Fox News Freak Out: Sesame Street Introduces Afghan Girl Muppet

This week the venerable PBS children’s program, Sesame Street, made a historic addition to its cast of lovable characters. For the first time in its decades long run an Afghan girl will join the Muppets for its broadcast in the Afghanistan version of the show. Zari is six years old and is excited about the opportunities she will have to learn and make new friends. But not everyone feels the same way.

Fox News Sesame Street

The news of Zari’s debut has produced the all too predictable rash of bigotry that we’ve all come to expect from the conservative hate mongers who believe that all Muslims are terrorists. Apparently this also applies to cloth puppets of children on educational TV. What they are afraid of was announced by the producers in this press release and video:

“Sesame Workshop unveiled today its first Afghan Muppet, Zari, a curious and eager six year-old girl, who will make her debut in season five of Baghch-e-Simsim—the local co-production of Sesame Street. Zari, whose name means “shimmering,” will be featured in new, locally produced segments that focus on curriculum topics like girls’ empowerment, national identity, physical health, and social and emotional well being.”

Sounds terrifying, doesn’t it? What’s more, Sherrie Westin, Executive VP of Sesame Workshop, told reporters that Zari “is modeling for young girls that it is wonderful to go to school and that it’s OK to dream about having a career.” In a country where girls are often discouraged, or even forbidden, to attend school, this should be welcomed as progress toward a more inclusive society. It’s an example of American media having a positive influence on some of the more oppressive cultural aspects of other countries.

Unfortunately, the hatred that infects the right-wing in this country is at least as oppressive as the Taliban. A few of the headlines generated by conservative media include knee-jerk condemnations like “Sesame Street Uses New Muslim Muppet, Zari, To Indoctrinate Kids,” “Sesame Street Goes Halal, Incorporates Sharia Law & Islam Into New Episodes,” and “Sesame Street Afghanistan Gets New Female Muslim Puppet: ‘Asalaam Alaaikum'” Of course, much what they allege is simply untrue. Zari is identified as Afghan, not Muslim. And there is no indication that religion or Sharia Law will play any part in the character’s role on the program.

Some of the more heated criticisms of Zari are centered on what the wingnuts regard as hypocrisy for having a girl represented on the program despite the sexism that exists in that part of the world. This is an utterly absurd argument. First of all, if they were really worried about the place of women in Afghan society they should be thrilled that a TV show is working to improve the situation by advocating for more education and opportunity for girls and women. Secondly, it’s the wingnuts who are the hypocrites. They are as dismissive of women as many of the Muslims they castigate. Take a look at the type and tone of complaints they level at American women in politics, including Hillary Clinton. For the record, a ranking of the proportion of legislative seats held by women in 213 countries puts Afghanistan at 49. The United States is 94th – below Kenya (93), Saudi Arabia (92), and Pakistan (83), to name a few.

Nevertheless, the rightist bigots are flying off the rails with vile insults directed at a make-believe character in the form of an adorable puppet. They make insinuations about her being fitted with a suicide vest or preparing to engage in a jihad. This sort of xenophobic zealotry was particularly notable at the home of brain-dead bias, Fox Nation. As usual, the commenters there spoke for the community of American bigots with their customary flare for blind hatred (see The Collected Hate Speech Of The Fox News Community).

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

Fox Nation Sesame Street Comments

Debate Wrap-Up: Obama Limps, Romney Lies

The first debate of the 2012 election is history and the way the press covers it will tell us a lot about whether they are more interested in style or substance.

In a couple of snap polls last night, Romney came out on top with a big 2-to-1 advantage. It’s important to note however, that these polls only surveyed people watching the debate, not the electorate at large. Most Americans were not watching the debate and will develop their opinions from the media coverage. In 2008 about 52 million people watched the Obama/McCain debate, but more than 133 million people voted that year. Even so, in CNN’s poll a plurality (47%) of those surveyed said that the debate would not change how they planned to vote. Of the remaining respondents 35% were swayed to Romney and 18% to Obama.

What is most significant is the difference between the candidates in terms of substance. While Obama missed several opportunities to raise pivotal issues like unions, women’s rights, Bain Capital, tax returns, or immigration, he was cogent and factual. Romney, on the other hand, avoided any specifics (as he has done throughout the campaign) and left a trail of lies. For instance: his insistence that his tax plan would not result in a $5 trillion dollar deficit; his claim that his health plan would not raise costs for seniors or affect anyone over 55 years old; his denial that his Medicare plan was a voucher program; his assertion that he would not reduce the taxes on the rich; and many more.

HIGHLIGHTS

Most Hypocritical Moment:
Is this the same media that is “in the tank” for Obama?

Fox Nation Consensus

Most Delusional Moment: Mitt Romney asserting that he was a bipartisan governor in Massachusetts. That is not how Democrats recall it. He was considered to be aloof and dismissive. He couldn’t remember the names of legislators much of the time. And he reserved one of the elevators in the state house for his exclusive use. I guess he didn’t even want to ride up to his office with those peons.

Big BirdSaddest Moment: When Romney reiterated his determination to kill Big Bird by defunding public television. This is something he has said repeatedly, despite the fact that it would only reduce the deficit by a tiny fraction. I analyzed this last May in a column where I wrote that…

“Despite his denials, killing off Big Bird is precisely what his plan would accomplish. There is a reason that commercial TV does not produce the sort of programming seen on PBS. For-profit networks have to cater to advertisers in order to stay in business. By necessity they are more concerned with generating profit than with quality programming.”

That was followed with a glimpse of the programming on cable networks that were supposed to compete with PBS. It is “a jumble of insipid reality programs that repeat ad nauseum.” Truly embarrassing fare like Top Chef, Toddlers & Tiaras, and Real Housewives. Not exactly educational TV.

Obama’s Best Moment:
“I think the American people have to ask themselves is the reason that Governor Romney is keeping all these plans to replace secret because they’re too good?”

Obama Debate Question

What occurs in the press for next few days will have a bigger impact on the election than the actual debate. Since most voters did not watch the debate, their impressions of the encounter will come from the media analysis. Will the media focus on style, where Obama seemed to be less aggressive and engaged? Or will they focus on substance, where Romney loaded his performance with falsehoods and contradictions? Time will tell.

Mitt Romney Still Trying To Kill Big Bird And PBS

Big BirdIn Mitt Romney’s recent interview with Time’s Mark Halperin, he reprised his attack on one of his favorite targets: PBS. Romney listed public television as one of the first cuts that would come during a Romney administration. In his remarks he even managed to insinuate a commie angle to continued support for the network of Sesame Street.

“I like PBS. I’d like my grandkids to be able to watch PBS. But I’m not willing to borrow money from China, and make my kids have to pay the interest on that, and my grandkids, over generations, as opposed to saying to PBS, look, you’re going to have to raise more money from charitable contributions or from advertising.”

What Romney didn’t say is how that cut would impact the federal deficit. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting is the agency that receives congressional funding for a variety of projects of which PBS is just a part. The entire allocation to the CPB represents about 0.00014 percent of the federal budget. That’s not going to make much a dent in the deficit. But it will have a severe impact on public broadcasting.

This is not the first time that Romney has taken swipes at PBS. Last year he said that he would stop all subsidies to PBS. Here is how I responded at the time:

When Romney says that he wants to “stop certain programs…even some you like,” he is referring to programs that are of significant value to average Americans, but that he can live without because his quarter of a billion dollar net worth enables him to acquire whatever he wants. Romney demonstrates how pitifully out of touch he is by proposing to eliminate funding for PBS, a network that provides educational programming that is not available anywhere else, certainly not in commercial television. He is explicit in what he plans to do:

“We subsidize PBS. Look, I’m gonna stop that. I’m gonna say that PBS is gonna have to have advertisements. We’re not gonna kill Big Bird, but Big Bird’s gonna have advertisements.”

Despite his denials, killing off Big Bird is precisely what his plan would accomplish. There is a reason that commercial TV does not produce the sort of programming seen on PBS. For-profit networks have to cater to advertisers in order to stay in business. By necessity they are more concerned with generating profit than with quality programming. Take a look at tonight’s primetime schedules of the cable nets that were supposed to compete with public television:

  • Bravo: 8:00pm Top Chef: Texas; 9:00pm Top Chef: Texas; 10:00pm Top Chef: Texas
  • Discovery: 8:00pm Sons of Guns; 9:00pm Sons of Guns; 10:00pm Moonshiners
  • Learning Channel: 8:00pm Toddlers & Tiaras; 9:00pm Cheapskates; 10:00pm Toddlers & Tiaras

That’s not exactly entertainment designed to enrich America’s children. It’s a jumble of insipid reality programs that repeat ad nauseum. It’s Real Housewives, Swamp Loggers, Hoarders, and info-mercials. If Big Bird were required to rely on advertisers for funding it would not be long before Sesame Street was just another avenue on the Jersey Shore.

That’s the free market model for public broadcasting that Romney and the right advocate. It’s a model that would replace Bert and Ernie with Kim and Chloe. Is that really the example we want to set for our kids?

And is that really the kind of leadership we want for America?

Mitt Romney Takes Pot Shots At Big Bird And PBS

Big BirdOne of the right’s perennial targets has been public television and programs that benefit the arts. They have relentlessly criticized these institutions and sought to deny them federal funding. They have even accused them of being socialist vehicles intent on indoctrinating America’s young. Now Mitt Romney joins the battle with a pledge to stop funding PBS and the National Endowment for the Arts (video below).

When Romney says that he wants to “stop certain programs…even some you like,” he is referring to programs that are of significant value to average Americans, but that he can live without because his quarter of a billion dollar net worth enables him to acquire whatever he wants. Romney demonstrates how pitifully out of touch he is by proposing to eliminate funding for PBS, a network that provides educational programming that is not available anywhere else, certainly not in commercial television. He is explicit in what he plans to do:

“We subsidize PBS. Look, I’m gonna stop that. I’m gonna say that PBS is gonna have to have advertisements. We’re not gonna kill Big Bird, but Big Bird’s gonna have advertisements.”

Despite his denials, killing off Big Bird is precisely what his plan would accomplish. There is a reason that commercial TV does not produce the sort of programming seen on PBS. For-profit networks have to cater to advertisers in order to stay in business. By necessity they are more concerned with generating profit than with quality programming. Take a look at tonight’s primetime schedules of the cable nets that were supposed to compete with public television:

  • Bravo: 8:00pm Top Chef: Texas; 9:00pm Top Chef: Texas; 10:00pm Top Chef: Texas
  • Discovery: 8:00pm Sons of Guns; 9:00pm Sons of Guns; 10:00pm Moonshiners
  • Learning Channel: 8:00pm Toddlers & Tiaras; 9:00pm Cheapskates; 10:00pm Toddlers & Tiaras

That’s not exactly entertainment designed to enrich America’s children. It’s a jumble of insipid reality programs that repeat ad nauseum. It’s Real Housewives, Swamp Loggers, Hoarders, and info-mercials. If Big Bird were required to rely on advertisers for funding it would not be long before Sesame Street was just another avenue on the Jersey Shore.

That’s the free market model for public broadcasting that Romney and the right advocate. It’s a model that would replace Bert and Ernie with Kim and Chloe. Is that really the example we want to set for our kids?