Needless to say, Voltaire is not in charge of Viacom. So if you're interested in working as a part-time censor for Comedy Central, all you need is a violent temperament, a demented ideology and a poorly constructed website.
The popular animated show "South Park" -- gloriously vulgar, sharply satirical and, one suspects, offensive to vast swaths of the viewing public -- is, if nothing else, impressive in its evenhandedness.
Yet in this week's episode, a depiction of the Prophet Muhammad in a bear costume (don't ask) was blocked with the word "censored" so the channel could avoid hurting the feelings of a few virtual New York City jihadists.
This homegrown radical group, called Revolution Muslim (no thanks), warned the show's architects, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, that they would "probably wind up like Theo Van Gogh" because of the depiction in the episode.
Van Gogh, for those unaware, was a Dutch filmmaker who documented (along with feminist Ayaan Hirsi Ali) the abuse of women in the Islamic world. Consequently, Ali now lives in hiding and Van Gogh was last seen dead in the middle of an Amsterdam street -- a thoughtful dissertation on Islamic tolerance affixed to his chest with a knife. (If only the Dutch were less warlike, obviously, this never would have happened.)
Comedy Central initially banned "South Park" from showing any depictions of Muhammad in 2006, as Muslims consider a physical representation of the prophet blasphemous. There is an appropriate response to this: Watch something else. Instead, the cable channel released a statement: "In light of recent world events, we feel we made the right decision." The "recent world events" was a reference to the plight of 12 editorial cartoonists who were trying to steer clear of Van Gogh's fate after they had drawn cartoons that offended Muslims.
So, are weak-willed executives really worried about assassination attempts here in the United States? What else could it be? Sensitivity?
"South Park" is the program that featured an image of Jesus Christ defecating on President George W. Bush and the American flag. It's the program that featured the Virgin Mary gushing blood while undergoing menstruation and Pope Benedict XVI inspecting her in a truly distasteful manner.
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