This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
As if the fear of another terrorist strike wasn't enough, America now has to worry about being attacked by SpongeBob SquarePants.
If you're unfamiliar with "SpongeBob," it's a frenetic cartoon featuring a talking undersea sponge that wears, well, square pants. Here's the thing: It reportedly causes problems with the attention span in 4-year-old children.
Writing in the journal Pediatrics, Dimitri Christakis says a study conducted on 60 randomly selected 4-year-olds revealed just a few minutes of "SpongeBob" had the same effect on the children's brains as three shots of tequila.
Note: The tequila part was a mistake. I meant to say that it had the same cognitive effect on children as professional boxing.
Another note: If you believe the greatest threat to America is a foreign one, you might argue that a non-Anglo Saxon surname such as "Christakis" makes this research deeply suspect. But then you'd be an idiot.
Where was I? Oh, yeah. Divided into three groups, the children were subjected to nine-minute episodes of "SpongeBob," another (and far more boring) PBS cartoon called "Caillou," and, finally, no television at all.
Tested immediately afterward, the group that watched "SpongeBob" performed significantly worse in their ability to stay focused. Conversely, the "Caillou" and nontelevision groups performed equally well.
I've only watched two episodes of "SpongeBob," so I can't confirm that it had any negative effects on my brain. More than likely, I was already this way.
However, a single minute of the enormously tedious Canadian-produced "Caillou" promoted a nearly uncontrollable urge in me to fire a deer rifle into the screen. I don't dare watch it again.
I'm not a doctor or even a qualified researcher, but I am a television victim. Eight million hours of Baby Boomer cartoons left me with an attention span that can only be measured by an atomic clock.
Think "SpongeBob SquarePants" is bad? You should have seen "Crusader Rabbit," a '50s cartoon featuring an armor-plated rabbit that roamed the countryside beating the crap out of bad guys.
Almost as bad was "The Adventures of Hoppity Hooper," a cartoon about a frog that careened about saving stupider animals from half-baked schemes.
Three bowls of Super Sugar Crisp and five minutes of Hoppity Hooper, and you were lucky if your brains weren't running out your ears.
The only bright side was that the damage had already been done by the time "Hong Kong Phooey" came along in the '70s. It would be hard to find a cartoon more detrimental to a developing mind than one about a kung fu janitor dog.
Given all of this mind numbing animation along with DDT, open air nuclear testing and red dye No. 3 it's amazing that any Baby Boomer can still function.
Could have been worse. We could have had C-SPAN.
Robert Kirby can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or facebook.com/notpatbagley.