Santa's elves received the email this week as their boss loaded his sleigh. The message was so ominous, no subject line was needed:
"We, the Guardians of Christmas Present (GOCP) have successfully hacked Santa's gift list. We are aware of who's been naughty and nice. We have Santa's itinerary for the 24th and hold in our possession detailed descriptions of gifts he plans to leave at every residence worldwide. By the time you read this, select media outlets will have received a treasure trove of our findings. Further leaks will occur unless this festival of greed that has become Christmas is cancelled, at least for one year."
The elves forwarded the email to Santa, who viewed it on his iPhone and quickly fired up his browser. It was true; TMZ was reporting Santa planned to skip Miley Cyrus' and Justin Bieber's homes. The New York Times revealed Santa would spend extra time in Ferguson, Missouri, distributing gifts equally to black residents and white police officers. Before departing, he would leave a blanket in the town square, hand-knitted by Mrs. Claus and containing the word HEAL. The Reverend Al Sharpton said the blanket was "a good start."
Meanwhile, gathered around the flat screen in the workshop, the elves stared silently as CNN's Anderson Cooper read the contents of President Obama's letter to the jolly man in red:
"Please deliver one muzzle for Sean Hannity, a second for Sarah Palin, some objectivity for Bill O'Reilly and a new pen for signing executive orders. Also, the girls need some clothes, preferably conservative, so they don't look like they are seeking 'a seat at the bar,' as that former Republican staffer inferred earlier this month. Santa, I have been extra good this year; just ask any of the 40 percent who approve of my job performance."
Santa had seen and read enough. His lawyers sprang into action. In a hastily drafted letter to media outlets, Santa's head legal counsel wrote, "These perpetrators are using the contents of private St. Nicholas, Inc. correspondence for the stated purpose of cancelling Christmas. This amounts to blackmail and Santa does not consent to your review, dissemination, uploading or downloading of this information."
And finally, "Please destroy this information at once or, when the smoke clears, you will be placed on Santa's PERMANENT naughty list, joining recent additions Vladimir Putin, Ted Cruz and Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler."
Santa huddled with his legal team, the elves and Mrs. Claus wondering whether to bow to the group's demands. Cancel Christmas? Sure, the holiday had descended into a blur of Labor Day Christmas sales, Black Friday slugfests and frenzied cybershopping. But foregoing his yearly journey would mean disappointing millions of children, even those who neglected to visit Santa in person this year and simply emailed their wish lists. Sadly, all those lists were now in the hands of the GOCP.
"We don't know what these hackers are capable of," Mrs. Claus said. "Do they have weapons? Could they shoot you out of the sky?"
Santa scoffed at the notion, reminding his wife that he had flown for years over Pakistan and Afghanistan without incident. Even the Taliban made an exception for Kris Kringle.
"What else is out there?" a lawyer asked, referring to the hacked materials.
Santa suddenly remembered he may have shared a few off-color reindeer jokes via email with some of the elves. Sure, the one that began, "Bill Cosby and Rudolph walk into a bar..." was hilarious but what if Blitzen, the sleigh's captain, read it?
In the end, Santa elected to move ahead with his annual journey but sent a contrite letter to the GOCP, vowing to work with retail outlets -- and Amazon -- asking all to tone down the holiday's commercialization, beginning in 2015. Christmas, he reminded them, is so much more than gift cards, round-the-clock store hours and materialistic possessions. The hackers made their point.
Finally, Santa inserted some coin's into the North Pole's one remaining payphone, the only communication device he was certain was immune from electronic eavesdropping, and dialed his IT manager.
"We need to upgrade our security filters," he said.
(c) 2014 GREG SCHWEM. DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC