Barbarians at the Gates

By Matthew Hennessey

My kids like to watch the big purple dinosaur—you know his name—on PBS in the morning as I get dressed for work. I don’t worry too much about the harm from a little morning television. Whatever negative effect it has on their grades, I rationalize, is balanced by my ability to get out the door with my socks matched.

Usually I tune out the awful, leaden dialogue and cloying musical numbers that are the trademarks of the pear-shaped T-Rex. One day this week, however, I listened in. I’m glad I did.

Just because I’m a dinosaur doesn’t mean that I’m mean.

Call me crazy, but here’s how I see it: If you are a dinosaur and I am a human, then by definition, you are mean. Alligators, sharks, tigers, viruses. All of these fall into the same category: Mean. These are not our friends. The only time they are nice to us is when we train them to be by smacking them around.

Listen, I understand what PBS is going for, and in some ways I think it’s fine. Elizabeth, Inez, Tanisha, and Little Feather are all equally great. No one is better than anyone else by virtue of their race, sex, creed, or station. No problem. But don’t expect that I won’t notice the suggestion that dinosaurs are also great.

I know I’m opening myself up to an easy line of criticism. “There’s so much wrong with this world, and you’re worried about a giant stuffed animal?”

Media progressives have been hiding behind Ernie and Bert for the last thirty-five years. PBS programs are full of things that only an ogre could object to, like recycling and cooperation and nice dinosaurs. This is a neat trick, because it makes honest people think twice about pointing out dangerous claptrap when they hear it.

If the purple dinosaur and his ilk were mostly doing what they’re supposed to be doing—teaching the ABCs and whatnot—I might be able to live with the dopey sing-songs. I could even probably swallow the I’m Okay, You’re Okay stuff if I felt that the children’s cognitive development was truly the priority. But progressive “social lessons” almost always seem to be the real priority on these programs.

Do you remember Sesame Street pre-Elmo? It was gritty. The characters occasionally got annoyed with one another. In those ignorant and unenlightened days, PBS apparently thought that a child’s ability to read, write, and count his numbers could survive exposure to normal human emotion. In its liberal wisdom, however, our state television network now feels that nothing is more important—not reading, not writing, not arithmetic—than the lesson that even a cold-blooded reptile can be your friend.

The revolution was a failure, you see. Sixties radicals realized that a direct, frontal assault on traditional American values would never succeed (not for lack of trying, mind you). So instead they tried the backdoor. Lo and behold, it was open. They waltzed right in, taking control of the media, academia, and the permanent bureaucracy. Nobody even realized they were inside until about 1989.

Now, with the damage mostly done, we find ourselves struggling to digest the kind of blitherings heard in Rome shortly before the fall.

Just because I’m a barbarian doesn’t mean I’m uncivilized.



  1. mary ann says:

    This overheard between my two children watching a dvd of history channel’s Barbarians series…
    younger child: “Those barbarians were bad”
    older child: “Only because the Romans said so”
    a little later on….
    younger child: “But which ones were we?”
    older child: “Well, the barbarians were us”.

  2. Kid: Daddy, are there are dinosaurs in heaven?
    Dad: No son.
    Kid: Why not?
    Dad: I don’t know, son …
    Dad’s thought .. Because God hates Barney too.

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