Monday, May 03, 2010

South Park Was Right

If you have never been insulted by an episode of South Park, you either haven't watched the show, or you don't have a pulse. Whether you like the Comedy Central show by Matt Stone and Trey Parker or not you have to give them this: they insult and criticize everyone. In the eyes of Comedy Central, the 200th episode of South Park went too far: it included a depiction of Mohammed.

If you are a fan and missed the 200th episode, you're probably wondering what terrible thing Cartman did to the founder of Islam. Perhaps the show had Mohammed kill Kenney in some unique, but too-hot-for-TV, manner. If you saw the movie, you might be wondering if there was some sort of love triangle between Saddam Hussein, Mohammed, and the Devil. In each of these cases you would be wrong.

The prophet Mohammed appeared in the episode twice. The first time, he was heard (but not seen) from the back of a U-haul truck. In his second "appearance" he was inside a bear costume. For these offenses, Comedy Central did something it has rarely ever done: it censored an episode of South Park. Nina Shea, writing at National Review Online reports:

For the follow-up 201st episode, Comedy Central ramped up the self-censorship, replacing with audio bleeps not only every mention of the word "Mohammed", but also the entire speeches with which {creators} Parker and Stone had intended to conclude the story – speeches that, ironically, were about standing up to intimidation. In the words of the Hollywood Reporter, this rendered the entire episode "practically incomprehensible".

Perhaps the powers that be at Comedy Central should have spent more time watching South Park and less time censoring it. Additionally, the episode prompted some followers of Mohammed to do something they do frequently: threatened to kill those who would criticize the "religion of peace". Zachary Adam Chesser, a.k.a. Abu Talhah Al-Amrikee, posted a comment on a "fringe" Muslim website threatening the life of both Matt Stone and Trey Parker. Mr. Amrikee stated that both Stone and Parker were likely to end up like Theo van Gough. Mr. van Gough was killed by a Muslim for making a short film criticizing Islam and its views towards women. Additionally, Mr. Amrikee posted the home addresses of both South Park creators.

Writing about the incident at the Wall Street Journal, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, warns that this threat should be taken seriously. She was the co-creator of the short film that Theo van Gough was killed over, and has been in protection since his death. She also encouraged Hollywood to engage in a "solidarity campaign" aimed at showing support for Stone and Parker, and showing that Islam and Mohammed can be criticized without fear of violent reprisals.

While a number of people have stepped up to defend South Park, the fact that the network the show airs on failed to defend the show speaks volumes. Hollywood has not been known to fight against Muslim intimidation, I wouldn't expect them to start. We are told endlessly that there are "moderate" muslims in the world who don't condone killing in the name of Islam. If this is true, it's time for them to step up to the plate. Western culture allows us to criticize anyone. Muslims may not like what appears on South Park. I promise you there are people who were upset that Jesus was shown watching porn. However, I doubt there are many Christians looking to kill the creators of South Park.


BunGirl said...

Ok, so here's the thing. I like Comedy Central. I'm a big fan of standup comedy and they're the best place (that I know of) to find it. Yes, some of their shows are too offensive for my taste and I have not watched South Park since somewhere around the second season for this reason. But I don't for a minute think they should be censored for this.

How many times has Jesus appeared on South Park? How many times has a South Park episode been censored because they depict Jesus in an unfavorable way? How many death threats have the creators received because of their depiction of Jesus?

What message is Comedy Central sending by censoring that which might offend Muslims and wholly backing that which might offend Christians?

I'm not saying that the episodes featuring Jesus should be censored. South Park is offensive. That's what it is. If anyone (like me) doesn't like it, they shouldn't watch the show. But to make a big deal out of not offending one particular religion when another is mocked on a regular basis is just plain wrong.

Because certain (not all) Muslims have been known to make death threats and to carry those threats out, the culture in general fears them. They get exactly what they want. It takes a show like South Park, which seeks to offend everyone across the board, 200 episodes to even get around to depicting Mohammed. And when they do, it is done with kid gloves. And they are censored because of it.

Seems to me that the clear message here is that the extremists have won. We, as a culture, are afraid of offending them.

Andy D said...

I agree. South Park has criticized everyone. I at least admire them for that. I enjoy the show, but haven't watched it in a while.

I believe extremists have definitely "beaten" Comedy Central. My hope is that others (like John Stewart) will rise to the occasion to defend Free Speech even if they don't agree with the show.