The latest flap concerning Muslim extremists getting bent out of shape over a South Park episode, and how the network censored images of the prophet, is a case of history repeating itself.

A previous ep from 2006 supposedly depicted Mohammad, until the network excised all images of that particular worthy. They even went so far as to bleep out every utterance of his name. All done in the fear that, unless appeased, intolerant practitioners of the Religion of Peace would indulge in an orgy of bloodshed and fire.

I wrote Comedy Central at the time, taking them to task for their shameless act of cowardice. I received a well spoken, thoughtfully composed reply that explained the concerns of the network.

Comedy Central reaches an audience worldwide. While people in the United States can enjoy a government that will protect their fundamental right to free speech, such a right is not recognized practically anywhere else on the globe. Allowing images that inflame the passions of intolerant and violent ideologues to be shown is not an act of bravery for executives and employees that enjoy the protection of the Constitution, but it could very well place the very lives of innocent foreign employees, and their families, in grave peril. Would it not be the responsible act to try and safeguard those lives if possible?

Before anyone dismisses this viewpoint out of hand, please take a moment for introspection. Would you be so quick to urge that the South Park episode in question be shown without altering if your life, and the lives of your family, were on the line? And those closest to you might be the focus of horrific violence simply due to a cartoon?

Consider, if you will, that people who were not more than peripherally involved in the book The Satanic Verses have been brutally killed. The Japanese translator of the book was stabbed to death in Tokyo, and the Italian translator attacked in Milan. Censorship at the edge of a knife.

Not only that, but 37 people were burned to death in a hotel fire set by those protesting the Turkish translator. Completely uninvolved with the issue they were, nothing more than simple travelers enjoying the hospitality of a local hotel. But victims of an agonizing and unwarranted death all the same.

How do I feel about all of this?

Considering my own charity work, I have a great deal of sympathy to the position taken by Comedy Central. Not only do I have no desire to place such danger on the heads of innocents, but I have also sacrificed in order to help safeguard people like them. If I could place myself between them and those who want to do harm, then I would.

But I also recognize that this is but a very small part of a much wider struggle. Violent extremists of any ilk always follow the same pattern, constantly seeking controversy and conflict in an effort to see how far they will be allowed to go. If they are unopposed, then they simply escalate. Do nothing, and the amount of violence is increased.

The good people at Comedy Central probably think this whole thing is terribly unfair. They are trying to earn an honest living through bringing ha-ha entertainment to the world. Where in the job description did it mention that they would be the focus of a free speech issue? And one backed by what could be very real violence, to boot!

But someone has to make a stand somewhere. If they pass the responsibility off, then even more lives will be at stake the next time around.

12 thoughts on “Overlooked”

  1. Wow, James.

    I think I have to agree with Comedy Central.

    You have the right to take a stand when what is at risk is your own hide. It’s a lot less clear if you’re endangering others.

    Plenty of individuals have taken a stand and have paid the price for it.

  2. Comedy Central has a defensible position assuming that they did not ridicule other religious figures in the interest of “irreverent satire.” It seems that only the peaceful can be ridiculed.

  3. Yes, Michael Kennedy, you bring up the point I was going to make.

    So, Comedy Central’s argument is that if they bully a religion and they don’t fight back, then hey, let’s totally ridicule and degrade their sacred religious prophets, because it’s ok, religion is just a superstitious crutch.

    BUT, if the religion fights back, then oh, let’s just back off because, gee, they are THREATENING us. We will let them control our speech through violence.

    Frankly, they sound like a bunch of school kids fighting over lunch money. A bunch of pansies.

  4. I confess I will never understand why this is held to be a deep moral question.

    Terrorists, egged on by a government reward, bomb a hotel and the morally culpable party is… the author of book?

    If an actor’s ex-wife publishes a kiss-n-tell book which angers the actor, no one on the jury should vote ‘not guilty’ because the actor said he was angry. If we expect and demand that people personally angered by books restrain their knives, then we can doubly expect and demand it of ideologists.

    Comedy Central and Parker and Stone should part ways, but both love money and free publicity too much.

    “such a right is not recognized practically anywhere else on the globe”

    Yeah. What a waste WW1 and WW2 were. I should sell t-shirts: “My dad died to free Europe and all I got was this lousy EU.”

    “They are trying to earn an honest living through bringing ha-ha entertainment to the world.”

    If that is CC’s view, they should broadcast their board meetings; they’d be funnier than their programming. Too much of CC’s programming is hate-filled invective: Silverman, Cho, et. al.

    Finally, should I be proven wrong in all this, please direct me to a terrorist group willing to strike at television and newspapers on my behalf. I’ll make a donation.

  5. “But someone has to make a stand somewhere”

    No one did anything. That’s why we’re here. When the Tokyo translator was stabbed did Japan expel all Moslems from its territory? Did it bomb Tehran? Mecca? They did nothing (at least nothing effective). When Rushdie was forced into hiding, when the British police officer was murdered by Iranian diplomats, did Britain expel all Moslems? Bomb Tehran? Mecca? They did nothing. When the US embassy was seized, did the US conquer Iran and appoint a proconsul to rule? Overthrow the Saudis? They did nothing. They–whoever they may be–will continue to do nothing, because, just maybe, all this will pass without the necessity of WW3. I think war is inevitable. And billions of dead. All to teach fanatics that their god doesn’t exist.

  6. I do have a solution, though. European history provides the example. I can’t number the emperors, kings, dukes, and tribal chieftains who sacked Rome, removed or kidnapped the Pope, or appointed their own Pope. I don’t think Mecca and Medina should be treated any better than Rome. We should invade Saudi Arabia, conquer Mecca and Medina, form a college of Imams, and appoint some stooge to be our Moslem Pope who can then commence to reform Islam in the manner of our choosing. Perhaps Allah will be the first God to praise Democracy.

    “Plenty of individuals have taken a stand and have paid the price for it.”

    Alas, true, when the goal should be to take a stand and make the other side pay for it, a hundred times over.

  7. Comedy Central has a defensible position assuming that they did not ridicule other religious figures in the interest of “irreverent satire.”

  8. Comedy Central has a defensible position assuming that they did not ridicule other religious figures in the interest of “irreverent satire.”

    I take it you don’t watch South Park, and have never heard the quote “Buddah! Stop doing lines of cocaine in front of minors!”

  9. I have posted on this site and another about Everybody Draw Mohammed day. I plan to participate. I understand that there is a small but nonzero chance that me and mine are endangered by this. And yes, this scares me. I have children.

    Muslims are responsible for policing their own. If they won’t smoke out and incarcerate their violent nutballs it falls to outsiders to do it. That is the situation for all communities.

    That’s the way that the world works if we’re to survive the next century. Unless we ban certain technologies that are progressing at Moore’s law speeds, 90 years from now WMD will be within the reach of global middle class (perhaps sooner). It may be chemical or biological, maybe though probably not nuclear. The ability to make stuff for yourself, to better your own life is a powerful current that is only now sweeping the world. That world + violent nutballs = Armaggedon.

    Nobody has a 100% solution for this. All that is certain is that our walking on eggshells is not going to work. It never has.

  10. On the other hand, if people offended by Revolution Muslim were to tar and feather that dimwit with the weedy beard, I would be neither shocked nor displeased. This is not a threat, not a call for violence, not even a prediction, just a statement of a hypothetical situation and how I would feel about it. See how easy that was?

  11. The South Park episode is a good example of how insecure the Muslim world is about their faith. Is it possible to find self hating Muslims similar to self hating white Christians? I’m not sure its possible in large numbers? Even the “moderate Muslims” that I went to University with argue in favor of speech codes.

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