- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 7, 2011


Many parents and their children have these two lines from a popular children’s show tattooed in their brain: “Can you tell me how to get, how to get to Sesame Street?” What’s the answer? Veer left, but occasionally shift right. “Sesame Street” has recently been a big trending topic, courtesy of syndicated columnist Ben Shapiro. His new book, “Primetime Propaganda,” has blown the lid off of the Hollywood left’s political agenda with our favorite TV shows. Through a series of surprisingly candid interviews, he’s proven without a shadow of a doubt that many TV writers, producers and executives were more than eager to force their radical views down our throats.

With respect to “Sesame Street,” Mr. Shapiro interviewed one of the show’s founding executives, Mike Dann. He told Mr. Shapiro that this program “was not made for the sophisticated or the middle class.” For example, Grover had a skit with a hippie in an early episode, and Oscar the Grouch’s trash can was supposed to explain “conflicts arising from racial and ethnic diversity.” Mr. Shapiro also wrote, ‘Sesame Street’ tried to tackle divorce, tackled ‘peaceful conflict resolution’ in the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, and had Neil Patrick Harris on the show playing the subtly-named ‘fairy shoeperson.’ “

Although Mr. Shapiro’s analysis of “Sesame Street” only consists of one page in his 416-page tome, his description of the show’s apparent brainwashing techniques has been an eye-opening experience. The liberal media was shocked - shocked - when they caught wind of Mr. Dann’s comments. Popular characters like Ernie, Bert, Big Bird, Kermit the Frog and Cookie Monster are radical subversives? Say it ain’t so.

My response? Duh. Could these individuals really have been that blind to reality? “Primetime Propaganda” only confirms what many of us have known all along about “Sesame Street”: The show has a not-so-hidden left-wing bias. Case closed.

Well, almost. With all due respect, while I agree with Mr. Shapiro, he missed a vital part of this story.

You see, like many conservatives and libertarians, I grew up with “Sesame Street” - and still fiercely defend it. My childhood coincided with the show’s “old school” period (1969-1978). This was its Golden Age, when the Street was still experimenting with character development, catchy songs and teaching techniques. Sure, it was run by liberals and the agenda was clearly liberal. But every so often, a tiny glimmer of right-leaning thinking showed up that made the whole experience worthwhile.

How so? In Cookie Monster’s words, “Me tell you all about it.”

It’s occasionally possible to make a conservative case for liberal “Sesame Street.” Sure, the free-market economy is invisible to the people in the neighborhood, and there’s far too much caring and sharing going around. But dig a bit deeper and you’d be surprised what you can find. For example, the show has always been patriotic, especially during the Fourth of July. There’s a lighter - but understood - respect for religion and celebrations of holidays like Hanukkah and Christmas. Freedom of choice, from Oscar’s collection of trash to Ernie’s refusal to part with his rubber duckie to play his saxophone, shows up every so often. And a few conservatives, including former President George W. Bush and his wife Laura, have either appeared with “Sesame Street” characters or on the program.

Then, there’s my favorite childhood Muppet, Roosevelt Franklin. He was an intelligent, streetwise character who loved to learn, teach and scat. He taught children the importance of individuality, family and leadership. By having Roosevelt’s strong sense of self, you could accomplish great things and succeed in life. That’s what those of us on the right have always supported and believed in.

So where is this Muppetized bastion of common sense these days? Somewhere in a deep, dark corner of the “Sesame Street” workshop. Although extremely popular in the 1970s, some people viewed Roosevelt as a stereotypical, jive-talking black character. As his popularity increased, so too did those pesky nattering nabobs of negativism. Mob rule ultimately won out and Roosevelt’s meteoric rise ground to a sudden halt. By 1975, he wasn’t a regular character and his infrequent appearances stopped in 1996, although he did make a brief cameo last year.

It’s ironic when you think about it. Roosevelt was created by liberals, yet liberals contributed to his demise. A true victim of Muppet-style political correctness.

This column has been brought to you by the letter C (for conservatism) and the number 1969 (for the year it all started).

Michael Taube is a columnist and former speechwriter for Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

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