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South Park Discussion Thread.--

I am posting a separate story on VC based on my interview of South Park Executive Producer Anne Garefino. It answers some questions raised by commenters here.

I may edit or add to this post from time to time, without showing changes.

Feel free to comment on South Park below.

I reorganized the order of the paragraphs in the Garefino interview story to give more emphasis to the interview itself.

UPDATE (4:55 FRI): I wanted to point out that Anne Garefino's characterization of "fear" is consistent with the AP/WAPO characterization, based on an unnamed source: "The network's decision was made over concerns for public safety."

From my talking with people on both sides of the dispute, it appears that some of the arguments actually made in the negotiations over showing Mohammed found their way into the statements of Kyle and Cartman in "Cartoon Wars"--including probably Kyle referring to the president of Fox as "Doug," an obvious reference to Comedy Central's president, Doug Herzog.

Further, as many commenters below have noted, that Garefino had not heard of any specific threats against Comedy Central or anyone else because of "Cartoon Wars--Parts I and II" does not mean that Comedy Central's fears were unfounded. I think that there was a nontrivial chance that people would die if Comedy Central showed the cartoon as made--and any deaths might be traceable precisely to their decision to show Mohammed.

Of course, there is also a substantial chance that even more people will die if institutions give in to the actual or anticipated threats of religious terrorists. Here, though, the marginal impact of any one institution's cave-in is impossible to know, and thus, even if more people were to die ultimately from Comedy Central's decision to censor South Park, one would likely not be able to trace any resulting deaths to Comedy Central's decision to censor, rather than to many other societal decisions to restrict artistic and political speech.

Anyone who thinks that there was nothing at stake besides free speech in Comedy Central's decision isn't recognizing that "ideas have consequences"--for both good and ill.

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