Monday, April 17, 2006

South Park = #1 Infidels

Churchill: "I have watched this famous island descending incontinently, fecklessly, the stairway which leads to a dark gulf. it is a fine broad stairway at the beginning, but after a bit the carpet ends. A little farther on there are only flagstones, and a little farther on still these break beneath your feet."

Over at Dean’s World, there is a hot debate raging about the Muhammad incident on South Park last week. In case you missed it, South Park was going to have a representation of the prophet Muhammad on the show, but was censored by Comedy Central. The last minute of the program, which was deemed suitable by Comedy Central however, depicted Jesus and George Bush crapping on the American flag and each other. It exposed a great hypocrisy as to what is allowed on television and what is not in this new world we live in. Better yet, it offered us an opportunity to discuss what an independent broadcaster's responsibility is to free speech and the public safety.

I found this whole ordeal completely ridiculous. I consider myself a Christian and a patriot, but I honestly did not have a problem with South Park using Jesus Christ and the flag to make their point. Even if they were not making a point, and just wanted to stir up the pot a bit, I likely would have been ambivalent.

I have issues with folks who feel the need to constantly stick their thumb in the eye of organized religion. But the right to free speech morally trumps someone’s hurt feelings. If you find a show/art exhibit/ book offensive, avoid it. Protest it even; but having your feelings hurt is not a legitimate reason for the suppression of our most cherished right.

I find it hard to believe that there would have been any serious financial problems created for Comedy Central upon showing Muhammad in a South Park episode. Something tells me that hardcore Islamic militants probably don’t tune in to catch Stan, Kyle, and Cartman’s latest escapades. The only reason I can envision for censoring such a thing is the hurt feelings of an extreme minority of people. The hurt feelings of certain right wing Christians obviously was permissible however.

I should not say that some extremists’ hurt feelings are the only reason they censored the cartoon. With the recent violent riots throughout the world over the Danish Muhammad cartoons, it is clear that some folks may have used this episode of South Park to bring more chaos upon those who they find blasphemous.

I pray that this is not the new face of free speech in the west. That if someone threatens violence against us for the things we allow folks to say and believe, an effort is made to appease such browbeats. If this is the path we have elected to take in the west, then our most cherished liberties is as good as dead.

I think every American has to ask themselves this: do we want to censor something as trivial as a cartoon because a small group of people threaten violence? Forget cartoons, do we want intolerant bullies to dictate what we can and can not say? Now that we have a real free speech issue to defend, will we stand up and preserve it?

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