get if not north of the 38th parallel of Korea.

        1. “Illinois is as close to a totalitarian state as you can get if not north of the 38th parallel of Korea.”

          Here, and I thought that Zimbabwe, Belarus, and Uzbekistan might have been in between the two….

    2. And if you’re still so accepting, we’ll put an Elf in your living room; one with a video camera and microphones. Don’t worry about where the feed is going – it’s for your own good.

      1. You know the doll its self has been around since at least the 60’s.
        I remember it from when I was a kid, dunno if the story about it watching kids was around or not, but I never heard it until recently.

        1. I know it’s been around for a while – and the styling suggested an origin in that era. I’ve also disapproved of it for about as long as I’ve been aware of it. Until a few years ago, my disapproval was fairly hypothetical, and thus a cold and theoretical thing.

  2. One can enjoy the fun of having a little elf toy moving around at night eating your kid’s Christmas cookies and leaving little notes without telling your kid that the elf is an agent of Santa Claus surveillance.

    Honestly, the conception of Santa himself as a Stasi/NSA/KGB type figure watching and listening to your every move would have been foreign to me as a child. When I was a kid, Santa was portrayed to me as a jolly guy who brings kids presents, rather than as an entity who watches every move you make and puts you on his shit list if you don’t measure up. I think the latter characterization of him is kind of creepy.

    One of my wide-eyed-kid moments when I was very young was finding the stubs of several carrots on the front porch that the “reindeer” had dropped after the visit…

    1. The visitor from the North Pole aspect is interesting. And, to be honest, I’m not all that thrilled by Santa as an arbiter of Goodness. (I can’t speak as to my views of him as a child – while I’m of an age with Sebastian, my memories of my childhood are very spotty prior to middle school).

      Heck, I’m engaging in a fair amount of effort to create some “magic of Christmas” for my son (including using different wrapping paper and name tags). Whatever floats your goat.

    2. As with Ian, my memories of childhood are more spotty than I would like them to be, but I recall that my understanding of Santa Claus knowing who was good or bad was because my parents were in cahoots with him, and letting him know how well we’ve been doing.

      I don’t know if that was something I was told at some point, though, or if it was something I decided on my own…select *, date(from_unixtime(timestamp + -18000)) as holiday_date from info where (fullname = ‘all_employees_holiday’) having (holiday_date > ‘2014-12-01’)

  3. On the one hand, yeah, “don’t tell” is ingrained.

    On the other hand, we rightly deride “snitches get stitches” as horribly harmful in the subculture it comes from.

    These need to be reconciled if there isn’t to be a plain double standard and a trivially easy – and plausible! – accusation of racism.

    (I mean, re. the “gun control PSA” thing going around, kids probably should call the cops if dad’s smuggling guns to gangs or is a hit man or something.

    I want people, even children, to tell the police about dangerous or violent felonies being planned or carried out, even by their families.

    I equally don’t want them to do so for anything less than gun running, murder, armed robbery, or the like.)

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