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South Park Discussion Thread.--

I am posting a separate story on VC based on my interview of South Park Executive Producer Anne Garefino. It answers some questions raised by commenters here.

I may edit or add to this post from time to time, without showing changes.

Feel free to comment on South Park below.

I reorganized the order of the paragraphs in the Garefino interview story to give more emphasis to the interview itself.

UPDATE (4:55 FRI): I wanted to point out that Anne Garefino's characterization of "fear" is consistent with the AP/WAPO characterization, based on an unnamed source: "The network's decision was made over concerns for public safety."

From my talking with people on both sides of the dispute, it appears that some of the arguments actually made in the negotiations over showing Mohammed found their way into the statements of Kyle and Cartman in "Cartoon Wars"--including probably Kyle referring to the president of Fox as "Doug," an obvious reference to Comedy Central's president, Doug Herzog.

Further, as many commenters below have noted, that Garefino had not heard of any specific threats against Comedy Central or anyone else because of "Cartoon Wars--Parts I and II" does not mean that Comedy Central's fears were unfounded. I think that there was a nontrivial chance that people would die if Comedy Central showed the cartoon as made--and any deaths might be traceable precisely to their decision to show Mohammed.

Of course, there is also a substantial chance that even more people will die if institutions give in to the actual or anticipated threats of religious terrorists. Here, though, the marginal impact of any one institution's cave-in is impossible to know, and thus, even if more people were to die ultimately from Comedy Central's decision to censor South Park, one would likely not be able to trace any resulting deaths to Comedy Central's decision to censor, rather than to many other societal decisions to restrict artistic and political speech.

Anyone who thinks that there was nothing at stake besides free speech in Comedy Central's decision isn't recognizing that "ideas have consequences"--for both good and ill.

Defending the Indefensible:
I'd be interested to hear what Viacom has to say, whether this was pursuant to a policy of theirs or an independent decision of Comedy Central. This is particularly relevant in view of the Scientology episode which they withheld from being rerun after Tom Cruise threatened not to promote Paramount's MI:III.

What does this say for the independence of shows like the Daily Show and Colbert Report, if the network can be bullied so easily?
4.14.2006 12:36am
abb3w:
I suppose we can look forward to the episode appearing uncensored on DVD.

I wonder if the Daily Show or Colbert Report will have any coverage (and what kind), and whether they'll do the proper "this is news about us" disclaimers....
4.14.2006 12:49am
Daniel Chapman (mail):
I give Ms. Garefino credit for her honesty... It would have been *really* odd to hear someone say that South Park was concerned with "religious tolerance."

The debate continues over whether backing down out of "fear" is a wise decision, though...
4.14.2006 12:53am
Justin (mail):
Bullied by WHO????

If Comedy Central just censored this out of fear, they're pretty ignorant of what actually happened in Denmark (or, more to the point, in the Middle East, along with a nutjob Danish wahabbist wannabe.)
4.14.2006 1:00am
alkjalskdfjd;la (mail):
It may be a cartoon, there may be lots of swearing, but South Park is the most relevant critique of our times in the main stream media.

http://www.thevelvethottub.com
http://www.velvethottub.com

THE VELVET HOT TUB
4.14.2006 1:07am
stealthlawprof (mail) (www):
"Out of fear, not tolerance" -- and what conclusions are we to draw from this? Do they believe fear is nobler than tolerance? That fear is more acceptable than tolerance? That tolerance would be hypocritical (which is true) but that fear is not?

In a comment on a much earlier post relating to European reaction to the cartoons, I noted that Neville Chamberlain has more heirs in Europe than Churchill does. I fear I understated Chamberlain's influence. Apparently his position has carried the day in the U.S. as well.
4.14.2006 1:17am
Bobbie:
Holy shit -- a business made a decision that they think is in their own best interest at the expense of an important principle! This is shocking.

I mean, typically all business care about is furthering important liberal democratic values like free speech, civil rights, etc. Why break from that long tradition now? I demand answers.
4.14.2006 1:42am
Defending the Indefensible:
I must say I'm still pretty frankly disgusted that the right wing blogosphere is so concerned with this issue, apparently out of a desire to inflame passions and provoke more violence to justify further and expanded war with Islam. But South Park is a very different thing, to me. They are equal-opportunity offenders of all people and groups, whether Jewish, Christian, Mormon or Scientologist, and Muslims should not be off-limits.

Putting this in another context, if this were about cartoons making fun of racism, South Park can still do it (and they do, i.e., Token) without it being considered too offensive. This does not make it tasteful or appropriate for anyone and everyone to do so.
4.14.2006 1:46am
jps0611:
This is disheartening.

What's got me irritated is that this particular episode received a huge of word-of-mouth plus all the regular commercial marketing leading up to it. It seems to me that Comedy Central milked the controvery to score ratings and caved anyway. They must be pretty proud of themselves, having had their cake and eaten it too.

Anyway, this member of the 18 to 24 male demographic doesn't really feel like watching much Comedy Central anymore. This whole brouhaha really illustrates the point that artistic integrity doesn't mean much to Comedy Central. I know it sounds naive of me to even suppose "artistic integrity" matters to Comedy Central, but it matters to me. The whole reason that I, a Catholic, could laugh at something like the episode "Bloody Mary" was because I knew that with South Park everything was fair game. However, Comedy Central has clearly decided that not everything is fair game. Comedy Central has no problem with offensive material as long as it relates to Christians, Jews, the handicapped, homosexuals, people with AIDS, environmentalists, etc, etc. However, they feel that they must never, never offend the terrorists!

Like I said, it's disheartening.

Sorry for the ramble.

--James
4.14.2006 2:03am
llamasex (mail) (www):
Wasn't the other censorship of religiously charged material out of fear as well, not tolerance?

When they didn't reshow the "Trapped in the Closet episode wasn't that fear of losing advertising dollars?

When they didn't reshow the "Bloody Mary", wasn't that FEAR of upsetting Catholics, not tolerance.

I still am not seeing the difference in this case, Comedy Central seems perfectly consistent in their censorship, the blogosphere response on the other hand seems to have gone nuts because its about Muslims.
4.14.2006 2:11am
BossPup (mail):
Just as an aside, I noticed that in Kyle's plea to the "Fox" president, he used the name Doug. The name of the president of Comedy Central is Doug Herzog. I find it interesting that they were talking directly to CC's president through the cartoon.
4.14.2006 2:14am
SG:
The blogosphere (well me) have gone nuts because in this case the fear was of violence. Consumers have every right to boycott a product or service that offends them, and corporations have a right, even a duty, to take that into account in their decision making. But when a group uses violence to get their way, they've crossed outside the bounds of legitamate behavior.

As an analogy, protesting an abortion clinic is OK, blowing one up is wrong.

Do you not see the difference?
4.14.2006 2:18am
jps0611:

I perceive a subtle difference in the censorship Comedy Central has applied in this case. For both "Trapped in the Closet" and "Bloody Mary" , Comedy Central aired the uncut, uncensored episodes in their scheduled timeslots. The threat of boycott induced Comedy Central to forgo future showings. In this case, the threat of violence convinced Comedy Central to censor the material in its original airing. It's a subtle difference, but in my opinion an important one.
4.14.2006 2:26am
llamasex (mail) (www):
SG who is the threat of violence against specifically? Did Comedy Execs fear for their personal safety? Did they fear the South Part studios would be attack? Did they fear the cable lines to people's homes would be cut in response?

Give me details of this violence that forced Comedy Central's hand.
4.14.2006 2:26am
Sony (mail) (www):
The comedy in all of this is that Comedy Central already showed a Southpark episode depicting Muhammed: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Mohammed1.jpg
4.14.2006 2:34am
Eugene Volokh (www):
Defending the Indefensible: Seems to me that when leading organizations -- universities, bookstores, broadcasters -- are refusing to allow certain speech on their property for fear of violent attack, people who care about free speech ought to speak up, even if speaking may "inflame passions."

f you find this disgusting, well then I promise you that we'll continue to disgust you, and not much care about your being disgusted. I'm not really sure why you're interested in reading stuff by people who do such vile, filthy, disgusting things, but I just wanted to warn you that it's not going to get any better.
4.14.2006 2:36am
NYU 1L:
I would add that the media have some special moral responsibilities that other businesses don't. At least, if the New York Times and others are going to hide behind freedom of speech claims to defend such actions as, say, reporting American troop movements and strategies. Of course it's legal, but the media regularly broadcasts news and programming which hurts people and society, and hides behind their "obligation to report the truth". That rings hollow if they refuse to show a tame image of Muhammad, and it's the point South Park was getting at with the Jesus crapping on the American flag scene.
4.14.2006 2:40am
Sony (mail) (www):
Sorry, I should've posted the episode. It was the David Blaine one where the Super Best freinds debunk him. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Super_Best_Friends

(Yes, I am practicing attorney with 3 kids and never miss an episode. I laugh every time the kids insult each other in ways completely verboten in the office.)
4.14.2006 2:44am
SG:
llamasex,

I suggest reading the Jim's posting up thread aways. Here's some choice quotes:


Garefino was heavily involved in the negotiations with Comedy Central. She made clear that the reason for Comedy Central's decision was "fear"


and


When asked whether Comedy Central was responding to any specific threats of violence if it showed Mohammed, Garefino replied, "Not that I know of."


Now, if your point is that the risk of violence was probably low, I'd agree with you. But that doesn't change the fact that it was the threat of violence that caused the self-censorship.

Let's face it, corporations are risk adverse. I hope no one expected Viacom to take any risks for an abstract principle. The final irony is that in this case, they've profitted handsomely from their lack of principle.

To repeat: The problem is not that CC is self-censoring, its their reason for doing so. And as Prof. Volokh reminds us, it's not just CC operating under this fear, it's universities, bookstores, broadcasters and newspapers.

At some point, I'd like to think reasonable people would realize that there's really a problem here. But I'm sure some people will continue to find ways to defend the indefensible.
4.14.2006 2:49am
llamasex (mail) (www):
SG for there to be a threat of violence doesn't there need to be a threat? I am asking you what that threat is, according to Garefino there was not a threat of violence. So why are you claiming there is one?

Who is threatening these universities, bookstores, broadcasters in America with violence? Doesn't that constitute a crime, why aren't those people arrested?

Or is there no actual threat of violence in reality, just a fear?
4.14.2006 2:54am
Justin (mail):
EV: Shouldn't we distinguish between RATIONAL fear and irrational fear though?

If Universities, Bookstores, and Broadcasters were afraid of writing movies that featured blue aliens, because if they did the blue aliens might come and disintigrate them, exactly how do we frame the free speech issue?

Indeed, is it *possible* that the real problem are conservatives and neoconservatives who are so interested in the possibilty of pissing off Muslims that they fan the flames, increase the rhetoric, and develop a fake persecution meme when none exists?

I mean, the Danish riots were horrible and unfortunate. As were the Rodney King riots, and pretty much every angst riot that's ever taken place.

But when American muslims, who have done nothing of the violent sort, must sit there and watch large protests in support of the newspaper which decided to offend Muslims for the purpose of offending Muslims (ironically, one of the cartoons makes this very point) and yell at the top of their lungs that nobody should be afraid of offending Muslims even though they're going to kill you.....and then, you have people up in arms every time someone declines to do something that's considered heresy to Muslems, even if they have no other reason to do it in the first place then to make nonMuslims feel superior, you think maybe *that* has a chilling effect on speech?

Now, as mentioned, anyone in America who was going to depict an image of Mohummad (with or without a bomb or big slanty eyes and a sneer), but didn't because they were afraid, is stupid - independant of whether they had a good reason or not to want to show Mohammad in the first place. But given that Comedy Central felt the need to "back down" despite the lack of threats, who gets the blame for the hysteria?

My vote goes to you and Reynolds. I know you disagree, and apologize for not seeing eye to eye on the subject.
4.14.2006 3:02am
Justin (mail):
NYU - despite the nonsense theory that the failure to blindly support George Bush is equal to actively working for the enemy, the only media outlet to have disclosed troop movements in the Iraq War was Fox News.
4.14.2006 3:05am
Kevin Murphy:
Hmmm ... I don't think the episode works nearly as well with Mohammad in the scene. The censorship brings the convoluted self-referencing home.
4.14.2006 3:13am
Defending the Indefensible:
EV:
Seems to me that when leading organizations -- universities, bookstores, broadcasters -- are refusing to allow certain speech on their property for fear of violent attack, people who care about free speech ought to speak up, even if speaking may "inflame passions."
Most universities, bookstores and broadcasters won't allow you to use their property to engage in certain kinds of offensive speech, that's nothing new or interesting in itself. Suppose we bring this back to racism, are you as troubled that speech such as using the N-word is not welcome on those premises?
4.14.2006 3:17am
SP:
I am confused why anyone thinks this is a "business decision." Um, do you think a lot of Muslims are chomping at the bit to watch Comedy Central?

It's a political worldview decision - the same reason the network wasn't worried about offending Christians, and the same reason Hollywood would rather produce praised but relatively unprofitable films like Syriana instead of Chuck Norris, etc, kicking terrorist ass.
4.14.2006 3:18am
SG:
llamasex,

Did you perhaps miss the burning embassies after the Danish cartoons? Or the riots in the streets? They showed live shots of it in the SP episode. A quick google search showed at least 11 people died in rioting worldwide.

There was clearly violence in the aftermath of the Danish cartoons. That's not some "claim" I'm making, there's been a pretty vivid existence proof of it. I hope you're not denying that. The violence need not take place in this country or directed at Comedy Central for Comedy Central to be blamed for it. Do you remember the heat Newsweek took after riots and deaths from their erroneous reporting of Koran desecration?

What is your point? Lots of people are independently coming to the conclusion that they don't want to risk printing, publishing, broadcasting, or otherwise disseminating depictions of Mohammed for fear of the Muslim reaction. If you want to argue that they're all overreacting, be my guest, but that's not an argument to have with me. I'm simply acknowledging (and bemoaning) reality.
4.14.2006 3:20am
Dutch (mail):
Wait, wait, wait. It's Volokh and Reynolds's fault that Comedy Central was afraid that Muslims would react violently to the depiction of Mohammed? It had nothing to do with certain riots in Denmark, because, after all, Denmark is far, far away? Are you completely insane?
4.14.2006 3:23am
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):
Someone raised the point that doing something out of tolerance is nobler than out of fear. Maybe. Let's even say "yes." The point is not that CC wussed out purely out of fear and NYT &Co. declined to be intolerant. The point is that <i>everyone</i> wussed out. <i>Everyone</i> got scared. CC were just the only ones who were candid about it. That's the "noble" part.

Oh, and Justin, why do you even bother anymore? The failure to blindly support George Bush? Yeah, and everyone here prays to Sean Hannity 5 times a day, laying our rugs to face the News Corp building.
4.14.2006 3:25am
Eugene Volokh (www):
Defending the Indefensible: As you might have noticed, I actually put up an extensive post explaining why many of the cartoons are quite legitimate commentary, and those that are probably not quite fair are still well within the bounds of pretty normal cartooning hyperbole.

In the process, I included the contents of the cartoons, which is what the speakers at NYU wanted to do, and the magazine that Borders refused to carry wanted to do. If you think that's tantamount to calling someone a "nigger," then I'm curious why you're reading our site, which must be little short of the KKK from your perspective.

On the other hand, if you recognize that criticizing, even harshly, an ideological system -- or for that matter not criticizing it at all, but just having the temerity to depict, even favorably, its founder -- is hardly morally tantamount to calling someone a "nigger," then I'm curious why you're making the argument that you're making.
4.14.2006 3:35am
Eugene Volokh (www):
Justin: I'm unaware of any evidence that the NYU administration, the operators of Borders, or for that matter those who run Comedy Central are conservative, easily duped by conservatives, or for that matter stupid or irrational.

It seems to me that they're recognizing a real risk, given events throughout the world; I have myself argued that it's a small risk in America, but it seems to me to be hardly a fanciful one. They should be faulted for bowing to that risk, but not, I think, for supposedly making the risk up.
4.14.2006 3:36am
Charles Chapman (mail) (www):
Forgive me for posting a link to an old post of mine, but it really does say it all for me: The Only Appropriate Response to Honor Killings and Fatal Fatwas.

I'm not nearly as much bothered by the attitude of Muslim extremists as I am by Western cowardice. And cowardice is the only word for it.
4.14.2006 3:39am
llamasex (mail) (www):
SG, So now you're saying Comedy Central censored out not out of fear of violence directed at them, but for being blamed for causing a violent outbreak? That's pretty far removed don't you think? and shouldn't we then focus on the people who would do the blaming, as they are the ones threatening Comedy Central not the Muslims. As Comedy Centrals interests aren't the ones presumed by your theory to be under direct threat.
4.14.2006 3:39am
SG:
Justin,

How do you keep managing to turn this into "conservatives are bad"? Fears of Muslim reactions may or may not be rational, but it's not conservatives who are making threats. Neoconservatives didn't riot across world. Republicans aren't burning down embassies to protest cartoons.

This is not a left/right issue. Your inablity to concede that self-censorship due to a fear of violence is a problem because you would agree with conservatives ought to be a reality check for you. When you allow your political oppponents to cause you to back down on core enlightment values, you've gone around the bend.

You don't have to agree with any of those smelly neocons on the appropiate response to the problem, just that it is a problem.
4.14.2006 3:40am
Justin (mail):
EV: The only thing I accused them of being is stupid or irrational, and the fact that they're afraid of something that hasn't happened in America AT ALL despite NUMEROUS empirical opportunities (including your fellow bloggers here and elsewhere!) is ample proof of their irrationality - your unbacked assertion, and irreleant analogy to the Denmark situation, to the contrary of course.
4.14.2006 3:54am
Defending the Indefensible:
EV, I read sites from various points along the political spectrum, and at least until recently your site was one that welcomed civil dissent.

Legitimate commentary or not, doesn't it seem at least a little bit interesting to you that almost all of the angst over this issue has been emanating from the same right wing blogosphere that supports and promotes the administration's war in Iraq?

Motivations are relevant, which is why I not only don't have a problem with South Park doing a cartoon of Muhammad, I have expressly said that I think Viacom/Comedy Central should not have censored them.

Do you think Disney's Song of the South is well within the bounds of cartoon hyperbole? Whether or not you do, do you consider it unacceptable that you cannot buy it from Borders?
4.14.2006 3:54am
Charles Chapman (mail) (www):
llamasex wrote:
SG, So now you're saying Comedy Central censored out not out of fear of violence directed at them, but for being blamed for causing a violent outbreak? That's pretty far removed don't you think? and shouldn't we then focus on the people who would do the blaming, as they are the ones threatening Comedy Central not the Muslims. As Comedy Centrals interests aren't the ones presumed by your theory to be under direct threat.
No, the people who are to blame are the people, any people, who respond to speech, and indeed, a damned cartoon, with violence.

That is what is unacceptable.
4.14.2006 3:57am
Justin (mail):
SG, since we're clearly playing the "actions of a few of the group are ascribed to the masses" I really should get the hell out of Americans. After all, protestants massacred my people by the millions about 50 years ago.

I guess I'm super brave for hanging out in America, surrounded by all these protestants!

Or maybe the orchastrated riots in totaltarian dictatorships and the overblown and unfortunate riots in Denmark (a country that has had HUGE racio-religious tension) might have NOTHING to do with the actions of American Muslims.

As for Al Queda....they've honestly got bigger fish to blow up.
4.14.2006 3:58am
Justin (mail):
No, the people who are to blame are the people, any people, who respond to speech, and indeed, a damned cartoon, with violence.

That is what is unacceptable.

Charlie: I don't think anybody disagrees with this statement. But the amount of times that has happened in America - or indeed any society with any history of free speech that didn't have a simmering racial riot brewing at the time anyway - is ZERO.
4.14.2006 4:00am
The Cranky Insomniac (www):
I'm hereby starting a campaign for the blogosphere to unleash the awesome power of the strikethrough and start referring to the network as:

Comedy Centralsor

The Cranky Insomniac
4.14.2006 4:04am
SG:
llamasex,

You asked what threat was Comedy Central responding to. I quoted an article that said CC self-censored out of a non-specific fear of violence, and eslablished that there's a history of widespread violence in response to portrayals of the Mighty Mo' in western media. Viacom, a multinational corporation, has exposure to this threat in a variety of ways.

Now you're asking me to defend Comedy Central's (and Borders Books and Boston Phoenix and BYUs) cost/benefit analysis. I'm not prepared to do that (I agree with you that, in America at least, the actual threat is low), all I'm saying is that the threat was non-zero. Are you denying this?

As far as assigning blame goes, I'd assign it to those who would kill over a cartoon.

And again I'll ask you: What's your point? Out interchange started with you asking what the difference was between this and some previous episodes of self-censorship. I said it was the threat of violence, and someone else pointed out the prior restraint. Are you satisfied that this case differs in signicant ways from the other cases?
4.14.2006 4:06am
Justin (mail):
established that there's a history of widespread violence in response to portrayals of the Mighty Mo' in western media.

No, you haven't.

all I'm saying is that the threat was non-zero. Are you denying this?

Yes. The threat is for all practical purposes zero (you could theoretically start a riot for showing a blue sun ona Thursday, but we're talking about the realm of practical outcomes.)

Of course, if Americans keep treating American Muslims like irrational, violent people who can't control their emotions, one would expect American muslims to eventually get militant about their treatment in civil society.
4.14.2006 4:10am
Justin (mail):
Okay, I'm going to try to get to sleep again (and someone remind me to kill whoever left their TV on at FULL BLAST in the next apartment over)
4.14.2006 4:21am
Ammonium (mail):
People haven't been quite as disturbed by the other instances of Comedy Central censorship because those came long after the episodes originally aired. Many of the complaints about those episodes came to being when those episodes were going to be aired in England and New Zealand, where censorship is a way of life. Furthermore, Comedy Central has generally denied censoring those episodes, but it's been difficult to test this denial since the episodes are from the previous season.

Another reason that people are concerned is that the Muslim cartoons are a watershed event. There have been few problems with insulting most religious groups. Neo-Nazis are allowed to march in the street and have their views heard. But suddenly it is totally wrong to show a picture of a man because some people say believe it's blasphemous. Almost the entire media has bought into the belief that it would be improper to show why people are rioting because it might offend a group of people. Those that haven't have found themselves unemployed. Students who dare have discussions about it find themselves bullied by their university.

The same people who whine about the Republicans creating a theocracy in this country are often those who are the ones making government and society theocratic due to their opposition to "blasphemy". Look at William Donohue -- is he mad at Comedy Central for censoring Mohammad? No, he's happy that Comedy Central is censoring Mohammad and hopes that they'll begin censoring the things he thinks are blasphemous.

The American media has made a distinction between what is okay to make fun of and what isn't. There are lots of conservatives who now have ammunition to fire if they are ever offended -- that gives them hope. Either it's all okay, or none it is.
4.14.2006 4:21am
SG:
Justin,

I don't see where we're playing the "actions of a few of the group are ascribed to the masses". As I've said to llamasex (boy, that's a wierd thing to write...) I don't think that the threat in America is all that great. By and large, American Muslims have adapted well to living in a pluralistic society. I will note that Viacom is not limited to America, however.

So while Comedy Central's decision very well might be an overreaction, given recent history, it's not wholly irrational. Clearly a number of independent organizations have all come to the same conclusion. Are they all irrational?

And even if they all are irrational, at a certain point it becomes self-reinforcing. We don't currently have a problem with American Muslims demanding that their notions of blasphemy be enforced, but if the media voluntarily acquiesce, I believe it will become an expectation. And you could (in the future) see problems if the media were to "blaspheme". Look at the recent immigration protests for an example of what happens when a society fails to assert itself over an extended period of time.

But that's a different argument for a different time.
4.14.2006 4:30am
Charles Chapman (mail) (www):
Justin, first of all, don't call me "Charlie." My friends wouldn't be so presumptuous, and you certainly don't qualify as my friend.

Your current argument appears to be: (a) yes, Muslim extremists have killed people over the cartoons and other works of criticism, but they haven't done so within the U.S. ... yet; (b) therefore any fear by television networks, universities and bookstores is entirely irrational; and (c) therefore it is not the Muslim extremists who are at fault, but intead the "irrational" television networks, universities and bookstores.

Your argument is completely without merit for at least three reasons.

First, the factual premise is incorrect. Even leaving aside 9/11 (a tough thing to leave aside) on the ground that that mass slaughter was not specifically in response to a cartoon or work of criticism, there is Mohammed Reza Taheri-Azar, who drove a rented SUV onto the campus of the University of North Carolina and tried to run down and kill as many people as he could on March 3. And you're going to assert that it is irrational to fear Muslim terrorism in the U.S. in response to depiction of Muhamed they find offensive? Please.

Secondly, even if it hasn't happened in the U.S. previously according to your narrow causation requirement, there is always a first time. Further, given what has happened in other countries in response to the Danish cartoons, it is far from irrational to fear that the same might happen in the U.S.

Finally, your focus on "cartoon caused" terrorism within the boundaries of the U.S. is itself, at best, irrational. Muslims did not burn Danish embasies in Denmark, they burned them where they were vulnerable -- in the Middle East. Americans travel everywhere in the world. They have interests and property all over the world. As a result, Americans are vulnerable everywhere in the world. The real fear, and a reasonable one, is that an extremist Muslim will take offense to a U.S. cartoon, and attack a U.S. consulate in the Middle East, just as Danish embasies were attacked, or kidnap or kill some U.S. diplomat, businessman or tourist, just as others have been kidnapped and killed.

Comedy Central feared, if it published the Muhamed cartoon, not only that one of its employees might be attacked, or that an American within the U.S. might be attacked, but also that an American outside the U.S. might be attacked just as Danes were attacked outside Denmark. That fear was rational. It is also unacceptable.
4.14.2006 4:37am
Charles Chapman (mail) (www):
Justin said:
SG, since we're clearly playing the "actions of a few of the group are ascribed to the masses" I really should get the hell out of Americans. After all, protestants massacred my people by the millions about 50 years ago.
The analogy is completely without merit. Fear based on an inference regarding what vastly different "protestants" did to "your people" 50 years ago on a different continent is insanely irrational when compared to an inference regarding what co-religionists did in response to cartoons several months ago, and did to the U.S. five years ago.

That is particularly true given the fact that it was other "protestants," namely "our people," who rescued "your people."
4.14.2006 4:44am
Charles Chapman (mail) (www):
Justin said:
Or maybe the orchastrated riots in totaltarian dictatorships and the overblown and unfortunate riots in Denmark (a country that has had HUGE racio-religious tension) might have NOTHING to do with the actions of American Muslims.
Like this American Muslim?
4.14.2006 4:46am
hypocrisy:
The issue here isn't censorship, it's hypocrisy. This is what Comedy Central had to say when Catholics complained about blasphemous treatment of the Virgin Mary in one South Park episode:

"As satirists, we believe that it is our First Amendment right to poke fun at any and all people, groups, organizations and religions and we will continue to defend that right. Our goal is to make people laugh, and perhaps if we're lucky, even make them think in the process."

CC just sacrificed the high ground in any debate of this type in the future. Most people here are missing the point that CC isn't just another corporation—they obviously enjoy cloaking themselves with the mantle of "satirist". They just demonstrated that they're not worthy of that title however.

The SP writers set a trap and CC blundered into it. A completely innocuous sequence involving Mohammed was deleted while the network allowed a vile sequence involving Christ defecating on the U.S. flag to remain in. It's a huge double standard.

What's the lesson from all of this? Threaten violence and CC will cave. The suits might not care, but the SP guys clearly find it tremendously galling and humiliating. Did anyone else notice the numerous references to integrity in the episode? Even the manatees had it in spades.
4.14.2006 4:56am
davod (mail):
The double standard is that if a Christian group threatened SP and CC with violence the MSM media would take up the cudgel to vilify the group and no doubt we would find additional laws targeted at said Christian group (yes I know there are laws on the books but they would come up with another one.)
4.14.2006 9:28am
Just Sayin:
"What's the lesson from all of this? Threaten violence and CC will cave."

Or... produce enough "crap", run Jesus shitting during Holy Week, turn off enough viewers to cancel the show ?

It amazes me how overrated this vulgar cartoon is, and how many people won't be watching in seasons to come. Big shit. Ass jokes. Haha. Most people outgrow this.

Now all the big name academics, glued to this cartoon, are arguing about the "message", the battle for free speech. Guess what? These two young men have nothing to say, no message.

Just "haha" Jesus poops... we can't insult Mohammed properly. Once you get past the potty training nonsense, they're not really tacking relevant social issues, but it's no doubt less boring to watch this cartoon and opine than to bury yourself in serious scholarship. Many professors are overgrown children themselves, looking to relive what silly stuff they missed when it was age appropriate.

My take: South Park has run out of shocking new ideas. They'll go the way of Beav and Butthead, and even the Simpsons... Ideas gone, people wonder - what was so great about that show again? (Holy Week.... Jesus shitting... Yeah, I just don't think people are going to support that message.)
4.14.2006 9:31am
Just Sayin:
Tom Cruise, on the other hand, has a career of making art, tons of quality movies. What else have Parker and Stone done, outside of this childlike shock cartoon? One trick pony, made for these immature times. The show will be gone in less than five...
4.14.2006 9:34am
John Burgess (mail) (www):
Hmmm... somehow the words "art" and "Tom Cruise" have never occurred in the same thought running through my brain.

They have, however, for South Park. Equal-opportunity offense is hard to pull off, but that show manages it quite well.

But CC is guilty of both hypocrisy and cowardice, in equal measure.
4.14.2006 10:11am
REL (mail):
I believe this may be a first for the VC . . . a poster has revealed himself to be an A List celebrity. Based on his comments, Just Sayin can be none other than Tom Cruise.
4.14.2006 10:49am
kidbourbon:
south park is so amazingly smart and funny. with all due respect to the Vconspirators, south park uses humor to illustrate this issue more clearly than a law professor ever could.

just sayin: are you making a joke? trey parker and matt stone are not flashes in the pan. this is SP's tenth season and they've made a couple movies (and team america is a really really good movie). unlike tom cruise, they are incredibly smart and *sane*. i really can't believe you just typed those words. please tell me that was sarcasm.
4.14.2006 11:15am
Justin (mail):
That one (from what I've heard extremely unstable) Muslem in North Carolina went on an SUV inspired rampage for reasons that had nothing to do with blasphemy or criticism of Islam seems to be as irrelevant as using the LIRR shootings to say that African Americans will kill people who carry The Bell Curve.
4.14.2006 11:19am
Justin (mail):
SG: There's a huge difference between perception and reality. As far as I can tell, nobody has threatened anyone here in America. CAIR denounced the Danish riots. If there's acquiesence, it's acquisence to a peaceful request not to demean Islam, which was the same requests heard (in much louder form) for Piss Christ. I don't get how either is a real threat to free speech in this country.

The real threat to free speech is when irrational actors like Borders, CC, and NYU FEEL like there's a threat to free speech due to their own completely false stereotypes of Muslems.
4.14.2006 11:24am
Mr. Bingley (www):
Or Katie Holmes...
4.14.2006 11:25am
Leland:
Just Sayin:

My take: South Park has run out of shocking new ideas. They'll go the way of Beav and Butthead, and even the Simpsons...


Go the way of "The Simpsons"? By that, you mean become the longest running American sitcom?
4.14.2006 11:27am
Mackey:
Again--I'm NOT certain. But I'm growing confident that Peter Griffin's "getting a salmon helmet from Mohammed" is not a totally innocent or random reference.

Second, if we all cared so much about censorship on Comedy Central, where were the impassioned posts about Chappelle?
4.14.2006 11:36am
kidbourbon:
should have posted this previously. but its interesting that nobody has commented on SP's explanation as to why muslims are so angry.

Mr. Garrisson explained that in islam, there is "no sex" and there is "no jacking off". Yeah, this is crude humor, but maybe a freudian theory that sexual frustration is the cause of terrorism wouldn't be so far off base. why else would these people be sooooo angry.
4.14.2006 11:44am
Cheburashka (mail):
I just think its a terribly sad thing to happen to America that we're now being extorted out of our free speech rights.
4.14.2006 11:48am
Charles Chapman (mail) (www):
Justin said:
There's a huge difference between perception and reality. As far as I can tell, nobody has threatened anyone here in America.
And you again ignore the threat to Americans who happen to live, work, travel or vacation outside of America.

The Danish embassies and consulates were, pretty much by definition, not attacked in Denmark. They were attacked in vulnerable locations in the Middle East and North Africa. Over what? Over cartoons. Cartoons sponsored, promoted or published by the Danish government? No, cartoons published by a separate, private company. A company where the victims worked, contracted, had some relation? No.
4.14.2006 11:53am
Justin (mail):
Charles, though there are plenty of responses to that (and, btw, I used to live in Kobenhavn), I'll just point out that's irrelevant to CC, Borders, or NYU, or any other line of discussion involved HERE.
4.14.2006 11:56am
abb3w:
But I'm growing confident that Peter Griffin's "getting a salmon helmet from Mohammed" is not a totally innocent or random reference.

Possibly a reference to Christianity, with the ancient use of the fish as its symbol, or perhaps to judaism, with smoked salmon (lox) being a traditional Yiddish cultural food. Or perhaps even a Danish reference — IIR lox originated in that part of the world?
4.14.2006 12:00pm
BossPup (mail):
Or it is just a salmon helmet. I wouldn't go looking for deeper meaning on that one. The whole point was that the joke balls randomize the joke.
4.14.2006 12:04pm
Charles Chapman (mail) (www):
Justin said:
The real threat to free speech is when irrational actors like Borders, CC, and NYU FEEL like there's a threat to free speech due to their own completely false stereotypes of Muslems.
The Danish embassies and consulates were not attacked in Denmark. They were attacked in vulnerable locations in the Middle East and North Africa. Over cartoons. Cartoons published not by the Danish government, but by a separate, private company.

Given these undisputed facts, fear of violence against Americans by Muslim extremists who are pissed off about a cartoon portrayal of Mohammad is far from irrational. Is such violence against an American more likely to take place outside the U.S. rather than inside the U.S.? Yes, because that is where the vast majority of the potential perpetrators are and where Americans are most vulnerable. Does that mean that such violence somehow is not legitimate concern? Of course not. Does that mean that such violence somehow doesn't count? No, not unless, Justin, it is your world view that Americans outside the U.S. are fair game.

It is far from irrational to fear a group of people who have already committed, and have attempted to commit, violence over precisely the same issue -- cartoons -- that are in issue in the present case.
4.14.2006 12:05pm
Mackey:
I'll ask it plainly enough:

Is "getting a salmon helmet" a reference to giving oral sex to a woman?
4.14.2006 12:15pm
SG:
Justin,

Please read the article about CC's motiviation. You're ignoring the clear meaning of their words. They did not respond to a peaceful demand to not portray Mohammed ; they self-censored out of fear. This is empirically validated by the fact that the same episode was shockingly offensive to Christians, a group CC did not fear.

I agree that (in America) the fear is overblown, but it's not an irrational fear. And don't forget, Viacom is a multinational company. According to wikipedia, as of March 2, at least 139 people have been killed internationally in protests over the Danish Mohammed cartoons. Or is it your contention that violence outside of America borders doesn't count?

I find it amusing how you've managed to blame the threats to our liberty at the feet of those who felt threatened and have completely excused those who have and continue to threaten violence if their notions of blasphemy aren't upheld by the world at large. Why do you refuse to condemn those who've killed and destroyed indiscriminately over cartoons?

Acknowledging that Muslim violence is wrong wouldn't require you to subscribe to National Review or agree with the Iraq War or vote Republican or anything. You can continue to believe that the CC (among others) should not have caved to unstated threats, and that they were cowardly in doing so. But please, assign blame where it's due.

And as a hypothetical, suppose CC showed Mo' and there was no violence in America, but American embassies in the Middle East were burned in response. Who would you fault in that scenario? Now suppose that violence occurred in America? Who would you find fault with then?
4.14.2006 12:21pm
Charles Chapman (mail) (www):
Justin said, regarding the danger of Americans being attacked outside the U.S.:
Charles, though there are plenty of responses to that (and, btw, I used to live in Kobenhavn), I'll just point out that's irrelevant to CC....
It is far from irrelevant. The Danish cartoons were published in Denmark for a Danish audience. Various Mullahs made sure they were republished in the Middle East. The result was violence directed against Danes and Danish diplomatic property in the Middle East. Precisely the same thing could happen here.
4.14.2006 12:22pm
Justin (mail):
"locations in the Middle East and North Africa"

"139 people have been killed internationally in protests over the Danish Mohammed"

When you're discussing authoritarian dictators who use religion as a tool to enslave the people and shift blame for the suffering these dictators contribute and fail to alleve, I think you're already admitting that's a different issue than what we have here.

I abhor Muslim violence. I also abhor black violence, white violence, Christian violence, Jewish violence, Communist violence, Buddhist violence, etc.

What you want me to admit, and what I refuse to do, is that there's something inherent about Islam itself that makes people violent - and the violence that you have tried to associate with Islam itself is not tied to different, more political, issues - like anti-Western sentiment in the Middle East and North Africa, and to racial strife in Denmark.

Because neither of these are issues in the United States, showing Mohammad cartoons here in America is as unlikely of starting riots or reactions as Clayton Cramer's absurd fears of retaliation for his insults against homosexuality.

Several people here, including both EV, have referred to the chances of retaliation as "small" "overblown" or "unlikely" - but maintain that it's still possible. It's also possible (indeed, there's significantly more evidence of this actually happening) that being pro-abortion is likely to get you killed. But if a doctor in New York stopped doing abortions, because, without any death threats, he said he was "afraid for his life" - wouldn't we call that irrational? At what point is the chance of some lunatic doing something so unlikely as to make the fear irrational? Surely, we're discussing matters of degree, not kind.

I'm also tired of my position being (intentionally, I assume) mischaracterized and slandered.

"Why do you refuse to condemn those who've killed and destroyed indiscriminately over cartoons? "

I have. I'll do it again. Anyone who commits violence over a cartoon, or more to the point, uses a cartoon as an excuse to commit violence, has no place in civil society. My argument is that this does not describe the Muslem population in the United States, and to the degree it describes the Muslem populations elsewhere, the reasons are not tied directly to Islam but to other sociopolitical problems. The problem with this, btw, isn't "our threat to liberty" - which is certainly by far less than all our calls being eavesdropped on by the NSA, for apparently political purposes as well as security ones. It's the violence itself - the dead people.

And FINALLY, I should once again point out that if a Comedy Central middle manager goes to the UAE and gets executed because of his role in SP - you're talking about very well organized, highly trained people. These people have more important people to kill, and we should be less concerned about what they're going to do to our free speech and more concerned about getting them to stop doing that, either through military policy or otherwise.

And as a hypothetical, suppose CC showed Mo' and there was no violence in America, but American embassies in the Middle East were burned in response. Who would you fault in that scenario?

Uhhh, the same people who were at fault the last time - Islamic political leaders in the middle east and the people who actually did that as a general manner, tho, like any global political conflict, the underlying problems have enough blame to go all around. Certainly there'd be no serious movement in America to blame Comedy Central.

"Now suppose that violence occurred in America? Who would you find fault with then?"

That's not going to happen, and if it did, something fantastical would have to happen - and whoever caused that fantastical event would be to blame. And this is the rub.

"It is far from irrational to fear a group of people who have already committed"

Look, this is the bigotry that is the problem. The "group of people who already comitted" the violence are not "Muslems" but "the political subclass of certain (def not all) Middle Eastern and North African countries" as well as a lesser violent reaction amongst some "Danish North African immigrants" - the fact that you're willing to ascribe the blame to "a group of people" a billion strong - the vast majority of who have done NOTHING - is not only bigoted and foolish, but it's dangerous.

Haven't enough people died in the Global War on Terror by foolish assumptions people have made about other people or cultures?
4.14.2006 12:39pm
Medis:
Perhaps it is worth noting that Justin's agenda is not to honestly discuss whether Comedy Central's alleged motivation (fear that showing the uncensored cartoon would somehow, someway, cause violence) is rational, proportionate, or otherwise well-founded. Indeed, insofar as Justin wanted to claim that Comedy Central was irrationally overreacting to an ill-defined threat, many people who have criticized Comedy Central would be happy to agree.

No, Justin's agenda is more complicated. First, he wants to argue that such an account of Comedy Central's motivations is so inherently absurd that their actual motivations must have been something else, namely a desire to show a justified tolerance towards Muslims (the fact that South Park regularly offends many other groups, including religious people, without being censored by Comedy Central apparently does not give Justin any pause). Second, he wants to argue that anyone criticizing Comedy Central must, therefore, actively want to be unjustifiably intolerant of Muslims, since the desire to be justifiably tolerant of Muslims is the only possible motivation for Comedy Central's actions.

It should be obvious to anyone that Justin's argument is without merit. But Justin manifestly isn't really interested in making meritorious arguments--he simply wants an excuse to accuse certain people of being intolerant of Muslims.

Frankly, I am surprised that after several days of this, people here are still willing to play along with Justin's little game. In fact, I have some doubt myself about whether Justin truly is a "liberal" as he has represented, because it seems equally plausible to me that he is actually attempting to make "liberals" look bad.

As a final thought: insofar as there has been a "Left-Right" element to the discussions of this issue here, it reminds me again of how frequently such analysis tends to lead discussions away from anything substantive. Indeed, as others have implied, the most significant divide is really between those of us who want Comedy Central to let South Park offend everyone more or less equally as they see fit, and those who think Comedy Central should censor South Park for the purpose of avoiding offense to one or more groups.

And whether people in the latter category want to protect just Muslims, or Muslims and Catholics, or all religious people, or all people in general, from offense at the hands of South Park is pretty much irrelevant in my mind. As South Park correctly noted, once avoiding offense is a valid reason to censor South Park, there is no logical stopping point before their entire show must be censored, because that is the very nature of the show. And as South Park also correctly noted, that is undoubtedly the goal of some people--namely those who think South Park is representative of the elements of American popular culture that they would like to see extinguished.

Finally, I should note that I personally do not put much weight on the fact that some of the people who would like to see South Park censored by Comedy Central (and perhaps ultimately extinguished) might advocate violence as a way of coercing Comedy Central, and others would seek only to put "economic" pressure on Comedy Central (eg, through threats of boycotts, or Cruise's purported threat to fail to promote MI3). Of course, obviously that difference in means would have a great deal of legal relevance in various contexts. But simply choosing legal means of exerting pressure on Comedy Central does not in my mind excuse the general sentiment that we should be seeking to deal with purportedly "offensive" speech by attempting to extinguish its presence entirely.

Rather, to paraphrase the Supreme Court's recent decision in FAIR, as originally suggested by Justice Breyer, the appropriate response to speech we don't like is generally more speech. And although I don't think that principle should be legally enforced in this case, I think people who care about that principle should still stand up for it even when only legal means are being used to attempt to extinguish, rather than respond to, purportedly "offensive" speech.

And to bring this thought full circle--I think it only plays into the hands of the pro-censorship folks on both the "Left" and the "Right" to think of this issue in Left-Right terms.
4.14.2006 12:39pm
Justin (mail):
Okay, I've now written probably a toal of 40 pages on the subject. A good 10 pages of that has been correcting the record as to what I believe in and what I've said. Another 20 pages has expressed my views, and another 10 pages has been attacking irrelevant "examples" and "analogies." I meant to stop posting on this topic before and got drawn back into it through boredom and stupidity. I'm not changing anyone's mind (and goodness nobody's changed mine, though in the beginning a few people no longer participating in the discussion made some good points that I should consider). Everyone, have the last word and pat yourself on the back for thinking you've won because you were in the majority to start with, and thus outnumber those who agree with me in this forum.

Consider the post above my own "last word" on the subject.
4.14.2006 12:43pm
Justin (mail):
"No, Justin's agenda is more complicated. First, he wants to argue that such an account of Comedy Central's motivations is so inherently absurd that their actual motivations must have been something else, namely a desire to show a justified tolerance towards Muslims" (if I wanted to arguing that, perhaps I'd go with the tried and true method of saying that)

"manifestly"
"agenda"
"anyone criticizing Comedy Central"
"he simply wants an excuse to accuse certain people of being intolerant of Muslims"

Uhhhh?

Before I go, for the last time, please stop making stuff up about me or my arguments. Thank you.
4.14.2006 12:46pm
WAL:
1. Extremists in the Muslim world obviously have a history of issuing threats against people who are not in their countries. The original Danish publishers currently have multi million-dollar bounties placed on their heads.

2. This has not happened in the United States yet (and oddly enough European newspapers have been braver than us here), because our media mostly hasn't had the balls to do it. Even small operations such as student newspapers that decided to try this have sacked people who decided to publish a couple cartoons.

That's all there is to it. If you're tossing in neoconservatives, American hypocrisy, or even American Muslims, you're making this way more complicated than it needs to be in an attempt to rip something else.
4.14.2006 12:59pm
SG:
Justin,

While you have undoubtedly spent a lot of time writing and responding (as have I), but you really haven't made yourself clear. I wouldn't go so far as Medis and infer bad faith on your part, but you might want to consider that you're not communicating effectively. In fact, you're communicating so poorly that Medis' inference of bad faith on your part has merit. We've spent a lot of electrons going back and forth with each other and I really have very little clue what you're arguing for or against, because it's not clear from what you've written.
4.14.2006 1:11pm
SG:
Medis,

Under the theory that actions are a form of speech, organizing a boycott is more speech designed to counter speech that someone doesn't like. A group using its economic clout as a protest against speech they find offensive strikes me as not only a legal response, but a moral response as well. Likewise, people who support the controversial speech can support it (the "Buy Denmark" campaign).

While it would be nicer if we were a society full of Voltaires, that's an unreasonable expectation.
4.14.2006 1:24pm
Steven:
I"m just curious whether anyone has considered that both Comedy Central and the producers of South Park are royally yanking your chains on this whole thing.
4.14.2006 1:45pm
Justin (mail):
::sigh:: I submit that what my positions are very clear.

Synapsis.

The Danish cartoons were meant to be offensive, and were. Still, the reaction to them was horrendous and tragic. Although nobody reported as such, the reaction was simply a lit powder keg, for two different reasons. In Denmark, the Danish immigrant class (from almost exclusively North Africa) already felt like second class citizens, due to both economic strife and because the ruling conservative political party often attacks them for political purposes. In Iran, Syria, Lebanon, et. al., political leaders who have also labeled themselves religious leaders have used it as an excuse to inflame antiWestern sentiment, and turned the Danish cartoons into a symbol of Western "corruption," "economic interference," etc - the symbolic boogeyman.

The problem started next with the media. The media, as usually, reported the Danish riots in only a superficial and sensationalist way. Thus, nobody really was informed of the root underlying causes (the way, say, a high school student learns that the Black Hand's assassination was not the "real" cause of World War I, for example). This meant people were given the real, but misinformed idea, that public depictions of Mohammad would be met with violence, particularly in North Africa and Denmark. This is true even though many, many people have since depicted Mohammad, and there has been no recurring violence on the issue.

To make matters worse, the political right in this country is floundering. They're deeply in need of rallying isssues. Their economic agenda is stalled, their political leaders are unpopular, the war they put their hopes and beliefs in is failing, and they're looking at a major loss in the polls in November (though that probably won't happen, due to Democratic incompetence). In 2004, political leaders tried to use anti-Gay sentiment to keep supporters in the fold - but this is now an issue which tears the right asunder (surely an issue that will ultimately find the political rubble), and anyway, the lack of action post-2004 make the true believers skeptical.

As such, the new target are Muslems. This started by the GOP Congress, along with Democrats who were too incompetent to latch on to anything else, making a big hay about the ports, even though the UAE are our allies. The meme started to grow - the fight we were having was not against "Al Queda," nor against "political Wahabbasm" but against Islam itself, and giving the ports over to a country that happened to be Muslem was the equivalent of dealing with the enemy.

(Incidentally, this has been a mime that has consistently undermined the war on terror. It created the rediculous mindset that our new war against Osama was the same as our old war against Saddam, and the resulting war against Saddam not only deprived us of a ton of resources, but took away from us a natural deflector of our enemy's attention, as well as opened up for our real enemies the possibility of controlling Iraq's very valuable oil supply - far more valuable than the heroin supply that was previously funding their efforts. Furthermore, our consistent inability to understand the history of Muslem conflict made the Iraq insurgency a surprise to the political leaders, and their current inability to understand motivating factors has led to a political strategy that has undermined our efforts and endangered our troops.)

As such, a meme, pushed by the right (notice how no other blogs besides righwinged blogs are discussing the issue at all, but almost every right winged blog has something to say - though I think Dales' post on RedState is pretty reasonable - he's a reasonable guy) was that Muslems are PERSECUTING us and taking away our RIGHTS. This was brilliant, to the degree it was intentional - it rebranded the war as not just one for security (where the lack of attacks has made us complacent, for better or worse), but as one for ideology. It also was vaguely more plausible sounding than "they hate us for our freedom!"

But it was also dangerous. First of all, it made people scared of Muslems - not just the ones who actually want to kill us, but all Muslems. Second of all, it ironically DID take away our rights. By hyping the threat in Iraq, and the connection to Al Queda, and the WMDs', Bush ironically made Iraq a threat (at least to American interests and soldiers, gave Al Queda a major foothold in Iraq, and increased the value of having WMDs to deter future invasions). Here, the hyping of our threat to "free speech" has made people actually afraid of free speech - which can be evidenced by the irrational *but genuine* fear which caused, amongst others, CC not to show the harmless Mohammad cartoon. And as the previous 8 zillion posts show, such a fear not only has a chilling effect (though perhaps an overstated one) on speech, it also has a dangerous backlash people. Since the fear is based on a distorted (and bigoted) view of Muslims generally, it appears "confirmed" in a strange, circular way - provoking and supporting more fear and bigotry.

Finally, I'm frustrated by both the tone and the seeming purpose of the criticism which pushes forth the cycle. When people like the ACLU make such allegations, it's one thing. But when it comes from people who normally are okay with private organizations deciding to not offend others based on (here, oddly nonexistant) the threat of (generally legal) reaction - and when it is couched in terms that seem overtly playing to anti-Muslim sentiments and the idea that we should speak just to stick it to them for the previous misdeeds of just a portion of them (the whole group blame meme) - it is likely to cause overreaction, and unneccesary antagonism, on both sides.

It's also unseemly - it's one thing to support free speech that is patently offensive, it's another thing to do so in a way that seems disproportionately passionate, and blur the line between the right to speak and the message itself.

That's my synapsis - nothing I said here can't be found in any of my previous posts, and I am not going to clarify further, because this has gone on long enough.
4.14.2006 1:47pm
VolokhGroupie (mail):
Defending the Indefensible


Your vitriolic partisanship is getting in the way of the facts. The right wing does not own a monopoly on being in favor of free speech. In fact all three posts on teh topic from the most popular left wing site show that you are actually the dissident (who also seems to subsitute ad-hominems for actual debate) with regards to the south park episode:

http://www.dailykos.com/tag/South%20Park

just scroll down a little
4.14.2006 2:06pm
Medis:
Justin,

I've been reading your comments carefully, and I stand by my characterization. I actually wouldn't go so far as to say you are arguing in "bad faith", because I think you clearly announced your thesis in the beginning. And again, I think your arguments are designed to support the thesis that those criticizing Comedy Central actually want to be intolerant of Muslims.

SG,

I'm actually not sure what you mean by saying actions are a form of speech--obviously, some actions are speech, and some are not, and some are a mix. Insofar as an act is not designed to communicate an idea, but rather is also designed to provide an incentive, or impose some sort of coercion, I don't think one can say that it is just a speech act.

In general, though, I don't think the semantics are important. My basic point is that one can respond to speech one finds offensive in a lot of different ways. One category of responses would include things like criticizing the purportedly offensive speech and providing alternative speech on the same topic. Generally, one might call these "additive" responses, in that one seeks to address the alleged problem by adding more speech to the cultural mix.

A different category of responses would include things like trying to extinguish the purportedly offensive speech, or at least trying to limit its audience by influencing (through persuasion, incentives, coercion, etc.) those who control mass media outlets to deny access to the relevant speakers. Generally, one might call these "subtractive" responses, in that one seeks to address the alleged problem by subtracting the purportedly offensive speech from the cultural mix.

I'm not suggesting one can categorically rule out justifying the latter sort of response, but I am generally inclined to disfavor such a response absent truly extraordinary circumstances. There are lots of interacting reasons why I think that, but the basic idea is that I think a society which generally tries to add more speech, rather than trying to subtract away speech, will end up being a better society.

In contrast, some people obviously believe that we should be trying to extinguish the presence of certain sorts of current elements of popular culture. They clearly believe that if they could succeed in subtracting such speech from our cultural mix, they could create a better society. And for some of those people, South Park represents the kind of thing they want to see extinguished in the name of creating a better society.

So, I think that is a legitimate contrast in views. And again, I think that represents a divide that does not map neatly onto the "Left/Right" division, because there are those on both the Left and the Right who believe in making a better society through cultural subtraction, and vice-versa.
4.14.2006 2:14pm
Mackey:
I broach the question uncertainly, but am I right that the "salmon helmet" joke is a reference to cunnilingus? Doesn't that kind of matter in assessing how benign or inoffensive the joke was?
4.14.2006 2:17pm
WAL:
"In Denmark, the Danish immigrant class (from almost exclusively North Africa) already felt like second class citizens"

"Thus, nobody really was informed of the root underlying causes..."

Justin, I hate to pile on - but I took it as a given that you realize these cartoons were published in Denmark months before any riots or violence occurred as some sort of retaliation to the cartoons. That violence when it did occur, occurred thousands of miles away from Denmark.
(I'm sorry to be patronizing, but from reading the first two paragraphs of the post, it honestly sounds like you don't know - and you don't, and it seems like it, it's a waste of time to read commentary on anything else in the post with regard to that.)

At this point I stopped reading your post. If you want to make it clear to me you know (you're under no obligation to, but) I'll continue arguing over this thing. If not, this is a waste of time. You're looking for some sort "gotcha" or "root causes" where there aren't any. It's like the guy in the Big Lebowski who tried to tie everything back to Vietnam. This isn't America's fault. This isn't your fault or my fault. There's not a lot more to it.
4.14.2006 2:27pm
gst552 (mail):

I used to live in Kobenhavn


Is that anywhere near Copenhagen?

I once visited Mockba. If only someone would invent an English word for that city so people would know where I'm talking about!
4.14.2006 2:36pm
Vato Loco:
Wasn't the other censorship of religiously charged material out of fear as well, not tolerance?
....
When they didn't reshow the "Bloody Mary", wasn't that FEAR of upsetting Catholics, not tolerance.

I still am not seeing the difference in this case, Comedy Central seems perfectly consistent in their censorship, the blogosphere response on the other hand seems to have gone nuts because its about Muslims.

The Bloody Mary episode - from http://www.defamer.com/hollywood/south-park/bloody-mary-
episode-ensures-south-park-guys-a-bungalow-in-hell
-145774.php - "Its plot involves a statue of the Virgin Mary, which appears to be miraculously bleeding from its rectum. Pope Benedict XVI is called in to investigate, and upon discovering the statue is instead hemorrhaging from its vagina, says, ahem, "A chick bleeding out her vagina is no miracle. Chicks bleed out their vaginas all the time.""

A little common sense has to be used here. There is a world of difference between a show that actually and vilely defames Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and a show that merely shows an image of Mohammed, and not even in a disrespectful manner, if reports are correct. They are not comparable.
4.14.2006 2:36pm
SG:
Medis,

A decision to buy or not buy a product because of the some speech of the producer is clearly a communicative act. It says "I don't like what you've said" and "please stop saying it".

Although, I agree with you that this is usually not the optimal response from a societal standpoint. As I said, I'd prefer a society of Voltaires, but I can't fault someone for not being Voltaire. How many truly are?

But if you just watched your Lord and Savior being defecated on, what's would you consider an appropriate "additive" response to that?

To be clear, I'm largely in agreement with you. Our society is enriched by having as largest possible selection in the marketplace of ideas. Fewer sacred cows would be nice too. And it takes a special kind of genius to turn this into left/right issue when it clearly seems to be to be a pre-enlightment/post-enlightment issue.
4.14.2006 2:55pm
SG:
Vato Loco,

I disagree. The two cases are very comparable. In both cases a religious figure was depicted in a way that (some) adherents of the religion found troubling. "disrespectful" and "defaming" are clearly value judgements and different religions have different values.

I would rather Comedy Central show both episodes unedited. But I draw a distinction between censoring for economic self-interest and censoring for fear of violence.
4.14.2006 3:03pm
Jenny (mail):
I agree, there is a big difference between simply showing an image of Mohammed and what was done in the Bloody Mary episode, but really, aren't we just talking about differing degrees of censorship? I am still completely appalled that Comedy Central took two episodes off the air entirely (especially since the Scientology episode was the funniest episode in a LONG time). Seems like the network started "pussing out" a while ago, and their decision to censor this episode is just them going further down the slippery slope of political correctness. I saw it posted somewhere else first, but I wholeheartedly agree that Matt and Trey should be talking to HBO about a move.
4.14.2006 3:04pm
Vato Loco:

SG says:
I disagree. The two cases are very comparable. In both cases a religious figure was depicted in a way that (some) adherents of the religion found troubling. "disrespectful" and "defaming" are clearly value judgements and different religions have different values.

With all due respect, you are incorrect regarding the show on Mary. There are images of Mohammed in the Muslim world, so it is true that not all Muslims agree that merely showing an image of Mohammed is disrespectful. The Muslims, themselves, have much more respect for Mary than the South Park show called "Bloody Mary." Objectively, South Park's sin in the "Bloody Mary" show is greater, than in the Mohammed show. One other difference is that Christians who honor Mary probably will not riot because of the show. That generally is not the way to change hearts. If I was the author of the "Bloody Mary" show, I would not want to stand before her Son at the last judgment, unless I had truly repented of my sin.

V.L.
4.14.2006 3:24pm
Designbot:
"Salmon helmet" is not a reference to cunnilingus. The phrase doesn't appear anywhere in Google's search results until after the episode aired. It's just supposed to be a random string of words generated by the idea balls.
4.14.2006 3:32pm
SG:
V.L.,

I'm not insensitive to your point. I'm objecting to your claim that there's a world of difference between the two. I agree that the two cases differ in degree, but not of category. I can (and did) draw a number of parallels between the two.
4.14.2006 3:49pm
gst552 (mail):
Well, Designbot, I've long used the term in that sense, and I've always regarded its absence in online search results as one of the main failings of Google.
4.14.2006 3:52pm
hypocrisy:

Well, Designbot, I've long used the term in that sense, and I've always regarded its absence in online search results as one of the main failings of Google.


I suggest actually watching the episode in question. "Family Guy" is criticized because none of its jokes really make sense. In the SP episode it's revealed that this is because the "Family Guy" writers are actually manatees who are "writing" each episode by randomly moving colored balls with words written on them from one end of the pool to another.
4.14.2006 4:13pm
hypocrisy:

But I draw a distinction between censoring for economic self-interest and censoring for fear of violence.


The difference between greed and cowardice?
4.14.2006 4:14pm
hypocrisy:
I can't help but feel that many of the commenters in this thread haven't seen the SP episode in question. Remember, the dichotomy is that a completely harmless depiction of Mohammed is deleted while a patently offensive one involving Christ is allowed to remain in. Just in case anyone missed the point, immediately after Mohammed makes his Family Guy appearance the President remarks "Hey, that wasn't so bad. They just showed him there standing around like a normal person".

Incidentally, in response to Justin, which one of the original Danish cartoons was patently offensive? There is a vast gulf between reasonable criticism, in which category I would place those cartoons, and vulgarity whose sole intention is to offend.
4.14.2006 4:20pm
SG:
Hypocrisy,




But I draw a distinction between censoring for economic self-interest and censoring for fear of violence.


The difference between greed and cowardice?


Well, yeah. Viacom's a business. If they're not satisfying their customers, they should change what they're doing.

They're under no obligation to broadcast something that doesn't have a sizeable enough audience, or that would alienate their audience. But when they decline to broadcast something that people want to see (what were the ratings for Cartoon Wars, pt2?) for fear of a violent reprisal, I see that as categorically different.
4.14.2006 4:34pm
Justin (mail):
I think I meant to say that the purpose of the cartoons was to offend, and one of the cartoons makes the point. (The cartoon shows a picture of a kid named Mohammad who makes fun of the paper for being fascist jerks). Even so, most (but not all) of the Danish cartoons make somewhat interesting points - though some don't seem to make any point at all (not even an anti-Muslim one), and its bizarre why one would draw mohammad, knowing its offensive, without any other speech component.

http://www.humaneventsonline.com/images/islm_cartoon_8.jpg

(ignore the human events "editorial comment" if you will - this is just the first one i found)

Yet some of the other cartoons were patently offensive:

http://www.humaneventsonline.com/images/islm_cartoon_1.jpg

Which features the stereotypical bushy eyebrow and sneer, along with the big nose that was so familiar in German newspapers many years ago.

http://www.humaneventsonline.com/images/islm_cartoon_7.jpg

This one features much of the same racial bigotry, and while the point is arguably political, it's a fairly offensive one - that Islam as a whole is a religion of violence and hate. You might agree with that statement, but that doesn't make it not offensive.

http://www.humaneventsonline.com/images/islm_cartoon_6.jpg

This one is more political, and so the offensiveness of it could be viewed in a fair light. However, I could see the argument that by continuing to cultivate the myth of virgins, it's offensive outside of its political content.

On the other hand, these are all very interesting ones which make provocative points, and where the drawing of Mohammad is justified to make the point:

http://www.humaneventsonline.com/images/islm_cartoon_3.jpg

http://www.humaneventsonline.com/images/islm_cartoon_9.jpg

http://www.humaneventsonline.com/images/islm_cartoon_11.jpg

(which incidentally makes the same point as the one I referred to originally)

and this one I don't understand at all:

http://www.humaneventsonline.com/images/islm_cartoon_5.gif

This one I just find really cute and subtle:

http://www.humaneventsonline.com/images/islm_cartoon_2.jpg

Okay, that's all.
4.14.2006 4:36pm
Justin (mail):
PS - as you can tell I have no problem with the showing of mohammad, though i find it in poor taste, at a minimum, to do so just because others find it offensive. (South Park, whose very concept is to challenge our sensitivities, has a reason, even if despite regularly watching the show I don't find it to be political genius on a regular basis). It might be a subtle difference to some, but I think it's a very meaningful one.
4.14.2006 4:39pm
submandave (mail) (www):
"[W]hich one of the original Danish cartoons was patently offensive?"

Hear, hear, hypocrisy. I didn't think I was the only one to see this huge assumption on behalf of Justin, not to mention his ignoring intentional self-ghetoization of Danish Moslems and the Saudi/Wahabbi $$ used to fund "education" there as contributing factors in Islamic intollerance.

I came to the conclusion on a previous thread that Justin is so affected by his bias and preconceived notiong about "the right" and what it stands for that he is practically incapable of judging a matter on its merits without retreating to political posturing.
4.14.2006 4:54pm
Designbot:
Well, Designbot, I've long used the term in that sense, and I've always regarded its absence in online search results as one of the main failings of Google.

Haven't we all. Fortunately, now that "salmon helmet" has been used in the proper context during this blog discussion, it will presumably show up in future Google searches, and the millions of desperate Googlers seeking information on salmon helmetry shall no longer search in vain.
4.14.2006 4:56pm
neutral:
CC's decision is defensible from business perspective. Surely they had all the rights to make this decision. I have no problem with that.

Here's what I do have a problem with. As this particular episode of South Park shows, it is possible and safe to offend Christians and patriotic people in US - which is as it should be. But it is not possible to offend Muslims. And how do you call a place where there is a single religion that can not be offended?

Caliphat has not been officially proclaimed, but it has been established 4/12/2006 (or what is this equivalent to in Muslim calendar?)
4.14.2006 4:56pm
SG:
Justin,

The Danish editors said quite explicitly what the purpose of the cartoons were. They were not done commissioned simply "to offend", they were done to test what the limits of free expression were in contemporary Danish society. It seems they got their results, no?


some don't seem to make any point at all (not even an anti-Muslim one), and its bizarre why one would draw mohammad, knowing its offensive, without any other speech component.


Whoa, whoa, whoa. Even by your standards, you agree that there's no offensive component to that particular depiction. I read you as saying that, even thought there was nothing offensive, the drawing shouldn't have been made (describing an action as "bizarre" is hardly an affirmation). Why shouldn't it have been drawn? Or am I misreading you?

In answer to your question: "Why draw Mohammed, knowing it is offensive, without any speech content?" Answer: Because you can. Or in this case, because you can't.

Haven't you agreed that Comedy Central should have shown Mohammed "just standing there"? How is this different?
4.14.2006 5:04pm
Medis:
SG,

As an aside, you say: "A decision to buy or not buy a product because of the some speech of the producer is clearly a communicative act. It says 'I don't like what you've said' and 'please stop saying it'."

I don't think that is clear at all. First, one might have no intention at all of communicating anything to the producer or anyone else. One might simply desire to disassociate oneself from the producer, or to punish the producer, or to provide the producer with an incentive to change his behavior. Of course, in the last case, one would also have to communicate to the producer what behavior one found objectionable, and notably a simple decision not to buy the product does not really communicate that--one also has to add an explanation of why one did not buy the product.

That said, I think that in some circumstances such an act could also be a symbolic gesture intended to communicate an idea to the producer or some third party (but not necessarily so). But even then, it could be a mixed act--it could both be offered as a symbolic gesture, but also be designed to serve one or more noncommunicative purposes.

In general, all acts "say" something about the state of mind of the actor, in that one can sometimes deduce beliefs and motivations from the act in combination with various factual circumstances. But that use of the word "say" is actually a metaphor, and should not be confused with the literal sense of someone intending to communicate something through an act.

Anyway, you also say: "I'd prefer a society of Voltaires, but I can't fault someone for not being Voltaire. How many truly are?"

Assuming you mean by "a Voltaire" someone who lives up to some ideal of tolerance for offensive speech, I'm not sure why you think we cannot fault people to the extent that they fail to live up to that ideal. That is the nature of ideals: they define standards, the departure from which we consider worthy of criticism. And the fact that we all depart from various ideals under various circumstances does not mean that we are all immune to criticism for such failings--rather, it instead means that we are all subject to criticism at various time.

That said, I don't tend to think of these matters in terms of ideals (I'm more a balancing of principles and values sort of person--in other words, a "golden mean" sort). And as I said, I am not ruling out entirely a "subtractive" response in certain extraordinary circumstances.

Again, though, it seems to me that there are clear differences of opinion in our society about to what degree we should be attempting to "subtract" offensive speech. And I don't see why I should not criticize those who in my view resort too quickly and without adequate justification to such means of dealing with purportedly offensive speech. Indeed, that seems like a perfectly reasonable topic for rational discourse.

Finally, you say: "But if you just watched your Lord and Savior being defecated on, what's would you consider an appropriate 'additive' response to that?"

That is a tough question for me to answer, because there is not a lot I consider "sacred" in that sense. To get my blood boiling, I think you would have to make it personal--eg, maybe something like Comedy Central broadcasting a cartoon image of my wife (who is not a public figure) being graphically demeaned in some way. In such a case, I would probably get angry, and I might well respond by demanding the speech in question be extinguished.

But I don't think it is too hard to explain why that counts as an "extraordinary" case. And again, I don't see this as an all-or-nothing proposition. Rather, I see it as an issue of where we should strike the appropriate balance, and I do feel free to criticize those who in my view too often err on the side of subtracting speech.
4.14.2006 5:08pm
Justin (mail):
Under the definition of offensive that I'm working with, offensive is subjective to the viewer, and only secondarily to the intent of the author (i.e., something's a little more negative if he intends the viewer to be offended).

In other words, Muslems (or at least many of them) don't like it when other people draw pictures of Mohammad. Although we may find this concept foreign, and we certainly should not make their preferences mandatory, it seems like all else being equal, we respect them. If we go around drawing Mohammad just BECAUSE "other Muslems don't like it" (and not as anything that extends from that...i.e., I'm okay with Trey and Matt), it just seems obnoxious.

Or to put it another way. Let's say your neighbor hates the color Green. You don't know why, but he does. Now if you liked the color Green, and so thus painted your house Green, then well, too bad for him. His preferences don't get to usurp yours. But if you had absolutely no preference between blue and green, and you knew your neighbor hated green, so you painted your house green...you'd be a bit of a jerk.

Does that help? I hope?
4.14.2006 5:19pm
Justin (mail):
"Haven't you agreed that Comedy Central should have shown Mohammed "just standing there"? How is this different?"

Two reasons. The raison d'etre of South Park is to tell people not to take themselves seriously, and to show people that emotions shouldn't be tied to, for lack of a better term, "the PC". If, say, Three's Company decided to show a portrait of Mohammad, for no better reason than to show a portrait of Mohammad - that would be unfortunate. After all, people who think I'm a big giant idiotic jerk have pointed out to me that South Park has also shown the Virgin Mary and Jesus in blasphemous ways, and so while at first glance South Park was showing Mohammad just to be Mohammad, I think we can really say that there was a broader (if not necessarily nuanced) point they were making.

Personally, I was indifferent (still am) to Comedy Central showing or not showing Mohammad. I just think that their reason, because they think people will kill them, is ignorant (in its original - without intending bigotry - meaning) and shows a lack of understanding, that's all.
4.14.2006 5:24pm
Frank Drackmann (mail):
I'm a god fearin,red blooded american war veteran, but damnit, Jesus takin a crap on the flag was FUNNY.
4.14.2006 5:36pm
Tiffany Devol (mail):
I think that the issue here deals with what is comedy central going to promote? Are they going to continue promoting the free speech that they normally promote on their television programming? Or are they going to be coerced into censoring based on fear?

I watched this episode and the fact that the episode itself mirrored the real life situation going on between Comedy Central Executives and South Park Creators was what made the show not only interesting, but hilarious as well.

Why would Comedy Central cave to Muslim retaliation when they do not cave to negative responses from conservative evangelical Christian groups in the way they portray or make fun of religious institutions? Comedy Central has not censored based on any other issue of any other religious group and so because of this, it is very obvious that Comedy Central made this decision out of fear.

What is the next thing that Comedy Central will censor? I felt that this was one of the last networks who still pushed the envelope and welcomed poking fun at everything in society.

Tiffany Devol
4.14.2006 5:55pm
Defending the Indefensible:
Justin, I think you have explained your perspective quite well, and I can't find much about it to disagree with. I think there's a lot of denial that the right wing campaign on the larger issue of the cartoon controversy is about anything but free speech, but at the same time many of the same people will turn around and condemn the New York Times of treason for publishing things they don't like.
4.14.2006 7:17pm
neutral:

I think that there was a nontrivial chance that people would die if Comedy Central showed the cartoon as made--and any deaths might be traceable precisely to their decision to show Mohammed


Just as some rapes might be traceable to the decision of so-called vistims to choose revealing clothing, might they not?
4.14.2006 7:22pm
Frank Drackmann (mail):
What Would Moe Do?? The 3 Stooges would have had Mohammad on, given him an eye gouge, a dope slap, and probably a rap with a mallet. What a bunch of pussies at comedy central.
4.14.2006 7:30pm
SG:
Medis,

You ask

Assuming you mean by "a Voltaire" someone who lives up to some ideal of tolerance for offensive speech, I'm not sure why you think we cannot fault people to the extent that they fail to live up to that ideal.


That's what I mean, and the reason I don't fault people for failing to live up to that ideal for the same reason I don't fault a dog for not being a cat. Many (perhaps most) people do not consider unfettered free speech an ideal, and believe society would be better off if some speech was censored.

But feel free to criticize others. That's your right. I love a free society.
4.14.2006 8:07pm
SG:
DtI,

Perhaps "the right wing" might be right about the cartoon issue and wrong about the NY Times? Is that possible? Or is the right wing wrong by definition?
4.14.2006 8:19pm
SG:
Justin,

I'm all for courtesy, but if my neighbor were to say "if anybody in the neighborhood paints their house green, I'll burn it down", would you agree that that's a different situation and calls for a different response?

And while you clearly do not believe that that analogy applies, can you see where reasonable people might think that it is has some validity?

Note: I haven't stated what I believe an appropriate response might be. I'd just like you to consider that not everyone who disagrees with you has evil in their heart.
4.14.2006 8:31pm
hypocrisy:
SG,

The point is that CC is claiming that they're not just another company. Reference the letter they sent to Catholics outraged by the "Bloody Mary" episode, where they pompously claim that their goal is not only to make people laugh, but also to make them think.

They would like to drape themselves in the mantle of Voltaire, or Swift, or Twain. But it's painfully clear now that while they talk the talk they don't walk the walk.
4.14.2006 8:55pm
hypocrisy:
Justin,

Two quick points about your argument:

1) If you're judging intent to offend then obviously you need to examine the mental state of the cartoonist, not the subjective position of the disgruntled masses.

2) If the cartoons were in and of themselves offensive then why did the Muslim cleric who popularized them feel the need to invent out of thin air even more disgusting and offensive cartoons? That strongly suggests to me that said cleric felt that the Danish cartoons were not sufficiently offensive to generate a strong Muslim reaction and that what was needed was even worse stuff.
4.14.2006 8:59pm
Defending the Indefensible:
SG, my point has nothing to do with the "right wing" being wrong "by definition." It's more to do with a certain hypocrisy invoking free speech without genuine commitment to that principle. I took the pseudonym "Defending the Indefensible" here on the VC because I began participating here when Eugene Volokh and many posters were condemning the free speech of such as Michael Moore as treasonous.

Excuse me if I don't believe EV is a libertarian in any genuine sense of the word. Which I am, by the way.
4.14.2006 9:22pm
Mackey:
Thanks to those who commented on my question. I do rather suspect that "salmon helmet" is a reference to cunnilingus, just as I suspect the name of the Quahog bar in Family Guy of "the Drunken Clam" is a reference to women. I do not know that to be the case. Like one commenter, that's how I took it. Like the other, however, I should admit that google was not helpful. Though I have heard anecdotal suggestions, I have not been able to establish a specific reference for the term "salmon helmet.

I am not saying that reference would legitimize censorship.

But isn't it a different stance. Haven't, in fact, most everyone defending Parker/Stone's side of the argument noted how this was simply showing Mohammed without doing anything offensive. Even if Mohammed giving someone a "salmon helmet" is not more offensive than the Jesus-crapping, isn't it still designed to be offensive? I just won't let everyone skirt that point, even if it leads them to the same conclusions.
4.14.2006 9:37pm
Mackey:
Thanks to those who commented on my question. I do rather suspect that "salmon helmet" is a reference to cunnilingus, just as I suspect the name of the Quahog bar in Family Guy of "the Drunken Clam" is a reference to women. I do not know that to be the case. Like one commenter, that's how I took it. Like the other, however, I should admit that google was not helpful. Though I have heard anecdotal suggestions, I have not been able to establish a specific reference for the term "salmon helmet.

I am not saying that reference would legitimize censorship.

But isn't it a different stance? Haven't, in fact, most everyone defending Parker/Stone's side of the argument noted how this was simply showing Mohammed without doing anything offensive? Even if Mohammed giving someone a "salmon helmet" is not more offensive than the Jesus-crapping, isn't it still designed to be offensive? I just won't let everyone skirt that point, even if it leads them to the same conclusions.
4.14.2006 9:37pm
Mackey:
[Damn. I hate when that happens.]
4.14.2006 9:38pm
Designbot:
1. I still think it's a huge stretch to call a fish sitting on top of a football helmet a reference to oral sex, especially in the given context. I'm trying to visualize how such a piece of slang could originate, particularly the "helmet" part, and I just don't see it.

2. The taboo that is the subject of this episode is simply showing an image of Mohammad. Trying to infer any further blasphemy or denigration is irrelevant, since Comedy Central seems to have made it clear that simply showing Mohammad is enough to get censored.
4.14.2006 9:50pm
SG:
hypocrisy,

I've come to bury Comedy Central, not to praise it. I'm not familiar with the letter that they sent in response ot Bloody Mary, but if they positioned themselves as some noble defender of free speech, damn the consequences, well clearly they're full of it. And the real joke is on anyone who believed a corporation would man the barricades for a general principle.
4.14.2006 10:02pm
Justin (mail):
SG, we're still having the fundamental difference in that you keep ignoring the fact, for reasons I actually stated, that the concept that people will blow you up for showing Danish cartoons is COMPLETELY PROJECTION, and that the projection at least has the appearance of, at minimum, ignorance, but to some, bigotry.

Hypothetically, if I agreed that the Muslem pope, who had 99% popularity amongst Muslems around the world (including America), called for assassinating people who drew cartoons of Mohammad - and polls showed that the vast majority of Muslems supported this policy - then we'd probably be in agreement.

So, in your hypo, yes, that would be different. Since that hypo is COMPLETELY IRRELEVANT to the actual situation, I take nothing from that hypo.
4.14.2006 10:03pm
SG:
Mackey,

I wouldn't care if they showed Jesus, Mary and Mo in a three way. It wouldn't justify violence. And regardless of how outrageous and offensive they got, it wouldn't justify vioelnce. Anyone offended is free to turn the channel.

Mmmkay?
4.14.2006 10:05pm
Reg (mail):
"showing "Mohammed standing there, looking normal" is not allowed, while showing Jesus defecating on President Bush and the American flag is permitted."

What a joke. Comedy Central ought to be ashamed of itself. It has no problem mocking Christians' most sacred symbols and beliefs, but won't touch a competing religion because of threats of violence. It appears this is the direction this country is going. Nobody in the media with any influence has the backbone to question anything dealing with Islam, but anything dealing with Christianity can be trashed.

Let me be clear. I have no desire to see Islam mocked, and it would be bad taste to do so. No law needs to be passed. I am criticizing the decisions of Comedy Central and media companies generally for hypocrisy. If they are to follow the wishes of the most extreme fundamentalists of one religion, they ought to at least give a little respect to other religions as well.
4.14.2006 10:10pm
SG:
Justin,

We call our planet Earth. Over 2/3 of its surface is water, although we earthlings live on the land. What's your planet like?

People died over the Danish cartoons. Over 100 people. It's not projection. It's not a fantasy. It really happened. If you need, I can give you links to reputable, non-right wing news sources that reported on it. And since that happened, multiple organizations have backed off from displaying the cartoons because of a fear of violence.

Now your argument that the riots were incited by people with non-Islamic motives may or may not be true, and surely the outrage was enhanced by fraudulent cartoons, but the impurity of the motiviations of the riot instigators doesn't bring anyone back to life. And it doesn't take 99% of a group to kill you, it only takes one.

You can't seriously be denying that people are killing in "defense" of Islam? Killing Americans even. Now they may be misguided, they may not represent authentic Islam, yadda, yadda, yadda, but that won't matter to you if you're dead.

As I said before, if you want to argue about the level of risk, we're largely in agreement. But you seem to be saying that the World Trade Center still stands and some 3000 Americans didn't die on 9/11 at the hands of Muslim terrorists. It may have been an aberration, but it surely happened. Your claim that anyone who takes those facts into account is either ignorant or racist is both stupid and offensive.
4.14.2006 10:29pm
Medis:
SG,

You say: "the reason I don't fault people for failing to live up to that ideal for the same reason I don't fault a dog for not being a cat. Many (perhaps most) people do not consider unfettered free speech an ideal, and believe society would be better off if some speech was censored."

As an aside, I think I made it clear that I am not saying that there should be "unfettered free speech," or that all "censorship" is bad for society. More properly, as noted before, I think restraints on free speech, and attempts to extinguish speech, can only be justified in extraordinary circumstances.

Anyway, people aren't animals, and their beliefs are not a matter of nature. In that sense, saying a person has some bad beliefs and should have different beliefs instead is not like telling a dog it should be a cat, because people can in fact change their beliefs.

And if we can't criticize the beliefs of others, or fault people for what their beliefs lead them to do, we are in a lot of trouble. And that is because people's beliefs can lead them to do a lot of evil things.
4.14.2006 10:54pm
hypocrisy:

Even if Mohammed giving someone a "salmon helmet" is not more offensive than the Jesus-crapping, isn't it still designed to be offensive?


No, in fact I would argue that it is designed to be patently inoffensive. The whole point is that CC wouldn't allow any depiction of Mohammed, even one that was completely innocuous. That was the point Stone and Parker were trying to make.
4.14.2006 10:56pm
millerhighlife (mail):
mackey et al.:

oh yeah, salmon helmets are the best. i gave out two of them last week. of course, they aren't quite as noteworthy as the dirty sanchez, arabian goggles, cleveland steamer, cherry danish, hot lunch, chili dog, or the bucking bronco. indeed, the salmon helmet is more of a standard move.

as an aside, has anyone ever successfully pulled off a "dirty sanchez"? I've never actually met anyone that has done this, but certainly somebody has.
4.15.2006 12:34am
Mackey:
Miller, kudos. All class.

Hypocrisy, I disagree. Indeed, if my hypothesis about the term is correct, the entire point is not to be innocuous but rather to be offensive in a characteristically Family Guy style. I mean, I can't google-up a reference to a "drunken clam" either, but I don't think the Family Guy's choice of term is accidental there.

Designbot, apologies in advance for being so crass. You said you were trying to visualize how the "helmet" aspect of the joke could originate. Visualize a woman sitting on your face. Again, sorry, that's admittedly very crude. But that's the metaphor, I think. [Wouldn't it be a kick in the pants for VC to block out that comment?]

All, again, I'm not defending the censorship. But I'd sharply disagree with Hypocrisy and others who claim they were deliberately using a bland non-offensive and basically anonymous Mohammed. They weren't treating him and his "salmon helmet" worse than Jesus and that final scene, but they weren't being "patently inoffensive." At least, if my hypothesis is correct, and there's already at least anecdotal reason to believe it is. I'd add this is also consistent with a parody of the Family Guy.
4.15.2006 1:08am
CCsux (mail):
Hmm, apparently the lesson learned from all this is that if you want to have an impact, you need to threaten violence. Boycotts don't cause companies to change behavior, but apparently threats of violence will. What a joke Comedy Central has become. I'm happy to wait for the season DVD's now, no more Comedy Central for me.
4.15.2006 2:48am
randal (mail):
There was one thing about the episode that seemed a little off. I'm not so quick to label the cartoon riots "terrorism" as Trey and Matt seem to be. Does Muslims + violence = terrorism always?

Anyways, besides that I thought Cartoon Wars was some incredible television.

Whether true terrorism or just riots, we need to get to work desensitizing some fundamentalists.
4.15.2006 3:43am
The Monster (mail):
Actually, Bloody Mary wasn't about Mary herself at all, but about the propensity Catholics seem to have for finding 'miraculous' depictions of her and Jesus, whether deliberately constructed statues/paintings shedding tears or blood, or the image itself appearing in something like a potato chip or slice of French Toast. As one of those Protestants who was taught growing up why we weren't Catholic, I take it as an indictment of a drift toward idolatry, by confusing a depiction with that which it depicts.
4.15.2006 12:21pm
gst (mail):
I was joking, for Pete's sake.
4.15.2006 2:41pm
dhdcnr:
Internet leftists claim that there is a trend of right-wingers promoting bigotry against Arabs and Muslims. That might very well be true. After all, right-wingers already tend to be bigoted against homosexuals. And they also tend to be Christian zealots. So more loathsome bigotry wouldn't surprise me.

But the right-wingers might still be right about self-censorship. It is cowardly and contemptible to avoid making fun of people out of fear that they will get violent. On the contrary, that's when you ratchet up the ridicule; otherwise you encourage bullying.

Are the right-wingers hypocrites about this? Not necessarily. If they think you shouldn't ridicule Christianity out of a sense of respect and tolerance, but that it's OK to ridicule Islam, then that is indeed hypocritical. But they might not take that line. They might hold that it's perfectly OK to to ridicule both religions. Or they might hold that normally it is wrong to ridicule a religion, but that it becomes OK (as a way of standing up to bullies) if some members of that religion are threatening violence in response to ridicule. (Obviously, when I use "shouldn't" and "OK", I'm talking about morality, not the law. Anyone who thinks that ridicule should be subject to legal sanction deserves to be spat on.)

Also, to all the Christians here who are shocked -- shocked! -- that South Park would ridicule the sacred symbols and beliefs of your religion: you are pathetic and you should grow up. The holding of symbols and beliefs as sacred is contemptible juvenile garbage that turns people into fools. Christianity and Islam are both sick fantasies, and their followers should be ashamed of themselves. As far as I'm concerned, the more ridicule the better.
4.15.2006 9:40pm
dhdcnr:
Also, the claim that CC is hypocritical probably won't stand. They prohibit (certain) anti-Islam stuff because (i) Muslim governments might get people to riot over this and people might get killed, and (ii) CC might be held responsible for that, and get lots of bad press. They prohibit (certain) anti-Scientology stuff (presumably) because they don't want to get sued or harassed; Scientology has a long history of trying to silence critics through thuggish intimidation tactics.

But when it comes to anti-Christian stuff, no one will riot, no one will get killed, there will be no lawsuits, or anything like that. All that will happen is that William Donohue of the Catholic League will complain about it, and no one will care.

So there needn't be any hypocrisy here. If there were a real threat of Christians crazy and malicious enough to do the things that certain Muslims and the Church of Scientology do, then no doubt CC would prohibit the anti-Christian stuff. But there is no such threat, so they allow it.
4.15.2006 11:20pm
Rusty (mail):
Justin said"that the concept that people will blow you up for showing Danish cartoons is COMPLETELY PROJECTION,"
If past performance is indicative of future behavior, I'd just say that it's being prudent. But then when confronted with a firearm I always assume it's loaded unless proven otherwise.

Oh yeah. Tolerance doesn't necessarily mean acceptance. It just means that in a civilized society the citizenry doesn't have to worry about some jihad because of who they are.
I still reserve the right to make fun of anything and anybody.
4.16.2006 12:21am
Vann (mail):
I'm not convinced this wasn't a big joke in the vein of Andy Kaufman.
4.16.2006 1:03am
ArtD0dger (mail):
I also have to disagree with those posters who are accusing Comedy Central of hypocrisy. Cowardice, yes, but not hypocrisy.

Comedy Central has made it clear that they pulled the scene for fear of repercussions. Their actions and statements reveal attitudes and expectations about the behavior of Muslims that are, to put it mildly, unflattering.

It would appear that Comedy Central regards Muslims as violent, intolerant brutes who will rampage at any perceived insult to their religion. Comedy Central must have a very low opinion of Muslims and their faith. Fortunately for Comedy Central, Muslims do not seem to realize when they're actually being insulted.
4.16.2006 1:31am
Daniel@NYU:
First of all, I don't think there's any free speech actually at stake here. Obviously, Comedy Central owns their network, and they can disseminate whatever messages they please. If Parker and Stone have a problem, they can stop working, like the manatees, and see if that gets them what they want.

Instead, they've taken a more measured reaction. "South Park" actually did portray Muhammed in a 2001 episode titled "The Super Best Friends," in which a "Super Friends"-esque group of religious figures stopped a cult led by the magician David Blaine. To the best of my recollection, nobody rioted. So they took their Muhammed and stuck him in the crowd scene at the end of the opening titles. Comedy Central either accepted this or didn't notice the change.

On a more generally relevant point, Kyle's argument that it's either "all okay, or none of it is" skews neither left nor right. Trey Parker and Matt Stone, who appeared in Michael Moore's "Bowling for Columbine," have subsequently been labeled conservatives.

But they haven't actually embraced anything conservative. They attack all religions, they think abortion is funny, and they created a short-lived show where the main joke was that George Bush is an idiot. "South Park conservatism" is merely the rejection of liberal orthodoxies.

People who attack South Park on political grounds, from both sides, are the kinds of people who think there are some places you shouldn't go. These are people who want everyone else to conform to their beliefs and their conception of what's acceptable and what's funny. Left or Right, they're all wrong. I prefer blood-farting Holy Virgins, forbidden images of the prophet Muhammed, concentration camp jokes, and Cartman selling aborted fetuses to a seafood restaurant.
4.16.2006 11:49am
sbw (mail) (www):
We wrote Borders and Comedy Central to challenge them to exercise that wonderful American freedom -- the freedom to change one's mind. That's what we did.

At first our local, family-owned daily newspaper came out strongly in favor of the freedom to print the Danish Mohammed cartoons -- but believed it unnecessary to publish them. Later on, Borders and then Comedy Central overlooked newspapers' stong editorial stand to see, instead, that newspapers like ours did not, themselves, print the cartoons. To correct any misunderstanding, we changed our mind and printed a new editorial with the Danish cartoons and others. See: Courage to stand up to thugs.

Democracy is powerful precisely because it allows continuous peaceful change -- so people can change their minds when they find a better way. Let's see Borders and Comedy Central change their minds and their unfortunate earlier decisions. Individual courageous decisions help freedom stand taller.
4.17.2006 1:31pm
menotyou:
The "salmon helmet" may have been symbolic for Salman Rushdie's head.
4.18.2006 2:55pm