Saturday, December 20, 2014

You'd Better Not Pout, You'd Better Not Cry

You'd better not run and you'd better not hide. Because Stasi Claus has a new helper, and his name is Little Big Brother.

 To get American children (whom the Obama administration has creepily designated the "Homeland Generation") ready for a whole lifetime of surveillance, there's a grotesquely cute little plastic dude called Elf on the Shelf that parents are being urged to buy in order to get their kids used to a total lack of privacy.

It's up to Mom or Dad to place the Elf in a new spot every night after the children go to sleep. The little ones will never know when or where they'll be assaulted by his insipid little face as they go about their morning business. Some particularly abusive parents have even been known to perch the little gizmo on the toilet tank, setting the stage for a whole new generation of perverts and exhibitionists, not to mention kitschy bathroom artistes.

I wrote about this fascistic phenomenon last year. And despite the Ed Snowden revelations, the tradition of pediatric surveillance remains as popular as ever, with the doll now esconced in an estimated six million American homes. Parents anxious to score a $50 gift certificate from Amazon are still sending in their photos (Shelfie Elfie Selfies are always welcome) and providing reams of free publicity to the toy manufacturer. Do I even need to mention that the overpriced toys are made in China for pennies, and that the infomercial of a cartoon about them was outsourced to animators in India?

This got me wondering: are the parents/guardians who buy into this sick game the same people who think torturing other human beings is O.K.? It wouldn't surprise me.

It's good to read that some psychologists, besides condemning the torturer-shrinks in their professional midst, are also now coming forth and warning of the long-term deleterious mental health affects of creepy surveillance fetishes dressed in cheery Christmas red. Selina Nemorin and Laura Pinto of the Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives have written about Elf on the Shelf mission-creep, noting that the toy is now even included in Common Core curricula in many corporatized American classrooms. I guess it's one way to force bored kids to sit still and take those soul-crushing standardized tests.

It's also a way to register children for a master corporate data base. When families and schools sign up for the fun, they agree that all rights to privacy will be gladly relinquished. The corporation has the right to use your name and your likeness for sale and profit as well as for virtual mind control.

"Elf on the Shelf presents a unique and prescriptive form of play that blurs the distinction between play time and real life," the authors of the Canadian piece write. Children are forced to endure and contend with the rules of the game at all times. They may not touch or play with the all-powerful doll, because if they do, the consequences will be dire. The elf will disappear and report back to Santa. (who is called "The Boss" in the game... like a Tony Soprano kind of boss) It's designed to transform the average home into a virtual Panopticon, the model prison envisioned by Jeremy Bentham, where inmates are always docile because they never know when they're being watched.

What might normally be considered a toy has been subverted into The All Powerful Other. No cuddling and back-talk allowed. Or else.

What Say We Permanently Shelve the NSA Elf?



Anonymous said...

Way too creepy!

Zee said...


"Anonymous" was me. The new "Prove you're not a robot" reCAPTCHA system confused me.

Denis Neville said...

I had never heard of the Elf of the Shelf.

Put the Elf anywhere he can watch the kids, and tell them the Elf will report their conduct to Santa Claus every night. So they better be on their best behavior at all times. Move the Elf around the house or in the classroom. The Elf cannot speak. His job is to watch and listen! Warn them that if they touch the Elf, Santa will not bring them any Christmas presents.

Jeremy Bentham returns from the 18th century.

A Panopticon Elf that teaches children to blindly accept that they are being watched!

Jesus H. Christ!!!

The inmates of these panoptican families do not know when they are being watched and behave as though they are being watched all the time.

Power is gained in society through surveillance and the threat of surveillance.

“Bentham laid down the principle that power should be visible and unverifiable. Visible: the inmate will constantly have before his eyes the tall outline of the central tower from which he is spied upon. Unverifiable: the inmate must never know whether he is being looked at at any one moment; but he must be sure that he may always be so.” - Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison

The Elf of the Shelf is watching.

Denis Neville said...

Fear corrupts ...

Most Americans do not really want freedom, because freedom involves responsibility, and most people are frightened of responsibility.

Ours is the Age of Acquiescence.

“I think we underestimate the degree to which the politics of fear operates in our society and in our economy…The dominant form of employment, or what is becoming the dominant form of employment in our economy today is contingent, casual, precarious labor, without any protections. No security at the job. No fringe benefits. You're at the mercy of your employer and an economy that's in chronic flux. Pensions have been stripped away. The social safety net has been shredded to a very significant degree. When you're faced with that kind of situation naturally you have to think twice about whether you're going to fight back.” – Steve Fraser, author of The Age of Acquiescence: The Life and Death of American Resistance to Organized Wealth and Power

The Grand Inquisitor’s accusation at Christ:

“Recall the first question; its meaning, though not literally, was this: ‘You want to go into the world, and you are going empty-handed, with some promise of freedom, which they in their simplicity and innate lawlessness cannot even comprehend, which they dread and fear—for nothing has ever been more insufferable for man and for human society than freedom! But do you see these stones in this bare, scorching desert? Turn them into bread and mankind will run after you like sheep, grateful and obedient, though eternally trembling lest you withdraw your hand and your loaves cease for them …
In the end they will lay their freedom at our feet and say to us, Make us your slaves, but feed us.” - Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Grand Inquisitor, The Brothers Karamazov

"An unconscious people, an indoctrinated people, a people fed only partisan information and opinion that confirm their own bias, a people made morbidly obese in mind and spirit by the junk food of propaganda, is less inclined to put up a fight, ask questions and be skeptical. That kind of orthodoxy can kill a democracy – or worse." - Bill Moyers

Pearl said...

Good article in the NYTimes by their Editorial Board,'Prosecute Torturers and their Bosses' with a huge number of well written replies. I would like to have mentioned the torture they did in private to politically "suspicious" American citizens especially during the McCarthy years by informing employers, universities of the dangers of hiring such people. The torture was in the form of the struggle forced on victims to survive physically and psychologically and some committed suicide (John Garfield) as a result.
I can attest to their approaching the University of Miami in l958 where my husband had been hired to teach and do research and threatening officials about the danger of keeping him on staff. We were never told who 'they' were but the description by staff members and their warnings to us to leave the country as a result were clear indications of who was involved.
One wonders how much damage they have continued to do to people's lives since then beyond the actual physical torture reports coming out.