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Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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Muslim threats to 'South Park': Did Comedy Central cave in to knucklehead extremists?

South_park By now you've probably heard all about how Comedy Central bleeped out all references to the prophet Muhammad in a recent "South Park" episode that featured the holy figure dressed in a bear costume.

It was typical Trey Parker and Matt Stone bratty humor, but Comedy Central got spooked after a lunatic fringe Muslim group,, issued a threat against Parker and Stone, warning them that "what they are doing is stupid and they will probably end up like Theo Van Gogh for airing this show."

Ending up like Theo Van Gogh is no joke. In fact, the post initially included a graphic photo of Van Gogh's body lying in the street after he was murdered in 2004 by Mohammed Bouyeri for having made a film that was critical of the treatment of women in Islam. Bouyeri, a Dutch-Moroccan Muslim, shot Van Gogh eight times, then cut his throat, decapitated him, stabbed him in the chest and left two knives implanted in his torso, one attached with a five-page note threatening various Western governments, Jews and Van Gogh's collaborators on the film.

So it's not surprising that Comedy Central took the threat seriously, even though the fringe group making the threat has no known ties with Van Gogh's killer. My colleagues Scott Collins and Matea Gold have written a wonderfully thorough story detailing many of the issues in this case, in particular the debate over whether thuggish behavior is rewarded when a network caves in to terrorist-style threats. They also revealed that the lunatic fringe Muslim group making the threat against Parker and Stone is based in, all of places, New York City!

This inspired a classic Jon Stewart monologue on last night's "Daily Show," where he admitted to finding it pretty amazing that the Muslim extremists "are allowed to praise Osama bin Laden, celebrate the anniversary of 9/11 and try to intimidate the creators of 'South Park' all while enjoying our lovely theater district, our many diverse restaurants, including some of the really best Jewish delis you'll find ... and these numnuts get to enjoy it all because of how much we in this country value and protect even their freedom of expression."

But let's go back to the pivotal issue here. What should Comedy Central do? If it brushes aside an ugly threat from a fringe extremist group and airs the unedited "South Park" episode, is it putting Parker and Stone, not to mention anyone who works at Comedy Central, at risk of bodily harm? But by editing out all the offensive material, will the network embolden other extremists to start threatening other outspoken satirists -- like Comedy Central's own Stewart and Stephen Colbert?

I don't think there are any easy answers here. If anyone has any strong opinions on this issue, I'd like to hear them. I've always believed that, in a democracy, artists and political satirists should be allowed to say what they believe, even if it offends some of its audience. As Ezra Pound once said, artists are the antennae of the race. Whether they are filmmakers, writers or comedians, they are the provocateurs who enrich and add spice to our pop culture, pushing it in new directions, flaunting taboos and stretching the boundaries of taste.

If Lenny Bruce, one of our seminal provocateurs, were around today, he'd probably be putting all of Trey and Matt's jokes into his act, daring the Muslim extremists to come after him too. Not everyone has to be that brave, or foolhardy, but I come down on the side of believing that the best thing you can do when you're dealing with knucklehead extremists is to call their dare. If they want to live in a free country, they'll have to accept that fact that freedom includes the freedom to mock, heckle and stir the pot. It's a freedom that's too important to be hijacked by extremists who should learn to accept one of our most sacred freedoms: To live in America, you have to be able to take a joke. 

You can watch Stewart's inspired riff on this issue for yourself:

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c

South Park Death Threats
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor Tea Party

Photo: "South Park" creators Matt Stone, left, and Trey Parker. Credit: Shea Walsh / Associated Press


Comments () | Archives (32)

The comments to this entry are closed.

We should all stand together and take down the people behind RevolutionMuslim and save South Park. We know it has always been Stan, Kyle, Cartman, and Kenny's jobs to do that, but now they need us, the viewers' help the most right now. Save South Park now!

Dear Comedy Central, I've liked the television show South Park for many years and thoroughly enjoyed their parodies of many things that have been ridiculed. What I dislike is your extreme censorship of yesterdays South Park episode by heavily censoring the episode 201 and furthermore banning the show creators from posting the episode on their website later. You've bowed to the Muslim-American extremists demands whom only represent a small portion of the Muslim people and I find you've overreacted to this. The episode should be reshown in the image that the shows creators put fourth. This country was built upon freedom of speech and expression. I find it very hypocritical of you to air episodes of South Park whereas any other entity could be made fun of and you allowed two different episodes where characters say "s***", but when it comes to Muslim parodies you step in. Even though 9/11 was a tragedy and other persons who've stood out against muslims either of satirical or freedom purposes have been subject to threats you go with the mainstream of other networks with muslim censorship to please the terrorists, if I hypothetically were a member of a radical christian group and threatened to use an explosive device would you still run christian parodied episodes of South Park.

I've started a comic blog out of solidarity for Trey and Matt. It features and will continue to feature Muhammed.

Every cartoonist/media person worth their salt should be doing the same thing. We're stronger in numbers. Haven't you seen Spartacus?

"Lenny Bruce, one of our seminal provocateurs, were around today, he'd probably be putting all of Trey and Matt's jokes into his act"

If Lenny Bruce were around today, he wouldn't steal others jokes. That's what we call being a hack.

I think that the Muslims are acting like little kids because they think that they can control the world with threats against the lives of people and being radical against anything that makes fun of their religious beliefs.

Brave cowards.

I've read a comment written by a muslim american who called himself a "southpark fan", but watching the 200 episode made him "uncomfortable". So, obviously for him it's ok to watch as long as other major religious figures are made fun of (eg Jesus watching internet porn, buddha snorting coke and the pope talking like a nazi in a 1960's war movie), as long as mohammed isn't involved. PROVES TO ME THAT A LOT OF MUSLIMS ARE FUCKING HIPPOCRITES AND SHOULDN'T BE HEARD OR GIVEN IN TO AT ALL. Btw there isn't even a Sura in the Quran distinctly prohibiting mohammed's depiction. You can see mohammed in old arab 13th century icons depicted like in a mugshot. All that trouble is caused by some Sunni wackos who seem to live on getting enraged over nothing only to kill people or set buildings on fire.
P.S.: If I were American I would ask what makes them so damned sure they wont get killed themselves sometimes.

Yes, they caved in. They let the terrorists won.

Okay, they and many Muslims are knuckleheads. The reason you don't make images of Mohammad is that you are not supposed to worship him and the early Muslims were afraid of idol worship creeping into their religion by the elevation of the prophet to the status of a god. The irony is that the response given to the Danish cartoons and this South Park episode demonstrates that in the minds of many Muslims this early prohibition has failed. Mohammad is now the god that cannot be imaged. If you look at what the other side is saying, it is clear that they have deified the Prophet, against His wishes. These people are not only Knuckleheads, they are probably blasphemers of their own tradition.

Comedy Central made a huge mistake in censoring the South Park episode. HUGE. Some people have NO sense of humor.

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