Bert and Ernie, the gay puppet power-couple most famous for cohabiting on the TV show Sesame Street, came to the nation's capital on Thursday to plead with The House Appropriations Committee not to cut their funding.
Today's New York Times covered the puppet's plea, which preceded the Appropriations Committee's vote to slash federal funding to National Public Radio (NPR) and the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) by fifty percent:
"What has happened under the committee proposal will be disastrous for public broadcasting as we know it," Representative David R. Obey of Wisconsin, the senior Democrat on the committee, said.
Another Democrat, Representative Nita M. Lowey of New York, held up Bert and Ernie puppets from "Sesame Street" as she urged lawmakers to restore the money.
But Representative Ralph Regula, Republican of Ohio, noted that "Sesame Street" receives little taxpayer money and could easily survive with the cuts."
Your puppets get one half of 1 percent of the money," Mr. Regula said. "So you can relax, Nita."
It is not the first time that a puppet has pleaded directly with lawmakers to maintain funding for public broadcasting. When Newt Gingrich's Contract with America threatened to cut their funding in 1993, PBS's allies arranged for Big Bird to speak on the floor of Congress. The non existent yellow creature addressed a full session of the House Of Representatives in November, 1993, and the over-sized puppet's persuasive talents proved to be significant, as funding for the Corporation of Public Broadcasting (CPB) was ultimately maintained.
Bert and Ernie proved less successful yesterday, suggesting that the alliance with the gay puppets may have been a tactical error on the part of the Democrats. The heterosexual Big Bird, or the more macho Cookie Monster or Animal may have been more effective spokespuppets if the intention was to sway the republicans on the House Appropriations Committee.
The power of puppets to persuade American lawmakers (and the American electorate) cannot be denied.
While liberals habitually utilize puppets in their efforts to maintain and increase CPB funding, conservatives also utilize puppets in attempting to demonstrate the dangers of a gay lifestyle to an American public that is highly receptive to the use of visual aids such as puppets and brightly colored cartoon characters.
In the nineties, the gay purple teletubby Tinky-Winky (then a staple of PBS programming) was outed by Jesse Helms (or was it Jerry Falwell?) as a way of suggesting that PBS was instilling gay values in the nation's pre-schoolers.
More recently, the gay lifestyle of the popular children's cartoon
character Spongebob Squarepants was called into question by James
Dobson of the conservative group Focus On The Family. And in a move
that presaged the current CPB cuts, US Education Secretary Margaret
Spellings accused the animated bunny rabbit Buster of spreading sexual
deviancy via the PBS program Postcards from Buster. Even the military
utilizes the persuasive power of public television's puppets. In Iraq,
the music of Barney The Purple Dinosaur was part of the army's arsenal
of psychological and psycho-sexual interrogation techniques. And Al
Qaeda has even recognized the utility of puppets, softening the image
of Osama bin-Laden by teaming the terrorist with Sesame Street's Bert. And of course, let us not forget trail of disease and destruction left behind by the HIV positive muppet.
Many Cartoon Sexuality readers have wondered if this fascination with puppets on both sides of the political aisle might not be representative a non-partisan sexual fetish which is endemic to the political culture of Washington. The Cartoon Sexuality editors have carefully weighed the evidence, and have determined this not to be the case. Any practitioner of puppet or muppet sex would fall into the furvert category on the big diagram of sexual deviancy. While the editors acknowledge the categorical proximity of furverts to other practices such as human furniture and robot sex which are popular among the nation's power elite, "furries" generally don't utilize muppet-styled puppets, preferring furrier varieties of puppets and dolls.
No, the real reason that the nation's power elite utilize puppets in
their efforts to persuade us is because they think that the American
public is so fucking stupid that using puppets will bring their point
home. And the sad thing is that they are probably correct. Otherwise,
why would puppets keep getting rolled out on the burning issues of the
Thanks to Listener Ben Jackson for the Big Bird image.