Big Bird was never the story, asserts Dana Milbank in his column today. Everyone focused on Mitt Romney’s determination to cut PBS funding in last week’s debate. While Big Bird has flashy plumage and a dangerous lifestyle (how is someone who must hold hands with an adult to cross the street living on his own?), and millions around the world reflexively love him for being so much more capable than Elmo, all this focus on him is distracting us from what Milbank calls the invisible Snuffleupagus in the room. He is talking about an issue too long ignored this election season, which will finally get the attention it deserves if we tear our eyes from the giant birdman and his various gay and/or suspiciously bilingual/naked friends:

Milbank claims that Snuffleupagus’s first name is Aloysius.

Never in her years of fondly recalling vague memories of “Sesame Street” has PostScript ever heard or seen anyone DARE to make such a smear on Snuffy. She had arguments with folks that Snuffleupagus was, in fact, imaginary, back before the Internet knew everything and people were allowed to just flatly not believe you even though you were RIGHT. She has a roommate who went to MUPPET CAMP. For a period of time, PostScript’s ringtone was Statler and Waldorf booing.

The point is, this news has utterly betrayed her. So she is taking Milbank’s advice to ignore Big Bird and face this issue head-on.


It’s as if Hello Kitty’s name were Beauregard. Or Jughead’s name were Forsythe. He has a stuffy old man’s Depression-era name. The literal middle name of PostScript’s great-grandpa. He was just PRETENDING to be one of us, but really on the side of Maria and the old people. The ones who could cross the street. He was probably a spy! The one who told Mom it was you who wrote the nursery rhyme on the furnace in permanent ink.

Unfortunately, PostScript was unable to find solace in the comments today, because people were NOT willing to ignore Big Bird and move on to the important Snuffleupagus revelation that might have led to the death of an American Ambassador. People wanted to discuss Big Bird, though not his first name.

bls2011 argues that free educational programming available to kids makes a big difference to the country:

Sesame Street has been an incredibly effective and inexpensive way to teach virtually all pre-schoolers basics like colors, numbers, letters and other important pre-school skills. This is critical to our nation’s future and the ROI [return on investment] is enormous.

wolfeja agrees but broadens PBS’s contribution to everyone’s education:

PBS is much more than Sesame Street. It produces Masterpiece Theater and NOVA. Fox News and MSNBC are commercially viable because they provide controversy and entertainment, not because of the depth and veracity of their content. PBS news is boring by contrast, but is much more likely to be informative. Other PBS shows inform us about history, biology, sociology, biographies, ecology and many other topics unencumbered by obligations to advertisers.

The government only provides a fraction of the PBS budget, and I’d be hesitant to increase that fraction for fear of reducing PBS to a vehicle for government propaganda. But that fraction is significant and its loss would affect programming.

FreeTheMarket says nah:

The reasons for Federal support of PBS disappeared decades ago. PBS is an excellent example of reasonable cuts to programs that we should not be funding at the Federal level anymore.

Satxusa says, well, let Big Bird pay for Big Bird:

PBS makes untold millions off of their Sesame Street characters. Why, one might even call Big Bird part of the 1% that is so demonized by the left.

PBS should stand on its own as it no longer needs or deserves borrowed money from China. How about cutting some of the salaries of the barons at PBS that have giant salaries?

That alderpond puts the kibosh on. “Sesame Street” is contracted to PBS:

Sax, Sesame Street is NOT PBS. PBS pays to run this show, just like the rest of the shows on PBS.

And tea412 argues that it sure is difficult to focus on this metaphorical Snuffleupagus, since he’s imaginary:

And just how do you draw attention to Romney’s “real cuts”? Make assumptions about what they are and then complain about them seems to be the order of the day.

And that, in the end, was Milbank’s point.

Snuffy wasn’t imaginary, exactly: He existed but other characters couldn’t see him. They had only what Big Bird was willing to tell about him, so it was easy to extrapolate wildly what he really was, which led to unnerving possibilities. As the producers of Sesame Street eventually realized, the only way to fix it was to let everyone see him. So they did. And that, kids, is why it’s not okay to keep big secrets from people you trust.

And don’t trust Jughead. His name really is Forsythe.