Puppet Showdown


Is there anything sillier than relying on giant puppets as a vehicle for serious public policy commentary? Why, absolutely: trying to ban giant puppets. When attorneys for Miami noted that such a ban "could be construed as infringing on First Amendment rights" (y'think?), legislators proposed an amendment that would recast the ban as a safety restriction: They won't ban giant puppets; they'll just ban the carrying of lumber large enough to support a giant puppet.


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  1. This shows that what we really need is a constitutional amendment banning giant paper-mache puppets.

    Seriously, if there’s every been anything that made me question my committment to free speech, it’s this story. God, would I love to see the police to start siezing the puppets and tearing them apart.

    But I pass the test. I can’t support the puppet ban.

  2. Giant Puppets are not being used “as a vehicle for serious public policy commentary.” They’re being used to get attention, to make street protests look good on camera.

    And they’re remarkably successful.

  3. Joe,

    I’m not too sure the puppets are successul in making street protests “look good.”

  4. You prefer close-ups of guys with backpacks who don’t shave the whiskers on their neck?

  5. Insert strawman comment here.

  6. I think this is a safety issue. A giant puppet might fall and injure someone. I think in this case safety trumps free speech. We need to be reasonable about this.

  7. I hope a giant puppet falls on one of these guys. The headlines could read, “Giant Bush smothers protestors.” Heh.

  8. You people are all puppet nuts. If the city can’t impose reasonable restrictions on the size of puppets, what if someone builds a puppet the size of the Sears Tower?

    And don’t try to argue the slippery slope. No one is coming after your sock puppets – unless you have big feet.

  9. Good grief, compare this to the spectacles our forebearers in the fight for liberty used over 226 years ago:

    What is an effigy of King George III or the colonial administrator of your choice, paraded around, tarred and feathered, humilated, and burned in effigy, but a puppet show of American-founding proportions?

    Hell, at least the modern puppets don’t use hot tar or fire. That should be safe enough for you.

    No one can convince me that these puppets are not
    “speech”, are not part of what the Framers precisely had in mind, and to me are very much at the core of what it means to be an American.

  10. Someone could start crashing giant puppets into large buildings. And it’s not as if innocent, puppet-free citizens have anything to fear. If you don’t support these sensible and patriotic puppet restrictions, you’re on the side of the terrorists.

  11. Err… why is “they’ll come after my sock puppets” more of a slippery slope argument than “they wouldn’t be able to prevent a skyscraper-sized puppet”?

  12. Julian,

    I was doing my best to mock Sarah Brady by way of Really Big Puppet = Nuclear Weapon. I must’ve gotten carried away and lost the point somewhere …

  13. Sorry; I was at a panel forum earlier today, which usually requires me to turn down my irony-circuits in order to make it through.

  14. But isn’t Jeb Bush a puppet?

  15. puppets are a public service! they inform the public that the protestor has no fucking clue!

  16. Well, given that puppets and other such devices have been used for political commentary for, well, a few fucking thousand years, yes I do see them as a serious means of commentary, or potentially so. Julian Sanchez, your comment was about as stupid as the one concerning the lack of a grant of certiorari the other day being a metric for judging the merits of a case.

  17. but if puppets are outlawed won’t outlaws be the only ones…

    nobody expects the spanish inquisition!

    for the children?

    doot doot?

    sorry. time for the afternoon medication…


  18. they’ll just ban the carrying of lumber large enough to support a giant puppet

    Alright, then, I’ll just make the frame for my puppet out of PVC pipe. Its lighter and easier to carry anyway.

    This statute is a gift to the protestors. Their protests consist mostly of attempts to get arrested in front of the cameras anyway, so this plays into their hands.

  19. It’s not that I really have a problem with big puppet per se; I just don’t like the type of people who make these puppets. Perhaps a more reasonable way to approach this is to simply ban people who like puppets from public demostrations.

  20. actually, given the typical behaviours of anti FTAA/WTO protests (this is an FTAA protest) this isn’t all that stupid

    naomi kleinists (or no logoists) tend to like riots and destroying downtowns, for which very large sticks are extremely useful. also, openly carrying weapons is a good way to get hassled by the cops, but not carrying a puppet (it’s free speech!). these people like to fight cops and kill people to argue for “fair” (acutally no) trade

    security is also trying to disallow them as they may be useful for more acutely dangerous terrorists (anti-trade activists are very dangerous and kill more people than osama, they just do it through starvation) to hide bombs in, etc, especially to attack presidents and PMs

  21. Perhaps we should counter the pupet makers by attacking them with a brigade of mimes. The only thing worse than giant puppets are mimes.

  22. The mime idea is a bad one. Sure the mimes will take on the puppet people, but once that kind of evil is unleashed there is no sure way to contain it.

  23. Well, I can see only one outcome.

    To protest being attacked by mimes, the anti-globos will create a giant puppet of a mime.

  24. Anyone mentioned meat puppets, heh heh heh…

  25. Steve in CA,

    I’d like to see protesters take the boards out of their puppets and beat some politician until he had to be identified by his DNA.

  26. “to me are very much at the core of what it means to be an American.” You mean stupid? These are some damn stupid puppets.

    Humorless puppets should be banned.

  27. Lost in the coverage of Miami’s civic panic over the possibility of a repeat of Seattle is that downtown Miami isn’t Seattle. Downtown Miami offers very few opportunities to make a clear anti-global statement. What’s there to smash? Cheap luggage and grey-market electronics stores? Cuban lunch counters? Deep-setback office towers with no ground floor retail space? I guess they can block rush-hour traffic, but I imagine the police will create the traffic jams themselves with their security cordons.

    Anarchist protesters in search of more fertile backdrops for mayhem (Starbucks, Gaps and Cheesecake Factories) will probably be better served in South Beach or Coconut Grove, but I wish them luck finding parking.

  28. “but if puppets are outlawed won’t outlaws be the only ones…”

    You missed one: “Sure, they’re building 50 ft. puppets today, but the humans won’t stop there. They’ll build bigger puppets with bigger planks and soon they will build a puppet with a plank in it so big it will destroy them all! ha ha ha ha…”

  29. I was in Prague in 90(?) and they were using giant puppets as part of anti-communist protests just prior to Havel’s election. The are very effective as attention getters and probably make for interesting footage on the evening news. While I can’t agree with everything the anti-WTO hippies shout about, I’m all for anything that points out what a bunch of jackasses the current administration is.

  30. Next they’ll be coming after Macy’s balloons! Save us, Superman.

  31. This is all very amusing, but in a slightly more serious tone, the safety issue, as relates to the puppets themselves, just doesn’t fly. Stay away from the puppets if you’re worried about them crushing you. It’s your own fault. Then again, maybe they could get a class-action lawsuit against the puppet making corporations of America. It’s about time we took those evil-doers down.

  32. How about banning other forms of puppets? They weird me out. Muppets gotta go, of course, followed by Alf, Topo Gigio and that thing that sings “Ma-na, Ma-na.” Wait, that’s another Muppet…

  33. Both the left and right are not interested in protecting all speech.. they only want to protect THEIR speech and strike down the opposition.

    In this case, the bushies are worried that a big-headed chimp puppet will get on TV and hurt our supreme leader’s feelings. All this “safety” smokescreen is complete bullshit.

  34. How much danger is their from being crushed by paper-mache? It’s like being worried that a stack of empty cardboard boxes will fall on you and kill you.

    The only possible arguement is that the sticks used to hold them up can double as weapons, and the real intent of the puppet-weilders is to beat police with them. I don;t think that’s a tactic that’s been used by this crowd though, so it’s pretty weak.

  35. Madog, you come up with a good point. What good are sticks against riot guns and battle armor, which I’m sure these stormtroopers will be bringing to the party?

    Maybe the hippies should make a giant puppet wielding a slapstick to beat back stormtroopers ala “punch and judy”. This would tie everything into a neat little package.

  36. Perhaps if we built a large wooden badger…

  37. *swat*

    run awayyyyyyy

  38. How about this? If one of the puppets blows up because it holds a bomb, or if one is used as a battering ram to destroy one of Miami’s hated and evil Starbucks (after everyone enjoys a latte, of course), then the police in Miami can hand out one big “I told you so”, and ban the things outright. However, until someone uses one for something other than a symbol, this is really reaching too far in an effort to secure EVERYONE from EVERYTHING. And just plain stupid.

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