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Comedy Central Releases Brief Statement on Decision to Censor Mohammed.--

I just had an amusing off-the-record conversation with someone at Comedy Central. They have released a simple public statement on their decision to deny South Park the right to show a depiction of Mohammed in their Wednesday episode, Cartoon Wars--Part II:

"In light of recent world events, we feel we made the right decision."

There is much more in an earlier post here.

UPDATE: The Washington Post now has a story that gives some background (tip to Malkin):

When the [Danish] cartoons were reprinted in newspapers worldwide in January and February, it sparked a wave of protests primarily in Islamic countries.

Parker and Stone were angered when told by Comedy Central several weeks ago that they could not run an image of Muhammad, according to a person close to the show who didn't want to be identified because of the issue's sensitivity.

The network's decision was made over concerns for public safety, the person said.

Comedy Central said in a statement issued Thursday: "In light of recent world events, we feel we made the right decision." Its executives would not comment further. . . .

A frequent "South Park" critic, William Donohue of the anti-defamation group Catholic League, called on Parker and Stone to resign out of principle for being censored.

"The ultimate hypocrite is not Comedy Central _ that's their decision not to show the image of Muhammad or not _ it's Parker and Stone," he said. "Like little whores, they'll sit there and grab the bucks. They'll sit there and they'll whine and they'll take their shot at Jesus. That's their stock in trade."

Parker and Stone did not immediately respond to a request through a spokesman for comment.

Comedy Central (mail):
We'd say more, but we seem to have a lot of sand left in our mouths.

--The Management
4.13.2006 4:10pm
rbj:
Cowards.
4.13.2006 4:13pm
John Armstrong (mail):
And the link to this "simple public statement" is where? Google isn't turning anything up, and Comedy Central's own website has no such press release available.

If this "public statement" consists solely of one (unnamed, unverifiable) source speaking to you privately it's not very public, now is it? Further, until I see an actual published public statement I'm inclined to believe that they're pulling your leg.
4.13.2006 4:24pm
Anon_Anon_Anon:
I agree this is shameful, cowardly behavior on Comedy Central's part, but I'd quibble with characterizing it as the denial of a "right." The air time presumably belongs to Comedy Central. Whence Parker's and Stone's "right" to broadcast material of which CC doesn't approve? Unless you know that CC's actions violated some contractual right of South Park, why not just leave it at calling the network executives a bunch of sissies?
4.13.2006 4:24pm
Glenn W Bowen (mail):
Comedy Central as Europe.

In light of recent events, CC moves us yet another increment closer to a poll tax, levied by our enlightened, tolerant masters.

Submit.
4.13.2006 4:25pm
Keith (mail):
I can think of one word that sums up Comedy Central's management. However, social decorum prohibits posting it here, being that it is the vulgar term for a female anatomical part. Truly a shame that they caved. I wonder two things, 1)what this will do to their viewership? 2) who will step up to the plate and buy the rights to show the episode or similarly show the bravery to the idiocy out there?
4.13.2006 4:26pm
Bruce:
their decision to deny South Park the right to show a depiction of Mohammed

What right? The creators have a right to free speech, but not a right to free speech on Comedy Central.
4.13.2006 4:27pm
Defending the Indefensible:
The question isn't whether Viacom is a prostitute. The question is their price.

If the management at Comedy Central (owned by Viacom) were going to back down in the face of Tom Cruise's threats, why would they be expected to have more courage now?
4.13.2006 4:29pm
roy (mail) (www):
I'm no fan of headsandery, but yeah, it's not a right. CC decided to deny South Park the priviledge to show a depiction of Mohammed.

(Alternate response is based on the other side consistently making up "rights" to suit its purposes)
4.13.2006 4:31pm
JRDickens (mail):
This is the same network that ran "Chapelle's Show" right? I suspect that many other folks who are as humor challenged as the Muslim fanatics were highly offended at the shenanigans on that show. Of course they weren't prone to behead people who offended them though.
4.13.2006 4:31pm
Glenn W Bowen (mail):

And the link to this "simple public statement" is where? Google isn't turning anything up, and Comedy Central's own website has no such press release available.

If this "public statement" consists solely of one (unnamed, unverifiable) source speaking to you privately it's not very public, now is it? Further, until I see an actual published public statement I'm inclined to believe that they're pulling your leg.


NR Media Blog

Malkin


Whence Parker's and Stone's "right" to broadcast material of which CC doesn't approve?


the right isn't the question; the ramifications of the act is.
4.13.2006 4:31pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):

The question isn't whether Viacom is a prostitute. The question is their price.

Well put. This is why I have less of a problem with CC and Borders than with the newspapers. The former exist to make a profit. So do the latter, but they assert lofty pretenses that their actions dont bear out.
4.13.2006 4:32pm
John Armstrong (mail):
Glenn, That's still not a link, but right before you posted I managed to dig up Malkin myself, who *does* provide a link to the AP coverage through the Washington Post.

Yes, it seems they did wimp out here, but that's their choice to make (as Anon points out). My intuition was wrong. Mea culpa. I want to commend Malkin, though, for actually posting a link to an impartial source rather than simply to other bloggers trying to make a statement.
4.13.2006 4:34pm
Anon_Anon_Anon:
"the right isn't the question; the ramifications of the act is."

I don't disagree -- but I think it's worthwhile to keep our terminology straight. And Prof. Lindgren knows better.
4.13.2006 4:35pm
rbj:
Here's a link to an AP story about it:
http://tinyurl.com/zbr4w

In part:
"Parker and Stone were angered when told by Comedy Central several weeks ago that they could not run an image of Muhammad, according to a person close to the show who didn't want to be identified because of the issue's sensitivity.

The network's decision was made over concerns for public safety, the person said."
4.13.2006 4:38pm
Glenn W Bowen (mail):
sorry, I thought the Malkin lik contained the information, or another link to it(is that the one you located?)

I got the NR and Malkin links from Little Green Footballs.

whatever- if you're closer to the truth, pursue:)
4.13.2006 4:38pm
Glenn W Bowen (mail):
sorry, I thought the Malkin link contained the information, or another link to it(is that the one you located?)

I got the NR and Malkin links from Little Green Footballs.

whatever- if you're closer to the truth, pursue:)
4.13.2006 4:38pm
Sydney Carton (www):
I wonder if any group whose axe has been particularly gored by those who profess to uphold freedom of speech will now learn the lesson that violence (or its threat) is the only way to ensure that they be respected?

I can think of several groups this applies to.
4.13.2006 4:41pm
Glenn W Bowen (mail):

I don't disagree -- but I think it's worthwhile to keep our terminology straight. And Prof. Lindgren knows better.


true. in my uneducated opinion, the SP guys don't have a right to be heard against their employers wishes.

the larger part of the situation, for me, is fearing islamic backlash- I don't believe we should fear it, or use that as a factor in decisions about what we will or will not do or say, in the course of our normal lives.
4.13.2006 4:44pm
Luke R. (mail) (www):
The Jesus/Bush/Flag shitting scene was obviously put in there to drive the point home that SP can crap all over whatever it wants, but not Islam or Muhammad, thanks to CC's cowardly and hypocritical management. Is this Donohue guy really so dense that he doesn't get that?
4.13.2006 4:49pm
Confused:
The truth is, it doesn't have to be violence -- as is evidence by Tom Cruise getting the Scientology episode yanked. Economic pressure seems as effective against profit-oriented organizations. Cartoon Network is part of a huge media empire and a serious boycott would instantly put an end to South Park's other offensive jabs, if the offended groups were serious enough to boycott. Terrorism *may* be the only way to stop things like Piss Christ / campus events, since there's less exposure to economics there, but even if those cases, things like the Solomon Amendment could be passed.

The fact is that Muslims, like Scientologists, succeed at forcing people to back down not strictly through their methods, but rather through their hardcore commitment. (Much of what Muslims / Arabs get Europeans to do to Jews / Israelis is not achieved through the threat of terrorism, but through the threat of doing business elsewhere.)

I'm not saying that CN should've backed down, or that I want Christians / Jews / the disabled / etc. to protest more effectively against offensive materials. I'm just saying that focusing on violence may be slightly misleading.
4.13.2006 4:54pm
llamasex (mail) (www):
I think it is worth asking the question why people are going so frothy over this censorship, than that of the scientology episode, or the bleeding virgin mary (anti-catholic), both of which have been refused to be reshown. The facts of the matter are that this Mohammed episode has been less censored than those, as just a scene is missing.

So what is the difference that gets this act mentioned 3-4 times, on the website alone, not to mention the numerous other bloggers going on and on about it?
4.13.2006 4:57pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):
The difference is the external threat of violence. It's really that simple. We accept the right of others to exert economic pressure on our speech. We just don't like to live under the scimitar, so to speak.
4.13.2006 5:00pm
James Lindgren (mail):
One comment:

And the link to this "simple public statement" is where? Google isn't turning anything up, and Comedy Central's own website has no such press release available.

If this "public statement" consists solely of one (unnamed, unverifiable) source speaking to you privately it's not very public, now is it? Further, until I see an actual published public statement I'm inclined to believe that they're pulling your leg.

Another comment:

Yes, it seems they did wimp out here, but that's their choice to make (as Anon points out). My intuition was wrong. Mea culpa. I want to commend Malkin, though, for actually posting a link to an impartial source rather than simply to other bloggers trying to make a statement.
++++++

John,

Thanks for the apology.

I spoke to an executive at Comedy Central at some length. The only thing he said on the record was that they had just released a public statement. He read it to me and emailed it to me. I posted it accurately. Of course, confirmation is nice, but do you really need to read something in the Washington Post before you will believe it?

I thought that people here would want to know as soon as I did. (Although I was (I believe) the first blogger or news outlet to post last night about Comedy Central's censorship of the episode, I was not the first to post their public statement today.)

Jim Lindgren
4.13.2006 5:04pm
llamasex (mail) (www):
Mike BUSL07, Comedy Central said that it was pulled do to threats of violence?

Since people point to MI:3 ads as the Scientology reason I think focusing on the "Bloody Mary" episode is more analogous

http://www.eonline.com/News/Items/0,1,18055,00.html

Following the Dec. 7 season finale of South Park, titled "Bloody Mary," the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights slammed the network for its irreverent portrayal of church icons and sought to block the episode from being rebroadcast.

The group was hailing its protest as a success after a repeat of the finale was scheduled to air Wednesday night, but was pulled from the Comedy Central lineup without explanation.


To me it looks like Comedy Central is being evenhanded across the board with its actions regarding South Park.
4.13.2006 5:10pm
Sydney Carton (www):
Luke R,

In fairness, as a practicing Catholic, I think that Donohue goes over the top a lot. And in this instance, he is dense. But I suppose he has to be consistent with his prior denunciations of South Park.

I'm a BIG BIG FAN of South Park, despite their offenses towards Catholics. I don't let it bother me because in reality their jabs are kind of mindless. Instead of getting his panties in a twist, Donohue should use each moment as a teaching moment, to show why Catholicism is above such teases.
4.13.2006 5:15pm
rbj:
llamasex,
the Catholic League did not resort to violence. Relatively speaking, I have less much of a problem with an episode getting pulled due to an economic issue -such as Tom Cruise &Scientology. That's a rational business decision. And to a degree it's the same with the Catholic League. My real, main concern is when people can get episodes pulled because they've used violence in the past and threaten to do so in the future. That is outside of the rules and, IMO, must be stood up to at all times.
4.13.2006 5:18pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):
llamasex, as rbj just put it, the difference is not in the response from the network - i's in the condition that the particular group, be it the scientologists, catholics or muslims, imposes on the network. economic pressure is a-okay. that's what we do here. backing your demands with threats of violence is not okay, or so they taught me in 1st year crim.
4.13.2006 5:30pm
llamasex (mail) (www):
I am shocked these violent Muslims knew about the Comedy Central episode and threatened violence as a response to it. Can you point some of that out to me?


James Lindgren, you might want to retract that you broke the story, according to Mike and rbj they knew the Muslims knew about this before you did, I am sure one of them had to have a blog.
4.13.2006 5:32pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):

I am shocked these violent Muslims knew about the Comedy Central episode and threatened violence as a response to it. Can you point some of that out to me?

first, loosen your clothing, drink some water and sit down. that should help with the shock.

second, it's not that the violent muslims knew of comedy central and threatened violence. it's that people who work at CC, by virtue of having a pulse, know of the capacity of muslims to be violent, particularly when someone draws a cartoon of their prophet. i'm not sure, but someone on this blog mentioned something about that once.
4.13.2006 5:37pm
llamasex (mail) (www):
So your saying because the threat of violence is out there somewhere (not based around showing the episode) Comedy Central cannot make a decision not to show something that offends a certain religion, even when it is perfectly consistent with their past actions because that would be given in to threats of violence.

Isn't that just taking away their right to free speech, but in the other direction.
4.13.2006 5:42pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):
llamasex, i'm not saying that CC should be stripped of its right to refrain from showing a particular cartoon. what im saying is this... since i think my prior post fails to make this plain enough.

Joe is walking down the street on Monday, and he sees that someone steps on Steve's shoe. Steve goes berserk, and beats up the culprit. Then he sees the same thing on Tuesday, when a different guy steps on Steve's show. On Wednesday, when Joe sees Steve, he crosses the street, because though Steve never said, "if you step on my shoe I will kick your ass," Joe can infer what Steve might do under given circumstances based on what he did previously. Solve for "X." Seriously, do you really not understand this?
4.13.2006 5:48pm
Vovan:
As have been referenced by some of the commenters in the prior threads, and taking into account that the network is Comedy Central - the issue of cartoon wars might have been reasonably exploited by the Comedy Central and the South Park franchise to generate more publicity for the product and the network.

In my opinion some commenters are giving more credit than necessary to the "press releases" that purports to attribute the censure of Mohhammed to the possibility of violence. I doubt that it was the driving factor behind the censure, and would imagine that Comedy Central used the artistic creativity of Parker and Stone to highlight the issue of censure in the MSM through its South Park vehicle, while at the same time generating controversy that would have been significantly reduced if the character of Mohammed was actually shown.
4.13.2006 5:52pm
claritas:
If someone is worried about television self-censorship, there are targets much more worthy than Comedy Central. Any reasonable observer would have to agree that Comedy Central does the least self-censoring of any basic cable station: they once let South Park use the word "shit" uncensored something like 200 times in one episode, and South Park and Chappelle's Show have routinely been allowed to push the envelope on hot button issues. Be glad there's at least one station like that out there. Save your criticism for the fanatics within the Muslim religion who put Comedy Central to a choice like this, and enjoy last night's episode for what it was: a hilariously framed satire of the very same network that's paying for the show and putting it on the air.
4.13.2006 6:00pm
Kevin Murphy:
So, what they are saying is "If some violent Christian group starts threatening Comedy Central executives, we'll ban defecating Jesuses, too?" Pretty soon you'll just be making fun of Buddhists, which is no fun at all.
4.13.2006 6:03pm
claritas:
Fortunately Christians have a little something called "turn the other cheek." Which, while not always followed in practice, has at least meant that there are not millions of murderous Christians out there.
4.13.2006 6:08pm
rbj:
llamasex, if you've been a regular reader here you'll know that NYU banned the Danish cartoons from a discussion on them, due to threat of violence. Why have so few newspapers shown the Danish cartoons, why did Borders drop a magazine that carried the cartoons. It's not that there will be violence, or that the Islamists are monitoring every media outlet in the US, but that the potential for violence is there. Just ask Theo van Gogh. Please, pay attention to what's going on.
4.13.2006 7:04pm
Shake-N-Bake (www):
To Comedy Central, I quote Eric Cartman:

"Lame."
4.13.2006 7:17pm
finec:

Donohue is a jackass. Unfortunately, the press always seems compelled to interview him, giving the impression that there is widespread Catholic outrage. When in fact, most Catholics couldn't get by (as Catholics) without a healthy sense of humor.
4.13.2006 7:49pm
keatssycamore (mail) (www):
Donohue is Cartman all grown-up. It's like he's acting out the Cartman script. As funny as Matt and Trey are, the truth is always funnier.

I understand the violence/boycott difference, but I still have to ask if you were a TV executive which reason to censor something is more convincing, "we may loose a little money" or "someone may die over this".

I actually think the episode did a good job of recognizing the difficult position that the provocatuers sometimes put the 'higher ups' in by doing things just to get a rise out people. It was very balanced and nuanced in my opinion even if ultimately the writers reject censorship. It was much more fair (and unfair) to the entire spectrum of thought than the current blog swarm is reflecting.

But just watch it yourself tonight and see what you think.
4.13.2006 8:01pm
logicnazi (mail) (www):
Of course no one is alleging that comedy central did anything illegal here or that Parker and Stone have had some constitutional right violated. The New York Times could refuse to run any story which suggests bad things about the president and no one's rights would have been violated but they would surely be doing a bad thing.

Now it would be one thing if this happened as a result of an economic boycott or other peaceful protest but somehow I don't think the reason comedy central decided not to air mohammed anymore was for fear of the islamic south park viewers they would lose (or the islamic comedy central viewers they would lose either). Rather it seems to be about the threat of violence or perhaps government censorship in parts of the world. Thus it is caving to violence and it is just as despicable as if the NYT refused to publish editorials praising the war in iraq because extremists threatened violence.
4.13.2006 10:33pm
k parker (mail):
Luke R.,

I think you asked a rhetorical question, but in case it wasn't: Yes.
4.14.2006 1:01am
Sarah (mail) (www):
If you write to Comedy Central through their website and complain, they'll send you a form letter (at least it worked for me.) Mine says, in part,

It was with this in mind we decided not to air the image of Muhammad, a decision similar to that made by virtually every single media outlet across the country earlier this year when they each determined that it was not prudent or in the interest of safety to reproduce the controversial Danish cartoons. Injuries occurred and lives were lost in the riots set off by the original publication of these cartoons. The American media made a decision then, as we did now, not to put the safety and well being of the public at risk, here or abroad.



I can't link to my Inbox, but if you go to their website and submit a complaint, I assume you'll get the same response I did. For what it's worth, since I didn't want the message to go to the producers/staff of South Park, I submitted it under "Other" with the title "Censorship."
4.15.2006 9:10pm