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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

KELLY: ‘South Park’ fights for creative liberties

Like most college students, my worldview is shaped by the holy trinity of Comedy Central: Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and “South Park.” So these past two weeks, I’ve paid close attention to the censorship battle brewing among “South Park,” the network and a radical Muslim group.

Last Wednesday “South Park” creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone handed in their 200th episode, depicting the Islamic prophet Muhammad hiding inside a bear suit, a Santa suit and a U-Haul.

It ended with a cliffhanger implying Muhammad would be shown for real the next week. Bad move. Radical Muslim group issued a statement to Parker and Stone, warning they would probably meet a demise similar to Dutch director Theo van Gogh, who was murdered in 2004 by an Islamic extremist for making a film critical of Muslims’ treatment of women. Most sects of Islam prohibit depictions of the prophet Muhammad to prevent idolatry.

The post included addresses of various Comedy Central offices around the country, the address of Parker and Stone’s California production company and a picture of van Gogh with his throat slashed and a knife in his chest.

The group was careful to clarify they weren’t explicitly threatening Parker and Stone. Uh, yeah right. I don’t buy it.

They’ve been investigated before for advocating jihad and praising Osama bin Laden. But, of course, they insist their only goal is to “protect Islam.”

When the following episode aired this past Wednesday, Comedy Central unsurprisingly edited the episode heavily, placing a large black “censored” box over Muhammad’s figure and bleeping out every mention of his name.

They even bleeped out the character Kyle’s typical wrap-up speech at the end of the episode, which alluded to Comedy Central being intimidated by the Muslims’ threat, according to Parker and Stone’s statement after the show. The network cited its goal was to protect Parker and Stone.

That Comedy Central felt the need to censor the parts they felt would incite Muslims speaks volumes about where we as Americans stand against Muslim extremists.

We aren’t winning the so-called War on Terror, and it has nothing to do with the wars raging on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Zero media outlets in America have had the guts to depict the prophet. As far as I can tell, Muhammad is the only image entirely absent from our culture.

I get that America is about freedom. You should be able to practice your religion without fear of adverse consequences. I believe American Muslims hold this right just as much as any other American.

But not at the expense of other Americans’ freedom. The night after the second episode debuted, Jon Stewart put it best. Reiterating the fact that the group Revolution Muslim is New York-based, he expressed bewilderment that these radicals get to enjoy the greatness of what America has to offer, while praising bin Laden and calling for death to the West, “all because of how much we, in this country, value and protect even their freedom of expression.”

The irony is palpable. Revolution Muslim has the freedom of expression to issue death threats demanding that somebody else’s freedom of expression be curbed.

“South Park” is famous for — among other things — pulling no punches in its parodies. No one is safe from its ridicule. And that mantra is where it gets a lot of its credibility when it comes to social commentary.

Unlike “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report,” which obviously have a tilt, “South Park” doesn’t lean one way or another. They don’t play favorites.

Everyone’s fair game, and that’s part of the reason they create such scathingly accurate, unbiased commentaries.

I honestly don’t know what the right move was. I would like to think “South Park” should be free to deride anyone they choose.

They have in the past. Comedy Central says it censored the episode to protect Parker and Stone. And looking at the horribly graphic photo of van Gogh, it was the safe move. To me, this issue is more about the scary reality that people who live among us want nothing more than to take America and the the West down.

This isn’t me railing against all Muslims. I know these radicals represent a tiny fraction of the religion at large, and that I can’t look at these select few as a fair representation of the whole. After all, there are Christians who are just as insane and capable of irrational violence in the name of religion.

But still, if a fringe faction of kooks can inspire so much fear for our safety and the undermining of the freedoms we as Americans are so proud of, all because of a freaking cartoon, we lose. Americans need to make a decision.

Either exile these radicals who hypocritically enjoy the very same freedoms they loathe us for, or buck up, be brave and not censor this stuff when these psychos threaten our lives for making a joke.

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  • O

    OwenApr 27, 2010 at 2:09 pm

    It shouldn’t be up to comedy central to protect Stone and Parker. They obviously don’t seem to care about the threats. They have dealt with it before. In fact, comedy central even aired an episode with Mohammad in a super group of other religious leaders. I don’t recall any ridiculous censorship then. Sure threats weren’t made then, but it’s just absurd that cc feels they have to protect their creators.

    And as for the Revolution Muslim people. See how powerful they are. It’s just a blog that a few fringe fanatics look at. The sane seem to outweigh the crazies. At least I hope.

  • S

    SmokeyApr 27, 2010 at 4:14 am