Last night marked the much anticipated second part of a series of South Park episodes that sparked controversy recently. In a post that ran Wednesday, I reported on the death threats targeted at the show’s creators. It appears that the extremist website (Revolution Muslim) harboring the threatening video has been removed. Watch a video here of a CNN reporter talking to one of the founders of the extremist website.
While these death threats are certainly worth censoring, what still remains is that Comedy Central has surrendered to this intimidation. Doing so makes them look timid, which is never a way to describe South Park. An executive producer of the show has said that the censorship was due to fear of violence.
As history shows, we know that South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone refuse to be coerced into anything they don’t want to do. The second episode in the controversial two part series featured not only a censored Mohammed but also a lengthy bleeping of almost the entire end of the show. Of course editing a large chunk of dialogue may have been planned (with South Park you never know), but it’s hard to believe that Parker and Stone actually tried to play it safe. We now know that the overt censoring was a network decision.
On Tuesday night Bill O’Reilly discussed the issue of the death threats and censorship. Normally O’Reilly would stand strong against scare tactics but in this case he cautioned them to back down and get personal security. Of course there are good reasons to do this, it is just not the advice you would expect from the “culture warrior” himself. The segment also featured former undercover special agent Ann Hayes who also cautioned Parker and Stone:
“If it does escalate I think that they are going to have to take precautions. This is serious; I think that Matt and Trey knew what they were getting into when they started it.”
I also believe the show’s front men know what they are doing, but at some point we need to address reality. Yes, the jihad is real and Theo Van Gogh did get murdered. However, bleeping out the payoff following Kyle’s “ya’know, I learned something today” line appeared cowardly. They might as well have just played an old episode. On the other hand, the over the top nature of the censorship in the latest episode could also be a way of saying that if they are going to bleep everything, they might as well scrap the whole episode.
The truth is that if you are going to play this game you must pick sides or get out of the fight. If South Park wants to continue to create their culture of provocation we have grown to love, Comedy Central must allow them to do so. The lack of censorship on the show has made it the success that it is today. By allowing fear to force a change to their mode of operation now only sets a bad example.
One thing is for certain, Parker and Stone’s upcoming Broadway musical The Book of Mormon won’t provoke any death threats, but maybe an angry letter or two.