Crazy Islamic radicals are in the news again. Last Thursday's New York Times reports that the Comedy Central television network heavily censored a recent episode of the satirical cartoon show, "South Park" in response to death threats issued by a radical Muslim group in New York. Worst of all, as Parker and Stone wrote:
In the 14 years we've been doing South Park we have never done a show that we couldn't stand behind. We delivered our version of the show to Comedy Central and they made a determination to alter the episode. It wasn't some meta-joke on our part. Comedy Central added the bleeps. In fact, Kyle's customary final speech was about intimidation and fear. It didn't mention Muhammad at all but it got bleeped too.Parker and Stone have never been afraid to make lewd jokes and poke fun at historical figures in the past, but as the Times reports, they nevertheless took special care not to actually depict Muhammad, while at the same time making light of the Muslim prohibition of his depiction.
Cognizant that Islam forbids the depiction of its holiest prophet, Mr. Stone and Mr. Parker showed their “South Park” characters agonizing over how to bring Muhammad to their fictional Colorado town. At first the character said to be Muhammad is confined to a U-Haul trailer, and is heard speaking but is not shown. Later in the episode the character is let out of the trailer, dressed in a bear costume.Apparently, Comedy Central doesn't get the joke. As the Associated Press reported in 2007, Gillian Gibbons, a British teacher, was almost sentenced to death by the Sudanese government for similar reasons. "Thousands of Sudanese, many armed with clubs and knives, rallied Friday in a central square and demanded the execution of a British teacher convicted of insulting Islam for allowing her students to name a teddy bear Muhammad." Fortunately, Gibbons was later released.
As a private entity, Comedy Central is free to air or not air whatever it wishes. The First Amendment does not compel anyone to give a platform to speech but rather only prevents the government from restricting the right of individuals to speak or not speak as they see fit. However, in this case it seems disingenuous for Comedy Central to censor the non-depiction of Muhammad while at the same time allowing Parker and Stone a free hand in all manner of lewdness and vulgarity.