US sticks its head in sand to avoid seeing a Muhammed cartoon--coming to you on South Park tonight.--

South Park continues its examination of the Muhammed cartoons with "Cartoon Wars--Part II." You can watch a trailer for the new episode in the middle of the page here.

Last week's episode (Part I) re-airs at 9:30pm ET (8:30pm CT) tonight (Wednesday). The new episode (Part II) follows at 10 pm ET and midnight ET, as well as Thursday at 10 pm ET.

From the trailer for the new episode:

"As an entire nation buries its head in sand: 'The idea has swept the nation, but where we will find enough sand for everyone?' . . . Will television executives fight for free speech or will Comedy Central puss out?"

Tune in tonight to find out the answers to these and other questions!

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Did Comedy Central Censor South Park?

Did Comedy Central censor tonight's episode of South Park? The answer would appear to be YES.

[THURSDAY NIGHT UPDATE: In an interview Thursday evening, South Park Executive Producer Anne Garefino explained to me that Comedy Central censored the episode out of fear (not tolerance) and gives details here on how the battle whether to air the Mohammed scene continued until late Tuesday night, less than 24 hours before airing the episode.]

[UPDATE from Thursday early afternoon and updated again Thursday night: In response to my inquiries whether the statement aired on South Park on Wednesday night was accurate, early this morning an official with media relations at Comedy Central gave me an evasive answer, "Well, not exactly." He then referred me to a Comedy Central VP who [was either away from his desk or on another call when I tried to reach him three times over a 15-20 minute period. Apparently, he promptly returned my call within a few minutes of my last morning call, leaving me a voice mail message that I didn't pick up until late Thursday afternoon, after I had already spoken with him.]]

But Stephen Spruiell at NRO now has a confirmation of the censorship claim made on South Park (and first posted here on VC on Wednesday night).

A spokesman for Comedy Central told NRO:

They reflected it accurately. That was a Comedy Central decision.

NRO goes on to say: "Just in case there was any confusion, that settles it. Comedy Central censored the image."

Comedy Central has now released a brief statement:

"In light of recent world events, we feel we made the right decision." ]

In Wednesday's episode, part II of "Cartoon Wars," Kyle (one of the boys of South Park) persuades the President of Fox TV to run a Family Guy episode with a short scene including Mohammed. Kyle lectures the head of FOX about the importance of free speech:

"You can't do what he wants just because he's the one threatening you with violence. . . .

Yes, people can get hurt. That's how terrorism works. But if you give in to that, Doug, you're allowing terrorism to work. . . .

Do the right thing, Mr. President. . . .

If you don't show Mohammed, then you've made a distinction between what is OK to make fun of and what isn't. Either it's all OK or none of it is. Do the right thing."

At the point in the South Park episode where Mohammed is about to be shown handing a football helmet (with a salmon on top of it) to the Family Guy, the screen shows these words:

"In this shot, Mohammed hands a football helmet to Family Guy."

The next screen shows these words:

"Comedy Central has refused to broadcast an image of Mohammed on their network."

In the South Park episode, President Bush then sees the image of Mohammed supposedly broadcast on Family Guy (which Comedy Central censored us from seeing) and says,

"Hey, that wasn't bad at all. They just showed Mohammed standing there, looking normal."

Al Qaeda retaliates by broadcasting its own cartoon showing Americans, President Bush, and Jesus "crapping" on each other and the American flag.

"Al-Zawahri" then praises his retaliatory cartoon:

"Oh Yeah. Take THAT! We Burned you! That was way funnier than Family Guy."

Thus, from the South Park episode itself, it appears that tonight: "Comedy Central has refused to broadcast an image of Mohammed on their network." To be certain of this, one would want confirmation from Comedy Central or the South Park creators.

Tonight's episode is being rebroadcast on Comedy Central at midnight ET Wednesday night and 10pm ET Thursday night.

It should be noted that a 2001 episode of South Park included Mohammed.

UPDATE: As one of the comments below notes, Comedy Central apparently allows South Park to show Jesus defacating on others and being defacated on, but prohibits showing Mohammed "just standing there, looking normal."

Unfortunately, until Comedy Central or Matt Stone and Trey Parker make clear whether South Park was indeed censored, one can't know for sure. The "play within a play" format renders things a tad uncertain.

FURTHER UPDATE: There is much more at

Malkin (including clips and links).

Also:
Instapundit,
NRO,
the Captain,
Iowa Voice,
Anchoress
,
Political Pit Bull
,
Right Wing News
,
Tammy Bruce,
Coalition of the Swilling,
Malcontent,
You Tube,
TV Squad,
Pretend Pundit.

FURTHER, FURTHER (late Thursday afternoon) UPDATE:

This post has been updated here, here, here, here, including a link to the [fake] censored clip from Wednesday's episode. [I deleted a still picture here because it and the clip from which it was taken are fakes .]

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Comedy Central Releases Brief Statement on Decision to Censor Mohammed.--

I just had an amusing off-the-record conversation with someone at Comedy Central. They have released a simple public statement on their decision to deny South Park the right to show a depiction of Mohammed in their Wednesday episode, Cartoon Wars--Part II:

"In light of recent world events, we feel we made the right decision."

There is much more in an earlier post here.

UPDATE: The Washington Post now has a story that gives some background (tip to Malkin):

When the [Danish] cartoons were reprinted in newspapers worldwide in January and February, it sparked a wave of protests primarily in Islamic countries.

Parker and Stone were angered when told by Comedy Central several weeks ago that they could not run an image of Muhammad, according to a person close to the show who didn't want to be identified because of the issue's sensitivity.

The network's decision was made over concerns for public safety, the person said.

Comedy Central said in a statement issued Thursday: "In light of recent world events, we feel we made the right decision." Its executives would not comment further. . . .

A frequent "South Park" critic, William Donohue of the anti-defamation group Catholic League, called on Parker and Stone to resign out of principle for being censored.

"The ultimate hypocrite is not Comedy Central _ that's their decision not to show the image of Muhammad or not _ it's Parker and Stone," he said. "Like little whores, they'll sit there and grab the bucks. They'll sit there and they'll whine and they'll take their shot at Jesus. That's their stock in trade."

Parker and Stone did not immediately respond to a request through a spokesman for comment.

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See the [FAKE] censored clip of Mohammed from South Park, now playing on the web.--

[3d UPDATE: South Park Executive Producer Anne Garefino confirmed to me that the clip is a forgery, but an uncensored episode does exist. See the details here.]

[2d UPDATE: I have had a call into South Park Studios for a while to try to get them to confirm or deny the authenticity of the clip. Until then, I find Brendan Loy persuasive that the clip is a fake.]

[1st UPDATE: A commenter below thinks that the clip and still photo might be fakes that have been photoshopped. Like some of the Danish cartoons, the clip linked here and the still photo might well be forgeries.]

[What purports to be] The censored clip of Mohammed from the Wednesday South Park episode may be viewed at the South Park Scriptorium (with the proper software). A still picture of Mohammed from the [purportedly] censored scene is also available there. [Brendan Loy has reasonably good evidence suggesting that they are forgeries.]

In the clip, Mohammed says:

"Ah, jihad, jihad."

[Still photo deleted for reasons given in the 2d Update above.]

[If legitimate,] this clip tends to show (though it doesn't prove) that, despite earlier warnings that Comedy Central would not allow Mohammed to be shown, Stone and Parker still hoped to change the network's decision.

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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.

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Comedy Central Censored out of Fear, not Tolerance.--



South Park Executive Producer Reveals That Comedy Central Censored the Showing of Mohammed out of Fear, not “Religious Tolerance.”

Thursday, April 13, 2006.

On Wednesday night, the cable network Comedy Central showed a censored episode of the animated cartoon, South Park, refusing to allow a brief depiction of the prophet Mohammed. The battles between the network and the producers and creators of South Park over the inclusion of Mohammed raged until late Tuesday night, less than 24 hours before the show aired Wednesday at 10pm ET.

Interview With Producer Reveals Reason for Censorship was "Fear"

In an interview Thursday evening, South Park Executive Producer Anne Garefino revealed to me that the show was faced with two options: deliver the episode as written and animated with Mohammed shown and then allow Comedy Central to censor it, or edit out the disputed scene and write their own language explaining why Mohammed was not being shown and whose decision it was. “We wanted everyone to understand how strongly we felt about this,” said Garefino. Although the decision to omit Mohammed was not theirs, they wanted the language of the censorship disclosure to be their own.

Along with South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker (who are also Executive Producers of the show), Garefino was heavily involved in the negotiations with Comedy Central. She made clear that the reason for Comedy Central’s decision was “fear”: “We were happy that they didn’t try to claim that it was because of religious tolerance.” She thought that South Park’s arguments and influence might have had something to do with the candor of Comedy Central executives on this point.

On Thursday, to justify its decision not to broadcast a depiction of Mohammed, Comedy Central released a brief public statement that hinted at violence, but gave no explicit reason for its action:

"In light of recent world events, we feel we made the right decision."

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

Censoring a Cartoon

The censored episode was Part II of a story begun the week earlier called "Cartoon Wars." In a complicated “play within a play” scenario, the town of South Park, Colorado, becomes frightened because the Fox Network is supposedly going to show Mohammed in its Family Guy cartoon. To reduce the threat of terrorist violence, the people of South Park decide to truck in sand and bury their heads in it. Two of the boys of South Park, Kyle and Cartman, go to Los Angeles—Cartman to persuade the President of Fox to censor Family Guy and Kyle to stop him.

(Cartmnan and Kyle head for LA in Part I; click to enlarge)

In their trailer for Part II (shown last week along with Part I), South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker warned that they might be censored by Comedy Central:

"As an entire nation buries its head in sand: 'The idea has swept the nation, but where we will find enough sand for everyone?' . . . Will television executives fight for free speech or will Comedy Central puss out?"

In Part II shown on Wednesday, Kyle and Cartman rehearse at least some of the arguments that the principals for both sides actually used in their censorship battle.

Kyle lectures the head of FOX about the importance of free speech:

"You can't do what he wants just because he's the one threatening you with violence. . . .

Yes, people can get hurt. That's how terrorism works. But if you give in to that, Doug, you're allowing terrorism to work. . . .

Do the right thing, Mr. President. . . .

If you don't show Mohammed, then you've made a distinction between what is OK to make fun of and what isn't. Either it's all OK or none of it is. Do the right thing."

(Cartman threatens the President of Fox; click to enlarge)

In the episode, the President of Fox allows the depiction of Mohammed.

But instead of showing Mohammed in the South Park episode, two sets of titles appeared on a black screen. The first read:

"In this shot, Mohammed hands a football helmet to Family Guy."

The second read:

"Comedy Central has refused to broadcast an image of Mohammed on their network."

(click to enlarge)

The uncensored depiction of Mohammed is described in the episode by an animated President Bush as not being in itself derogatory: “Hey, that wasn't bad at all. They just showed Mohammed standing there, looking normal."

In the episode, Al Qaeda then retaliates by broadcasting its own cartoon showing Americans, President Bush, and Jesus defecating on each other and the American flag.

Defenders of Comedy Central argue that it regularly allows South Park and other shows to “push the envelope,” with far more lax controls than almost any other cable network.

On the other hand, critics of the network have pointed out that showing “Mohammed standing there, looking normal” is not allowed, while showing Jesus defecating on President Bush and the American flag is permitted.

Garefino also confirmed that a short video circulating on the internet, which purports to be the excised South Park scene with Mohammed, is a forgery, though she revealed that a scene with Mohammed was animated and does exist. Garefino reported that she still hopes that the original, uncensored episode of South Park will be shown in the near future.

Although other sources with knowledge of Comedy Central’s side of the dispute were interviewed for this story, any comments made were off the record.

Readers may comment on this story here.

We Hit the Big Time!

Just noticed a link to us from SouthParkStudios.com:

Episode 1004 Censored Scene Many of you have been asking been asking about the "censored" scene at the end of last week's episode, "Cartoon Wars, Part II." It was required by Comedy Central, but the edit was done by the studio.

For more information, click here [EV: links to a WashingtonPost.com article] or click here [EV: links to Jim Lindgren's post].

Woohoo! (No wait, that would be the Simpsons.)

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