Politics & Policy

Breaking With Barney

The ultimate psyops weapon?

Newsweek reports that Saddam loyalists in Iraq who won’t talk are being subjected to a combination of children’s songs and heavy metal. An American operative states, “Trust me it works. In training they forced me to listen to the Barney ‘I Love You’ song for 45 minutes. I never want to go through that again.” Twenty-four straight hours of the Sesame Street theme will also break the boldest Baathist.

In the Guardian, Human Rights Watch’s Dinah PoKempner calls this what it is: “Prolonged sensory deprivation and prolonged sensory over-stimulation can cause intense suffering. You can torture someone with psychological pressure.”

Barney’s complicity in war crimes comes as little surprise to all right-thinking adults with discriminating taste. Those who hedge and insist that they aren’t comfortable with Barney but that he is necessary can only be described as one thing — parents.

Soon enough we could see Barney in the dock at the World Court in the Hague. He can bunk with Slobodan Milosevic. (Put a video camera in the cell and broadcast it on MTV for the ultimate reality sitcom. Slobo likes to stay up all night, building Fisher-Price villages and leveling them with Tonka trucks. But Barney likes to go to bed and wake up early. When Barney responds with cheerful songs about cleaning up and respecting the rights of others — the sap and the sleaze become a toxic mixture. Will Barney eat Slobo or will Slobo run over Barney with an armored personnel carrier. Either way, it’s a win-win for people everywhere.)

If the World Court lacks jurisdiction over giant purple dinosaurs, no doubt the Belgians will step up to the plate. The indictment-happy folks in Brussels (having already made so many children unhappy with their sprouts) won’t shy away from the popular, but vicious purple lizard. Look for the grainy night-vision footage of Belgian special forces luring Barney out into the open with chocolate, and then sedating him with Trappist beer. When Belgium realizes they have no means with which to transport a giant purple dinosaur, and they call the United States to borrow a C-140 Hercules — President Bush should say, Oui!

Big Bird, Elmo, and other denizens of that reactionary hotbed Sesame Street are also indictable. Much more popular, and with a far more secure political base on Sesame Street (where these monsters openly play, dance in the street, visit the fix-it shop, and harass human beings), it will take all of Belgium’s courage and skill to track these rogues down and bring them to justice.

There is also a meticulously organized and alphabetized dossier of evidence against Ernie, brought to authorities by the letter “B” (insiders suspect Bert).

Some will remain beyond justice. Mr. Rogers took his secrets to the grave. But King Friday XIII has continually reneged on his promises to hold elections and has never satisfactorily explained the whereabouts of Donkey Hote and the Purple Panda.

Children’s television is only the tip of the iceberg. American culture is infamous for its international depredations. David Hasselhoff and Baywatch alone have ravaged television across the globe. Of course adjudicating this issue will be complicated; one person’s cultural travesty is another person’s pop icon (consider Jerry Lewis). But there are certain things everyone can agree on. If France, Belgium, and Luxembourg (the Axis of Waffles) wish to rehabilitate their image in the United States, they might consider a commando action to end TV commercials featuring Carrot Top. The world would thank them.

Aaron Mannes is the author of Profiles in Terror: The Reference Guide to the Terrorist Organizations of the Middle East and their Affiliated Groups (forthcoming) and watches Barney every Sunday morning.


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