Reptilian conspiracy? Say it's not so, Barney

March 13, 1995|By MIKE ROYKO

The outburst of Barney hating by computer addicts on the Internet appears to be a far more serious matter than I had originally thought.

It was a mistake to assume that the campaign to destroy Barney the Dinosaur was merely the ravings of a bunch of overage, high-tech bed-wetters who ride their modems into cyberspace to shriek obscenities without mommy or daddy spanking them.

Or that they were clear-cut evidence of why the worst mistake this country ever made was abolishing the draft for military service.

An Internet jockey named Jamie (few are named Joe or Al) monitors the Barney haters closely, and he has passed along what he says is the real reason for their campaign to kill the big, cheerful dinosaur that is loved by millions of little children.

It has to do with the survival of this nation and civilization. Indeed, even life on this planet as we know it.

Barney, they believe, represents a threat that exceeds any of our past wars, famines, plagues or even the possibility of a second or a third O.J. trial.

This is how Jamie, of Cleveland, describes this perceived danger:

"According to many of the Barney haters, the government of the United States is in touch with aliens from outer space who are reptilian in nature.

"These aliens have been able to corrupt certain powerful people in the government who are assisting them in taking over the world.

"Many of them believe that TV shows like Barney that show reptiles in a good light are the government's attempt to brainwash our children out of their innate human repugnance toward anything that is reptilian.

"One of the main proponents of this theory is a man whose father was a major industrialist.

"These people take this business really seriously. Some even attribute a religious significance to it, believing that the biblical references to serpents was God's warning about these things.

"You can check this stuff out yourself on several of the Internet groups that focus on visitors from outer space and conspiracies of all kinds."

Well, if this is true, we have a serious problem here. I, for one, don't want to see our planet taken over by any reptile types. The people who run things are making a bad enough mess as it is.

I saw "Jurassic Park," and it was appalling the way those creatures snack on anyone who wanders near. Even that poor man in the bathroom and people who try to be friendly. There is just no reasoning with their sort, even the leaf eaters. And you never know when they, too, might develop a taste for steak tartar.

Because I stay out of cyberspace, fearing that I might get lost and not come back or turn into a walking pocket protector, I asked a friend who is computer savvy to check out the reptile-invasion fears.

He returned looking red-eyed and weary and said: "Yes, there is such a theory. Actually, if you wander about the Internet long enough, you will come across ideas that would keep a thousand shrinks busy well into the next century.

"And some of them do appear to believe that Barney is part of a secret strategy to make us soft on reptiles. I have no idea if that is true. If you stay on the Internet long enough, you might believe that Barney is really Elvis. But when I get home tonight, I'm going to keep a close watch on my kids' pet turtle."

So we called the company that produces the Barney show: the Lyons Group in Texas.

A vice president for communications said: "A reptilian-alien propaganda tool? Well, I guess we have been found out at last.

"But, no, that's obviously not true. Barney isn't even a reptile.

"We have lived with the issue of what you might call Barney bashing for years. Yes, we're aware of it but we don't take it too seriously, particularly what goes on on the Internet.

"There aren't a lot of 3-year-olds on the Internet. And what matters to us are those children. Our audience is made up of very, very young children. Those are the people we care about. And children love Barney, period.

"A lot of Barney bashing is done by adults who have no contact with young children. For those of us with kids, we have no time to bash anyone. Plus, Barney was never intended to be sophisticated and appeal to adults, like 'Sesame Street.' It's innocent. Barney is innocent because 3-year-olds are innocent.

"What goes on on the Internet at 3 in the morning, we think it's a sad commentary on society.

"Can't those folks find something better to do with their time?"

After talking to him, I felt reassured that we are not going to be invaded by crawly creatures.

On the other hand, we talked on the phone. So how do I know he isn't green and covered with slime?

If it isn't one thing, it's another.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.