South Park depicts Muhammad — allegedly — in a bear suit. (Turns out it was actually Santa disguised as a bear.) The organization Revolution Muslim threatens South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, suggesting that they will suffer the same fate as Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh, who was murdered in 2004 over his supposed dissing of Muhammad. Parker and Stone respond in this week’s episode with some dialogue referring to the threat. What happened next? Via the Associated Press:
Producers of “South Park” said Thursday that Comedy Central removed a speech about intimidation and fear from their show after a radical Muslim group warned that they could be killed for insulting the Prophet Muhammad.
It came during about 35 seconds of dialogue between the cartoon characters of Kyle, Jesus Christ and Santa Claus that was bleeped out.
“It wasn’t some meta-joke on our part,” producers Trey Parker and Matt Stone said. Comedy Central declined to comment.
What possible purpose is served by censoring a response to a threat that criticizes the use of intimidation and fear? As Jon Stewart noted last night in a blistering takedown of Revolution Muslim, they’re based in New York City, where they enjoy the full protection of whatever they want to say, no matter how repulsive, yet they want to take that same right away from someone else.
Of course, Parker and Stone have no right to free speech specifically via Comedy Central, and as a legal issue, the network is surely well within the purview of the law in cutting whatever it wants to cut from whatever airs under its banner. But did the network do itself any good? Or did it just set itself up for further intimidation from whoever doesn’t like what it’s broadcasting? (As the Christian Defense Coalition is now complaining, “It is bigotry and discrimination at its worst to protect one faith tradition, Islam, and allow others to be mocked and ridiculed.” If Christian groups threaten Comedy Central, will the network give in to their demands, too?)
Did Comedy Central do the right thing in censoring South Park?
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