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MSNBC columnist calls for ending NORAD Santa tracker to keep Santa ‘safe’ from US military

Col. Thomas Falzarano and Col. Sam Johnson at the 2019 NORAD Tracks Santa Operation Center on Peterson AFB, Colo., Dec. 24, 2019. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Alexandra M. Longfellow)
December 27, 2021

On Christmas Eve, a MSNBC columnist Hayes Brown called for the end to North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) “tracking” Santa Claus — a decades-long tradition beloved by families nationwide — in order to keep Santa “safe” from the U.S. military.

For over 60 years, NORAD has followed Santa’s trail as he delivers presents on Christmas Eve. The tradition began in December 1955 when a little girl accidentally called the Continental Air Defense Command Operations Center’s secret hotline.

According to NBC News, Colonel Harry Shoup, who was on duty at the time, answered the infamous red phone that always involved a call directly from the Pentagon – but this time a little girl was on the other end of the call.

“Are you really Santa Claus?” she asked.

After playing along, it was later determined that a local department store had created a newspaper ad encouraging children to call Santa Claus. The number that was printed had a typo, and rather than calling the store, dozens of children called the Command Operations Center.

The tradition of connecting service members with the American families they protect was too much for MSNBC’s Hayes Brown.

“No, I’d prefer we end the tradition because it’s about time that we decoupled St. Nick from the world’s most powerful military. American culture is saturated with a desire to associate the military with the saccharine,” Brown wrote. “We get videos of soldiers returning home to their pets or children but never questions about why they were deployed for so long or what threat they were fighting; military jets flying over NFL games give us an injection of jingoist testosterone before more regionally focused battles of testosterone are played on the field; and we get the Netflix movie ‘Operation Christmas Drop,’ a seasonally themed rom-com that cheerfully seeks to boost approval for America’s military base in Guam.”

Brown argued that because war is devastating and tragic, the connection between the military and the joy of Christmas is made in bad taste.

“The messier business of war that goes on in the background doesn’t jibe with the Christmas spirit. Last week, The New York Times published a two-part investigation into the civilian casualties of American airstrikes,” Brown wrote. “America’s increased reliance on aerial campaigns helps military officials avoid the political headaches that come from massive ground deployments, but that strategy contributes to the profound disconnect between the American public and the wars fought in its name.”

Brown then took his condemnation of NORAD’s Santa Tracker a step further, considering what would happen if the United States military targeted Santa, and asked if it would “just be another case investigated and tucked away in the Pentagon’s files?”

“The fact that we can’t say with any certainty what the Pentagon would do isn’t exactly comforting, and no matter how absurd the hypothetical, the military wrongly killing someone is more frequent an occurrence than its interest in the delivery of toys,” he continued. “So out of concern for Santa’s safety, out of exasperation at the Pentagon’s propaganda and because at Christmas you tell the truth, let’s have NORAD release Santa from its annual pantomimed surveillance.”