I don’t know why I didn’t see this coming.
Big Bird tweeted a few days ago, “I got the COVID-19 vaccine today! My wing is feeling a little sore, but it’ll give my body an extra protective boost that keeps me and others healthy. Ms. Hill even said I’ve been getting vaccines since I was a little bird. I had no idea!” Naturally, President Biden, who watches Sesame Street religiously (yes, it’s a cheap shot, but I’m in a bad mood) tweeted back, “Good on ya, @BigBird. Getting vaccinated is the best way to keep your whole neighborhood safe.”
This set off an immediate partisan and ideological debate, with conservative hone-schooling mother, blogger and pundit Bethany Mandel taking a leadership role. She wrote in part,
Just as “Sesame Street” isn’t content with allowing parents the freedom to guide their children’s own moral compass, so too are they uncomfortable with the idea of parents making individual risk assessments for their children’s health and safety. There is a moral absolutism necessary to be part of the left, which is where “Sesame Street’s” writers appear to fall. The messaging on COVID-19 vaccination has become yet another absolutist position. Big Bird’s tweet doesn’t exist just on Twitter. It’s part of a larger campaign from the series to “educate” parents on the vaccine.
Those in charge of messaging and programming children’s media have positioned themselves as arbiters of our children’s moral compass. And that Soviet-style demand for a universal, well-curated set of beliefs from a particular coastal lens should concern all parents — not just those with religious or personal beliefs that make them uncomfortable with a particular episode of “Sesame Street” aired during Pride Month.
Parents should take note: The aim of children’s media is no longer just to provide free, education-minded babysitting while you get ready for work.
Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day is…
Does Big Bird pushing Wuhan Virus vaccinations to children cross the line into breach of parental and public trust?
A few thoughts from your friendly neighborhood ethicist:
- No parent should allow children to watch any TV programming without oversight and supervision until…I don’t know, 12? 15? Never?
- I cannot recall Sesame Street ever wading into politically controversial puddles. That was wise. If the show can’t be trusted now to steer clear of climate change policies, illegal immigration, social justice and the rest, then parents who don’t want their children’s brains washed should opt out, that’s all.
- Half of the show’s budget comes from the government, so any political messages are government propaganda by definition. To hell with that!
But what health messages come in under the line as fair and responsible?