Middle East studies in the News
Bleeping Muhammad [incl. Jytte Klausen, Yale University Press]
by Scott Johnson
Power Line Blog
April 24, 2010
The excellent New York Post editorial concisely tells the story behind the thinly veiled death threat issued by one of the usual suspects, this one operating under the name Revolution Muslim, to "South Park" creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone:
This week, to mark its 200th episode, "South Park" featured a bit in which the characters try to figure out how to portray Mohammed without actually showing him. The show ended up showing him dressed in a bear costume.
Even that prompted a posting on a New York-based Web site, Revolution Muslim, that "warned" Parker and Stone they would end up like Theo Van Gogh -- the Dutch filmmaker killed in 2004 by an Islamic terrorist after he made a film dealing with abuse of Muslim women.
The producers sought to address that threat in the next episode -- but Comedy Central ordered any mention and depiction of Mohammed bleeped.
Shamefully, a character's 35-second speech at the episode's conclusion, warning against "intimidation and fear," was bleeped out completely -- even though it didn't mention Mohammed at all.
"It's sad," said Stone.
The New York Post calls out Comedy Central as cowardly. At Comedy Central itself, however, Jon Stewart took issue with the company's behavior. Newsbusters posts the video and transcript of Stewart's segment on the affair. Newsbusters also quotes Parker and Stone in an update:
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. We'll be back next week with a whole new show about something completely different and we'll see what happens to it.
Mark Steyn devotes his column this week to the "South Park" affair. Mark writes:
Comedy Central - you know, the "hip," "edgy" network with Jon Stewart, from whom "young" Americans under 57 supposedly get most of their news - just caved in to death threats. From a hateful 83-year old widow who doesn't like Obamacare? Why, no. It was a chap called Abu Talhah al Amrikee, who put up a video on the Internet explaining why a "South Park" episode with a rather tame Muhammad joke was likely to lead to the deaths of the show's creators. Just to underline the point, he showed some pictures of Theo van Gogh, the Dutch film director brutally murdered by (oh my, talk about unfortunate coincidences) a fellow named Mohammed. Mr. al Amrikee helpfully explained that his video incitement about the murder of Matt Stone and Trey Parker wasn't really "a threat but just the likely outcome." All he was doing, he added, was "raising awareness" - you know, like folks do on Earth Day. On Earth Day, lame politicians dig a hole and stick a tree in it. But aggrieved Muslims dig a hole and stick a couple of comedy writers in it. Celebrate diversity.
Faced with this explicit threat of violence, what did Comedy Central do? Why, it folded like a Bedouin tent. It censored "South Park," not only cutting all the references to Muhammad but, in an exquisitely postmodern touch, also removing the final speech about the need to stand up to intimidation. Mr. Stone and Mr. Parker get what was at stake in the Danish cartoons crisis, and many other ostensibly footling concessions: Imperceptibly, incrementally, remorselessly, the Free World is sending the message that it is happy to trade core liberties for the transitory security of a quiet life. That is a dangerous signal to give freedom's enemies. So the "South Park" episode is an important cultural pushback.
Yet in the end, in a craven culture, even big Hollywood A-listers can't get their message through. So the brave, transgressive comedy network was intimidated into caving in and censoring a speech about not being intimidated into caving in. That's what I call "hip," "edgy," "cutting-edge" comedy: They're so edgy they're curled up in the fetal position whimpering at the guy with the cutting edge, "Please. Behead me last. And don't use the rusty scimitar where you have to saw away for 20 minutes to find the spinal column."
To add some context to these comments, we note the involuntary retirement this week of the Danish cartoonist whose offense was depicting the Prophet Muhammad with a turban shaped like a bomb. He told AFP on Thursday that he has been placed on indefinite leave by his newspaper "for security reasons." He explained: "The management was worried following the arrests last year of two men in Chicago who planned to attack Jyllands-Posten [the Danish newspaper that originally published the cartoon], and after the attack on me in January."
It's one of the cartoons that inspired a book by Jytte Klausen. The book was published by Yale University Press, sans the cartoons.Note: Articles listed under "Middle East studies in the News" provide information on current developments concerning Middle East studies on North American campuses. These reports do not necessarily reflect the views of Campus Watch and do not necessarily correspond to Campus Watch's critique.
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