Let’s begin at the beginning. In 2006, “South Park” creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone did an episode that teased a cartoon depiction of the Muslim prophet Muhammad. If you know your Islam, you know depicting Muhammad is a sin that is punishable by death. So Comedy Central censored the bit, and that was that. Then, this week, Parker and Stone tried again to depict Muhammad in an episode while making jokes about how touchy of an issue all this was. This time, they threw a bear suit on Muhammad and had him speak in a low rumble from the inside of a truck (the character did NOT turn out to be Muhammad). For this, of course, the pair received death threats:
"We have to warn Matt and Trey that what they are doing is stupid and they will probably wind up like Theo van Gogh (a Dutch filmmaker murdered by extremists) for airing this show," read the post. "This is not a threat, but a warning of the reality of what will likely happen to them."
Thus, Comedy Central censored the ensuing South Park episode, along with altering the previous week’s episode that featured Muhammad in the bear suit. This was done without Parker and Stone’s permission, and they posted a statement on their website to note that fact.
Now, you could argue that Comedy Central, which has given Parker and Stone a verrry long leash over the years, was just trying to protect the duo (along with company employees) from harm. It’s not an unreasonable action. But what is completely insane to me is that, out of every possible statement and artistic act in the Western world, THIS is the one line people are afraid to cross. Every other image possible is available to you, Mr. American Citizen, without consequence. Porn. Sacrilegious images of Jesus. Bears making love to aardvarks. All of that freely floats around our culture. Yet the fear of depicting Muhammad can still make people abandon their sense of First Amendment boldness.
It’s kowtowing to terrorists. It’s essentially giving in to the people who murdered Theo van Gogh and quietly obeying their orders. Stone and Parker had the guts to step back and say, “Wait a second, this is ludicrous.” And while Comedy Central may be acting to protect them, what they’re really doing is allowing this giant taboo to gain power.
Jon Stewart gets this, which is why he spent a portion of last night’s "Daily Show" broadcast telling Revolution Muslim, the extremists who threatened Parker and Stone, to go pound sand:
These numbnuts get to (live in America and praise Osama bin Laden without fear of arrest). All because of how much we, in this country, value and protect even their freedom of expression.
He then went on to tell the extremists to go commit an act I cannot describe here, but endorse strongly. I STRONGLY BELIEVE YOU KOOKS SHOULD DO TO YOURSELVES WHAT JON STEWART SAYS YOU SHOULD DO TO YOURSELVES.