Friday, May 25 , 2018, 9:04 pm | Fair 60º

 
 
 
 

David Harsanyi: Next on Cowardly Central

Network censoring of South Park because of threats from Islamic extremists sends the wrong message

Needless to say, Voltaire is not in charge of Viacom. So if you’re interested in working as a part-time censor for Comedy Central, all you need is a violent temperament, a demented ideology and a poorly constructed Web site.

David Harsanyi
David Harsanyi

The popular animated show South Park — gloriously vulgar, sharply satirical and, one suspects, offensive to vast swaths of the viewing public — is, if nothing else, impressive in its evenhandedness.

Yet in this week’s episode, a depiction of the Prophet Muhammad in a bear costume (don’t ask) was blocked with the word “censored” so the channel could avoid hurting the feelings of a few virtual New York City jihadists.

This homegrown radical group, called Revolution Muslim (no thanks), warned the show’s architects, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, that they would “probably wind up like Theo Van Gogh” because of the depiction in the episode.

Van Gogh, for those unaware, was a Dutch filmmaker who documented (along with feminist Ayaan Hirsi Ali) the abuse of women in the Islamic world. Consequently, Ali now lives in hiding and Van Gogh was last seen dead in the middle of an Amsterdam street — a thoughtful dissertation on Islamic tolerance affixed to his chest with a knife. (If only the Dutch were less warlike, obviously, this never would have happened.)

Comedy Central initially banned South Park from showing any depictions of Muhammad in 2006, as Muslims consider a physical representation of the prophet blasphemous. There is an appropriate response to this: Watch something else.

Instead, the cable channel released a statement: “In light of recent world events, we feel we made the right decision.” The “recent world events” was a reference to the plight of 12 editorial cartoonists who were trying to steer clear of Van Gogh’s fate after they had drawn cartoons that offended Muslims.

So, are weak-willed executives really worried about assassination attempts here in the United States? What else could it be? Sensitivity?

South Park is the program that featured an image of Jesus Christ defecating on President George W. Bush and the U.S. flag. It’s the program that featured the Virgin Mary gushing blood while undergoing menstruation and Pope Benedict XVI inspecting her in a truly distasteful manner.

“That’s where we kind of agree with some of the people who’ve criticized our show,” Stone once admitted to ABC News, “because it really is open season on Jesus. We can do whatever we want to Jesus, and we have. We’ve had him say bad words. We’ve had him shoot a gun. We’ve had him kill people. We can do whatever we want. But Muhammad, we couldn’t just show a simple image.”

For those who bellyache about the impending Christian theocracy, it might behoove them to be a little more irritated at the thought of a television network censoring any depictions of a religious figure over some implicit threats.

There is nothing inherently wrong with self-censorship per se. If slighted groups have the ability to mobilize crowds of people and generate enough negative press and economic pressure to induce a show to rethink its content, hey, that’s the way it works.

We’re only talking about an animated show. But if those who bankroll satirists can be intimidated so easily, shouldn’t we all be troubled about the lesson that sends religious fanatics elsewhere? And what does it say about us?

South Park might be offensive, but I assure you there would be few things more unpleasant than watching a cable lineup dictated by the members of Revolution Muslim.

David Harsanyi is a columnist at The Denver Post and the author of Nanny State. Click here for more information, or click here to contact him.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Supporter

Enter your email
Select your membership level
×

Payment Information

You are purchasing:

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >