You may have heard about a survey that was done saying that 27% of people think that Santa should be “genderless,” and about a backlash to such an idea. Who knew that people were talking about Santa’s gender? As it turns out, no one knew. No one was actually talking about it.
This situation gives us an excellent example of outrage tactics and how certain triggering headlines can be used to manipulate audiences for various purposes.
Starting with Graphic Springs
When we track this Santa gender story back to its start, we find a company called Graphic Springs. They put out a survey to 1,000 people asking about how respondents would rebrand Santa if given the opportunity. It is not clear from their article if they suggested these changes and people voted yes or no or if they solicited suggestions.
While it is possible that the people of Graphic Springs were simply curious about how Santa could be rebranded, it is more likely that they had the more cynical motive of driving traffic to their web site where they sell low cost design and logo creation services.
An interesting piece of background of Graphic Springs, who is based in Nice, France, is that they have an F rating from the Better Business Bureau. The BBB has asked them to stop offering a money back guarantee without clear conditions of who gets their money back.
This all starts with a company trying to get some attention by leveraging a surprising idea about a popular character: Santa Claus. Commercializing Santa is not a cynical as it may sound, since our perception of Santa is based almost entirely on Coca-Cola’s depiction of the jolly old fellow in the first place.
Outrage Tactics Move Forward
In each iteration, the language in the reporting becomes a bit more suggestive of controversy.
Channel 6 says, “Survey: Some say Santa should be rebranded female, gender neutral.”
The Mirror then says, “People say Santa should now be female or gender neutral – sparking debate.”
While the first makes it clear that people were speaking in response to a survey, the Mirror makes it sound like people are saying this out of the blue. One could even interpret it to mean that there is some kind of movement or event organization behind such an effort.
A web site called Town Hall did not mess around at all with their title.
26% becomes “almost 30%,” and the outrage beings.
No more mention of a survey in the headline, and the opinionated article as much as says, “you can have my fat, bearded Santa when you pry him from my cold, dead, candy-cane-striped fingers.”
Santa Gender Outrage Objective
Of course, this makes great click bait which brings big bucks into those who are receiving the clicks. Might there be other motivations for such inflammatory language?
There is a powerful political motivation as well. There is an existing belief among some conservatives that there is some movement on the Left to disassemble the basic fabric of our society: disrupting the family, reconstituting gender, and changing all the rules as we know them. To those who hold this belief, this is terrifying. They feel that those who are behind it must be stopped.
Some politicians and political movements benefit greatly from the support of such terrified individuals. They can rally their support with examples of new offensives by the “disruptive forces” whom they fear so much.
This is one such example. “First, it was that bathrooms. Now it is Santa Claus himself!” They convince people that there are forces that want to give Santa gender reassignment surgery or even neuter him! Reasonable human rights issues of transgender rights become conflated with absurd issues of regendering Santa Clause.
A pretty viscerally terrifying concept to some.
What’s the goal? What is this trying to achieve?
When the union man who’s union interests have been protected by Democrats votes for a Republican advocating Right-to-Work laws because he thinks the Republican will protect Santa Claus, you see what the goal is. You also see how well it works.
Both Sides Do It
Both the Left and the Right engage in such outrage tactics. Also, both Left and Right decry it when then other side does it, while claiming that they never do it.
Both sides definitely do it. It may be called different things. It may take different forms, but if you look for it, you’ll see it everywhere.
No, no one is going to rebrand Santa Claus. He won’t lose his beard or be neutered any time soon. This is just another occasion to rile people up, make money through clicks, and bring attention to a previously unknown logo design company.
You got played, and a lot of people made money from it.
Next time you see something so outrageous that you can’t believe it, take a minute to consider if you really should believe it.
Are you or your organization facing outrage tactics or other threats to your reputation? We can help. Contact us.