I won’t get into a detailed background of this dispute. Most of you are probably aware of it, and if you are not, you can read about it here. In short, South Park wanted to show an image of Mohammed, a muslim group threatened the creators of South Park, saying they would end up like Theo Van Gogh, and Comedy Central not only blocked the image of Mohammed, the network bleeped out his name, and bleeped out the entirety of both Stan and Kyle’s “I learned something” speeches at the end of the episode.
This just pisses me off. Matt and Trey are some funny guys, and they have created one of my all time favorite TV shows in South Park. It is not for everybody as South Park is an equal opportunity offender. The show takes on anyone and everyone. Anyone who is easily offended, and you know who you are, is going to get offended early and often by South Park. Here’s a tip: Don’t watch the fucking show!
Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. From the fatwa issued calling for the execution of Salman Rushdie to the Danish Cartoons, some parts of the muslim world have become increasingly aggressive in demanding that their religion, traditions, customs, and historical figures be above any criticism, and are calling for the deaths of any who they perceive as transgressors. (Standard Disclaimer: Yes, yes, yes, it is not all muslims who are involved in this activity. Can we move along now?) Such death sentences are carried out often enough (see Theo Van Gogh, Hitoshi Igarashi, et al.) that the threats are real. Did Comedy Central have reason for concern? Of course. Should they have caved? Absolutely not.
The West did away with blasphemy laws centuries ago. We are free to worship as we please. We are free to not worship if we so choose. We are free to criticise and/or openly mock the deities and prophets of any religion. We are free to say that Buddha was a big fat bastard, that Jesus was a charlatan, that Moses was a nutcase who conversed with smoldering shrubbery, and that Mohammed was a pedophile. I am willing to debate any of these propositions with any person, with one simple precondition: Death threats must be removed from the discussion.
Unfortunately, that simple preconditon is not honored by a portion of the muslim world. We know that at any given time, some portion of the muslim world is going to be pissed off at the West for some transgression, whether such transgression is real or perceived. The problem is how the West is choosing to deal with the ‘Perpetually Aggrieved.’ Far too often the West caves without so much as a threat being issued, now that the murderous precedent has been set by muslim extremists.
For example, when Brian Eno and David Byrne released “My Life in the Bush of Ghosts” in 1981, it included a track called Qu’ran featuring Algerian muslims chanting verses from the Koran over the backing track. When the album was remastered and re-released in 2006, that track was no longer on the album. To the best of my knowledge, no explanation was given for its disappearance. It simply vanished down the memory hole. While I would love to think that Eno and Byrne felt that the track disrupted the flow of the album and deleted it solely for artistic reasons, I am willing to bet that was not the case. The more likely explanation is that they deleted the track to avoid the inevitable shitstorm that would have descended upon them from the legions of the Perpetually Aggrieved. You can download and listen to the track here. Not offensive in the least, is it?
Some are starting to push back. Jon Stewart, also on Comedy Central, used his opening monologue on a recent show to fight back, though he skirted the issue of the network’s self-censorship. The Simpsons used Bart’s chalkboard gag to show support to South Park, although it was not exactly a full throated defense. May 20 has been declared “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day!” It would be great if Andres Serrano and Chris Ofili showed the same “courage” in this instance that they showed when Christianity was their target.
I will do my part. I will continue to eat pork products and drink alcohol. I will think lustful thoughts about women, yet still believe that they are my equals. I will post a picture of Mohammed on May 20. Hey, I may get lucky and this will garner me a fatwa. To be honest, Tilting Suds could use the traffic.
Sorry for the lengthy ramble. More beer reviews coming up shortly.
You want ‘funny’ from Comedy Central? This is funny: “In general, comedy in purist form always makes some people uncomfortable,” said Comedy Central’s head of original programming Kent Alterman.
Except when it comes to muslims. They, and they alone, can never be made to feel uncomfortable.
Christians will condemn this show. Bill Donahue and Pat Robertson will be trotted out and they will play their part, uttering their well rehearsed tropes about bigotry and blasphemy. Picket lines will be manned, and boycotts will be organized. But, and this is a significant ‘but’, no one will be murdered over this show. That will not prevent some of the lesser lights in the entertainment industry from calling this ‘censorship’. I wonder how many of them rose up to defend South Park when it was under attack.