Thursday December 23, 1999
Santa and approximately 15 elves (some disguised as Raging Grannies) enter Wal Mart to make the toy section a Violence Free Zone.
Singing anti-violence Christmas Carols, Santa and his elves walked through Hamilton's Mountain Mall stopping at the entrance to Wal Mart, now a leading seller of children's toys. An undercover security officer informed them that they would be charged with trespassing if they continued to sing in the mall concourse. Undeterred, the group walked merrily into Wal Mart and made their way to the Toy area. Santa announced the group's intention to make the Toy area a violence free zone, and then he and the elves got busy filling sack after sack with realistic guns, rifles, pistols, swords, and the odd wrestling figure (for good measure). Elves sang and handed out leaflets and candy canes. Wal Mart managers were prepared to stand back and watch as the busy North Pole-ers emptied the shelves. One young employee, leaflet in hand, actually assisted the elves by bringing a pistol from another shelf. As the plastic bags that Santa was using were being rapidly filled up with the large selection of arms available to children in the store, Elf Andrew began to make use of Wal Mart's own merchandise, and the elves then filled up several brand new garbage cans with even more guns.
The group then made their way to the electronics section, where extremely violent video games are available to anyone, regardless of age. The same scene took place here, Santa and his elves nearly exhausted after pulling so many violent toys off the shelves.
Some customers were obviously pleased, giving a thumbs up sign to Santa, and some, after examining the leaflet, confessed they had never thought of the issue before. There were no angry responses from customers, although some did seem slightly shocked by what they were seeing.
Still singing, the grannies, elves and Santa hauled the bags and pails of violent toys to the back loading dock, where managers were asked to keep the toy area "a place where children can enjoy the spirit of the season (or any time) without being assaulted with violent toys."
Santa noted that while Toys "R" Us still has violent content, they didn't stock realistic looking guns. Obviously, Wal Mart needs to be reminded that toy stores should not be mimicking the worst that television and society has to offer.
Earlier in the week, a news conference was held and media learned that there is a link between violent games and toys and real violence, with Child Psychiatrist Joanna Santa Barbara, Author Rose Dyson (Mind Abuse: Media Violence in an Information Age) and Santa Claus. (see below for media report)
Santa learned that the local television reporters (ONTV) were told by Wal Mart that they would be charged with trespassing if they attempted to cover the story. Unbelievably, the tv station was intimidated by Wal Mart's threat and stayed away.
There were no charges laid, and Santa said he would be back next year.
Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays,
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Media Coverage of Media Conference
Only gift Santa wants is violence-free stores
By STEVE BUIST, The Spectator (Tuesday December 21, 1999)
Santa Claus is a pacifist at heart. That's the message the jolly old man will be delivering today to toy stores in the area.
Santa will be at Hamilton City Hall to ask stores to declare themselves violence-free zones and remove all violent toys and games from their shelves. He will then take his appeal directly to some toy stores.
With the growing accessibility of computers, the landscape has changed in the past decade. War toys are being surpassed by video games that can offer a shocking range of graphic violence.
"The actual visual brutality of some of the video games has become much greater," said Dr. Joanna Santa Barbara, a child psychiatrist who will be one of Santa's helpers. The event is being sponsored by Hamilton Action for Social Change.
"There are games now that involve severing heads, pulling out spinal columns; and many games that involve killing," added Santa Barbara.
Some experts fear these games-- especially given the active involvement required of the player-- can teach kids to channel their anger through violence. And there's some evidence to back them up.
Studies have shown that there can be a 50 per cent increase in aggressive play between children after they have been playing with violent toys.
"There are many studies that show this has a desensitizing effect on children and that the effect can last for a long time," added Santa Barbara.
In recently released videotapes, the teens who shot dead 12 students and teachers at their Colorado high school mention the violent computer game Doom.
This month, a judge in Sao Paulo, Brazil, banned six video games after a medical student, inspired by the game Duke Nukem, opened fire on a packed movie theatre and killed three people.
A recent U.S. study showed that game-playing among children peaks between the ages of eight and 13.
Boys make up the majority of players, and they tend to gravitate toward action games in which they are first-person shooters. In one survey, 50 per cent of boys listed violent games as their favourites.
The most recent development for video games in called "skins," in which players can insert images of real people and places, making the game more realistic.