Ben Dreyfuss

Engagement Editor

Ben Dreyfuss is the engagement editor at Mother Jones. He's done some other stuff, too. You can email him at But you don't have to. But you can. But you really don't have to. 

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SantaCon Is the Devil. We Apparently Created It. We Are So Sorry.

| Fri Dec. 11, 2015 9:51 PM EST

Every day I wake up and check my iPhone and read hundreds of comments from Twitter eggs calling me a stupid libtard intern who hates America and only got his job (or is it an internship?) at pinko commie rag Mother Jones because of nepotism. As though my dad called up SAG and was like "I am an actor from the 70s. Get my son a job at a magazine ...founded in the 70s?" It grows tiring, but I get it: It's an act! It's a show stupid people—or who my beloved Welsh call "simple"—engage in to demonstrate to their team or to God or to whoever that they are the type of person who doesn't like our type of publication.

Team sports is what politics is all about. No one wants to admit it, but it's a well studied field. No one cares about every issue. It would be a huge waste of time to do that.  They care strongly about one or two issues, identify with the team that shares their position and then take on the rest of the team's platform as a form of solidarity, albeit unconsciously,

(A great example of this is southern Democrats who loved infrastructure spending but hated black people and then became Republicans because Democrats were too nice to black people and suddenly they also hated infrastructure spending.)

Anyway, Mother Jones isn't perfect. Far from it. A lot of our articles I disagree with. But Mother Jones doesn't really have institutional opinions. The articles are the vetted and edited opinions of the bylined author. (For instance: Not everyone here loves Love Actually)

However, one of the things we here at Mother Jones totally deserve group collective criticism for is being inadvertently responsible for New York City's worst event of the year: SantaCon.

Atlas Obscura explains:

The original inspiration for SantaCon actually came from a 1977 article in Mother Jones about a four-day event organized by Solvognen, a socio-politically charged anarchist theater group in Denmark. Solvognen, literally "Chariot of the Sun," took their name from Norse mythology and the name of a highly prized national artifact that represents a horse pulling the sun across the sky.

I hate SantaCon. I hate their vomit. I hate their attitudes. I hate their irascibility. I hate their piss-soaked costumes. I hate their souls. I hate them on a profound level. If I were the type of person who believed in letting people drown, these are the type of people I would let drown. I wish they would just go back to whatever hell they came from (Long Island? Staten Island? Murray Hill?). Their very existence in New York makes me wish we had never fleeced this land from the Native Americans.

SantaCon is just an excuse for people with severe emotional problems to get together and act extra out of control because they're in a mob. It's like if The Ox-Bow Incident were set at Christmas and filled with vomit. Or if the Stanford Prison Experiment were set at Christmas and, well, filled with vomit.

Being in public means being in public, and when you are in public dressed like Santa—drunk, covered in piss, shouting about some nonsense—you are ruining the experience of other people who happen to be in public. You are a selfish jerk.

I know what you're going to say: "Oh, the fun police are here! Policing our fun!" I am not a member of the fun police. I am a member of the social contract, which dictates there are ways to act in public police. If you want to drink half a bottle of Jäger and piss yourself while shouting about some imaginary injustice you suffered playing Madden '98 on Sega Dreamcast, go right ahead. But do it in your own home. Don't do it in public. Being in public means being in public, and when you are in public dressed like Santa—drunk, covered in piss, shouting about some nonsense—you are ruining the experience of other people who happen to be in public. You are a selfish jerk.

What about Halloween or Saint Patrick's Day, you say? Well, those days are awful too. They're all just excuses for stupid people who lack the conviction to do what they want to do—be drunk and piss themselves—on a normal day. They need society to arbitrarily say it's okay to be a stupid drunk with your stupid drunk friends this one day a year. If you were at least an honest asshole you'd let your sociopathic flag fly and be a stupid drunk with your stupid friends just because it's a Tuesday! Or a Monday! Or Easter! On any given day you can win or you can lose, but if you do it because of an email blast saying other people are going to make it nominally socially acceptable, then you're a coward. SantaCon is not legally binding. It's not like The Purge but for bros to act out. You do you, bros. But just know that the fact that you're doing your thing on the day when normal society has tried to cordon you off means you're a sheep.

Society hates you.

I hate you, SantaCon. I hate you the way Eddie Murphy hated Alan Arkin when Arkin surprisingly won an Oscar for Little Miss Sunshine and Murphy lost for Dreamgirls. I hate you the way I hate people with poor posture, which many of you stupid Santas have, by the way. The religious say, "Love the sinner, hate the sin." I hate you the way the religious hate the sin.

Why are you the way you are? We could lay you on the couch and play psychology—Daddy wasn't around! Mommy loved your sister more! You come from a long line of alcoholics with no shame and are just playing the part!—but we don't have to. Ours is not to wonder why, ours is but to watch in horror as you stumble around drunk, secreting fluids on yourself.

I hope you all make it home alive this Saturday and don't stumble into the street and drown in your own vomit, but Darwin suggests many of you should probably in fact stumble into the street and drown in your own vomit. I've been to the Galapagos. It has a lot of things. It does not have SantaCon.

There's a line in Richard II where he's about to be tossed from the throne by Bolingbroke and he says, "[Let's] make dust our paper and with rainy eyes write sorrow on the bosom of the world." Saturday, thousands of drunken bros will make snow their paper and with bleeding kidneys write sorrow on the bosom of our streets.

So anyway, have a great Saturday! (Have a great life!) Stay safe. And for our part in the creation of SantaCon, we're eternally sorry.

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The New York Daily News Just Went After Donald Trump—and It's Pretty Great

| Wed Dec. 9, 2015 1:17 PM EST

In our continuing coverage of the New York Daily News' continuing coverage of politics in America, here's their cover today:

Pretty good, if you ask me!

For those keeping score at home: Last Thursday's cover: Good!

Last Friday's cover: Bad :(

Sunday's cover: Good!

So, 4-1. They didn't run the table, but in comparison to their crosstown tabloid rivals at the New York Postwho did a bad thing and should feel bad—they're the 1972 Los Angeles Lakers.

The New York Daily News Just Doubled Down on Its Attack on the NRA

| Fri Dec. 4, 2015 4:17 PM EST

Yesterday, the New York Daily News put up a controversial cover that I thought was pretty good. Today, they are out with another cover that, I've got to say, is a bit much for me. It calls the alleged perpetrator of Wednesday's massacre, Syed Farook, a terrorist (accurate!) and Robert Dear, Dylan Roof, Adam Lanza, and James Holmes terrorists (also accurate depending on your specific definition!), but then in the right hand corner it labels Wayne LaPierre, the head of the National Rifle Association, a terrorist.

Now, look, I'm not fan of the NRA, but they're not a terrorist organization and I don't think that term should be bandied about all willy-nilly. From 2001 to 2003, this shit happened all the time. Terrorists! Terrorists! Terrorist! Terrorists! It is not helpful. It stirs frenzy and panic in a population of people primed for frenzy and panic. We should use that term when it really makes sense, not just for political groups we disagree with.

But, on the other hand, just today Senate Republicans at the NRA's behest voted to kill a law that would make it harder for terrorists, felons, and mentally ill people to buy guns. It's also worth noting that most gun owners don't even support the NRA's radical agenda. So it's not like I'm saying the NRA is a bunch of peachy keen cats deserving of sainthood or anything.

Relatedly, my colleague Julia Laurie spoke to a number of national news organizations about how and when they decide to call a "killer" a "terrorist." Give it a read. Fascinating stuff.

The New York Daily News Just Made One Helluva Perfect Statement

| Thu Dec. 3, 2015 12:28 AM EST

Today, like on far too many days, there was a mass shooting in the United States. After the news broke, all the politicians and lawmakers who do nothing tangible to actually stop the ongoing public health crisis that is gun violence in America took to Twitter to share their "prayers." Prayers to whom, one could wonder? Well, to God, of course. The New York Daily News has a pitch-perfect response to this:

While politicians pray to God for help, there is surely no small number of their constituents praying to, well, them for help, for some sort of surcease from sorrow. What do those two prayers have in common? That neither God nor Washington have demonstrated any interest whatsoever in answering them.

So in the words of the late great Mary Harris Jones, "Pray for the dead. Fight like hell for the living."

Police Just Released Dashcam Footage of the Laquan McDonald Shooting

| Tue Nov. 24, 2015 7:18 PM EST

On Tuesday, Chicago officials released the dashcam footage from the shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. The video’s release came hours after state prosecutors charged Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke with first-degree murder in McDonald’s shooting last October, reportedly becoming the first cop in the city to face such charges in nearly 35 years.

The video, posted below, is disturbing. (WARNING: Seriously, watch at your own discretion.)

In April, the city of Chicago paid McDonald’s family $5 million, before any lawsuit was formally filed.

The footage and a bond hearing early Tuesday revealed details that differed from the initial police narrative of events. Police previously said they had found McDonald in the street slashing a car’s tires, and that when ordered to drop his knife, he walked away. After a second police car arrived and police tried to block McDonald’s path, police said, McDonald punctured a police car’s tires. When officers got out of the car, police officials alleged McDonald lunged at them with the knife and Van Dyke, who feared for his life, shot him.

Instead, the footage shows McDonald, who was carrying a knife, ambling away from police as Van Dyke and his partner get out of their car. Van Dyke then unloads a barrage of bullets on the teen about six seconds after then. The Chicago Tribune reported that according to prosecutors, Van Dyke fired 16 rounds at McDonald in 14 or 15 seconds and was told to hold his fire when he began to reload his weapon. For about 13 of those seconds, McDonald is on the ground.

At a press conference on Tuesday, Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez described the video as "deeply disturbing" and told reporters that Van Dyke’s actions "were not justified and were not a proper use of deadly force."

A judge had ordered the video’s release by Wednesday, but Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy announced that the city would release the video a day early. "The officer in this case took a young man's life and he's going to have to account for his actions," McCarthy told reporters. Van Dyke could face between 20 years and life in prison if convicted.

"With these charges, we are bringing a full measure of justice that this demands," Alvarez said.  

Van Dyke's attorney Daniel Herbert questioned whether the case amounted to a murder case and believed the shooting was justified. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel asked for calm after the video’s release. "Jason Van Dyke will be judged in the court of law," Emanuel told reporters. "That's exactly how it should be." In a statement through attorneys, McDonald’s family reiterated a call for peace and said they would have preferred for the video not to be released.

"No one understands the anger more than us, but if you choose to speak out, we urge you to be peaceful," the family said. "Don’t resort to violence in Laquan’s name. Let his legacy be better than that."

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