Monday, April 17, 2006

Fear and gutlessness at Comedy Central

A lot of people are rightly upset about the fact that, when South Park aired an episode lampooning the Mohammed cartoons brouhaha, Comedy Central nixed the brief showing of an image of Mohammed. It was replaced by this:

Ironically, a lot of people initially thought this was a typical South Park gag. (Much as, in The Producers, when the hapless author in his Nazi helmet jumps up on the stage and interrupts the performance screaming that the show is a hoax, this is not his play, and the Fuhrer never called anyone "baby" -- before being knocked out and dragged away -- the audience only laughs more, assuming that this is part of the show.) However, it has since been confirmed that the ban did come from Comedy Central, which has stated:"In light of recent world events, we feel we made the right decision."

The threat of Islamism at work? Jeff Goldstein at Protein Wisdom mocks "Comedhimmi Central" ("dhimmi" refers to Christians and Jews who, historically, were allowed to live in peace in Muslim societies as long as they accepted their second-class status) and writes:

I find reconciliation and surrender two entirely different things.

And if what it takes to keep Muslims from engaging in jihad—or at the very least, holding public wildings over cartoons—is accepting their demands that we don’t talk about their faith in a way that upsets them, that is a sacrifice I’m not willing to make. And no one who is promoting classical liberalism in its cultural battle with the theocratic determinism of the Islamists should be willing to concede this point—even if they do so hoping that it means Comedy Central might not make fun of Jesus anymore.

I agree with Jeff on the basic issue of free speech, but I think that, for fairness' sake, something else needs to be pointed out. As far as I know, there has not been a single instance of a violent reaction by American Muslims to the publication of the Mohammed cartoons in any newspaper or magazine. There have been protests, cancellations of subsciptions, and other responses that (agree with them or not) fall well within the sphere of peaceful, civilized expression. (Actually, that was true in most European countries -- including Denmark -- as well; the violent incidents were confined mainly to the Middle East.)

So the real culprit here, I would say, is not Muslim intimidation but the cravenness of Viacom executives who preemptively caved in to a non-existent threat and banned the Mohammed image. These are, remember, the same people who ran from Tom Cruise and the scientologists only last month.


Revenant said...

If Comedy Central censored the episode because of fear of violence -- and that does seem to have been the case -- I find it hard to fault them.

It doesn't matter if the cartoon controversy has yet led to acts of Muslim violence in the west. The point is, it led to violence, and other equally trivial "crimes" against Islam have led to violence against western targets too.

Nobody's ever gotten butchered for refusing to offend Muslims. It isn't like the alleged "moderate Muslims" of the world are of any help at all in these matters.

Anonymous said...

...particularly stupid since South Park has shown images of many religous leaders, including Mohammed in the past.

Cathy Young said...

Rev, how many people have been butchered by Scientologists?

Revenant said...

how many people have been butchered by Scientologists?

I don't agree with the parallel you're trying to draw here. Scientology has a lot of direct influence over powerful and influential people in the entertainment industry. That's the most likely explanation for why Scientology gets special treatment.

Islam doesn't have that kind of influence; there aren't any big-name Muslim actors or directors that people in the entertainment industry worry about offending. Comedy Central caved in on the Muslim issue because they were afraid of physical violence.

What's the alternate explanation? Neither political correctness nor fear of criticism seems at all likely, given South Park's past episodes.

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