Naughty No More: On the Ethics of a Supernatural Surveillance State

Weekly Debates

December 1

Riggs Library

On the first of December, the Philodemic gathered one final time for our annual Christmas debate in order to discuss an issue of the utmost importance: “Resolved: The naughty list should be declassified.” On the affirmation was Mr. Alejandro Perez-Reyes (COL ’17) of Virginia, and, making his induction, Mr. Ali Shahbaz (SFS ’20) of Pakistan. On the negation was Mr. Matthew Harden (COL ’20) of North Carolina, and, making his induction, Mr. Peter Hamilton (COL ’20) of Washington.

Mr. Shahbaz began the evening with an extended attack on the character of Saint Nick: from his “creepy” watch over children, to his obesity-encouraging cookie obsession, to his refusal to permit Mrs. Claus to have a first name, why does Santa get the right to determine who is naughty? Either the list is untrustworthy, in which case declassifying it could destroy the cult of personality surrounding Mr. Claus, or it is perfectly trustworthy, in which case it could replace the entire court system with perfect fidelity.

Undaunted, Mr. Hamilton arose to deliver a defense of secrecy. In the first place, if the list is accurate, declassification would overlook concerns about privacy and due process. And in the second place, if the list is wrong, then, in addition to serving no purpose, declassification would drive neighbors into suspicion of one another. Either way, declassification should not be a goal. Also worth noting—for some reason, Santa apparently fights the patriarchy.

Back on the affirmation, Mr. Perez-Reyes exhorted the Philodemic to avoid serious arguments. He posited that declassification of the naughty list could make dating much easier by becoming, in effect, the “ultimate Tinder profile.” He continued by pointing out that the naughty list is a great tool for helicopter parents, and argued that declassification would fight the inherent corruption of the Santo-judiciary system. Ending his speech, Mr. Perez-Reyes stated that “if you found anything logically consistent in this speech, thank you for trying so hard.”

“My goal tonight is to expose the sheer awkwardness that would result from declassifying the naughty list,” began Mr. Harden. By permitting everyone to know the naughty actions of their friends and family, declassification would plunge society into awkward chaos. Moreover, classification allows Santa to engage in gift-giving without undermining the world order. Besides, Christmas is about friends and family, not the pursuit of questions which should not be answered.

Mr. Easterling began floor “speeches” with what was more condom distribution than speech, asking Philodemicians not to spread anything around during their post-debate revelry. Ms. Reilly questioned whether or not Santa kink-shames. Ms. Li declared that declassifying the naughty list would eliminate philosophy majors by answering all ethical questions (although Ms. Provo wasn’t convinced that ethics could be done away with quite so easily). Ms. Bujwid cast further aspersions on Santa’s character by profiling him as a bully thanks to his treatment of Rudolph. Ms. Haag pointed out that declassification would make lie-detecting rather easy. Mr. Marrow accused Santa of communism and stated that “Trump proves anyone can be president, and Mr. Hamilton proves anyone can be a member of the Philodemic!” Mr. Spagnuolo returned to our Society to briefly wax poetic before stepping outside for a smoke. President Thanki, after welcoming Mr. Shahbaz and Mr. Hamilton to the Society, stated of her mentee: “Mr. Hamilton, you are the only Trump supporter I know, and I am proud to know only one.” Mr. Hinck congratulated Ms. Cuppari for her impending graduation, stating: “Rosa, forever to be known for tiramisu—we will miss your wit, your charm, and your worldview.” (Huzzah!) Mr. Bies accused Santa of literally being Satan—unlike the Catholic Church, which only identifies saints, Santa opts to determine who is a sinner. Sergeant Ludtke rose, having already defended the President’s chair from Ms. Li and Ms. Provo, to thank the Society for her tenure as Sergeant.

Opening the non-member speeches, Mr. Jack Townsend (COL ’20) accused Santa of being a capitalist, the epitome of Big Toy. Ms. Rebecca Marrow (SFS ’17) asked the floor to consider the tweet-pocalypse that would spout forth from an enraged Donald Trump if the naughty list were declassified. Mr. Aidan Poling (COL ’20) argued that Santa may be a divine being, but that still does not make him trustworthy. Ms. Diana Chiang (COL ’19) claimed that even though she would be on the naughty list, she is actually a nice person. Mr. Gabirel Hammoud (SFS ’20) stated that he would like the list to be declassified to satisfy his curiosity—being Jewish, he has no other way of knowing which list he is on. Finally, Ms. Grace Wu (COL ’20) posited that “naughtiness” or “niceness” is determined only by one’s own perception of the morality of one’s actions.

Returning to member speeches, Mr. Ernst argued that declassifying the list would permit a set of regulations to help protect “nice guys,” but Ms. Burke retorted that nice guys are sexist and need no protection. Ms. Friedmann maintained that the naughty list is nothing more than a tool to emotionally abuse children, while Ms. Landau stated that her experience hosting Philodemic parties last year gave her an intimate awareness with the naughty list which she wishes she had never had. Vice President Fletcher announced that this debate in fact had a framing, but, as with all good framings, it had been kept classified. Mr. Shuman simply stated that “Santa be damned—you’re all on my nice list.” Mr. Gonzalez arose simply to dispel some wrongful Christmas notions, kindly informing the Philodemic, among other things, that Mrs. Claus does in fact have a first name—it’s Jessica! Ms. Weissman asked the floor if anyone would like their friends to know all of their naughty actions. Mr. Pullin asked why Santa gets the right to decide who is naughty—such a decision ought to be made democratically—yet Ms. Oster questioned what the significance of classification was if the list itself is deemed irrelevant. Ms. Ferris argued that declassification would no longer allow parents to swap out their naughty children’s coal for presents, thus creating an illusion that their children had, in fact, been nice. To end the evening, Ms. Cuppari arose to deliver a beautiful rendition of “You Better Watch Out” with Ms. Reilly and Ms. Cooke.

In his closing keynote, Mr. Harden stated that people, and not eloquence, are what make the Society great, after which he ceded the remainder of his speech to a mysterious character known only as “The Reverend Reverend Doctor Poutine BoJangles,” Mr. Perez-Reyes, after thanking a multitude of people from President Thanki down to the lay Philodemicians, thanked the Society for its traditions. Mr. Hamilton argued that the Philodemic allows us to set aside the stresses of Georgetown, and that all of us ought to be proud to be Philodemicians. Mr. Shahbaz, after asking the Society to vote with their heart, reminded everyone of one important fact: Santa is always watching.

With a vote of 32 affirming, 5 abstaining, and 18 negating, our final resolution of the semester was affirmed! I cannot know for sure, but I somewhat suspect that 32 of our Philodemicians may wake up on Christmas morning to lumps of coal.

Philodemic, it has been an honor to serve as your amanuensis. May you all have a wonderful holiday break, and may we all have a wonderful next semester together, drawing ever-nearer as a family.

Huzzah! and, for one last time, eloquentiam libertati devinctam.

Your outgoing amanuensis,

Micah Musser

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