“South Park” Censorship

Why Give Up Now, After All That?

Comedy Central censored the April 21 episode of “South Park” after a radical Muslim group threatened to kill show producers Trey Parker and Matt Stone for insulting Muhammad in the previous episode.

The censoring of references to the Muslim prophet has sparked a nationwide discussion centered around religious respect and free speech. What’s most surprising, though, is that nothing like this has gone down before in the show’s 13-year history.

When it premiered in 1997, “South Park” instantly became the show that went too far. Episode “200” wasn’t even the first time the “South Park” producers have featured Muhammad on their show. In 2001’s “Super Best Friends,” Muhammad made his debut as a turban-clad Arab next to the founders of other religions, including Krishna and Joseph Smith.

Wednesday’s episode took it even further — but bottling offensive humor never made anyone stop laughing. Censoring episode “201” in response to a threat is probably the most ironic thing Comedy Central could have done. Looks like network officials didn’t get the signature “South Park” hint: Free speech will always out-shout fear and intimidation.

—Arik Burakovsky

Staff Writer

Overreaction Is a Slippery Slope

South Park” creators Stone and Parker haven always, rather successfully, aimed to outrage a sizable portion of the population with every episode. Followers of Islam couldn’t really have expected the show’s characters to spare them — especially since this is not Muhammad’s first guest appearance on “South Park.”

Similarly, Buddha and Jesus have run the “South Park” gauntlet and emerged uncensored. Islamic group Muslim Revolution’s overreaction to Muhammad’s appearance in the newer installments of the satire could be expected, but producers should have taken the high road; that’s precisely the kind of controversial content that’s allowed their show to become so popular. What’s most disturbing is not the religious upset but Comedy Central’s willingness to bow to lukewarm threats posted online.

Stone and Parker’s “everyone gets theirs” concept hinges on the demoralization of various groups in a humorous manner; if more groups continue to demand special treatment, “South Park” won’t be the only show to sacrifice its anything-goes autonomy to a few pissed-off viewers.

—Neda Salamat

Senior Staff Writer

This Time, They Went Too Far

As a borderline obsessive “South Park” fan, I can recognize when creators Stone and Parker have pushed the boundaries past their best interests.

The dynamic duo have forged their way as two stoner geniuses who bulge the envelope like nobody’s business — but neither can continue happily offending old ladies and religious institutions with flamethrowers like these pointed their direction.

After episode “200,” CNN aired an interview with Yunus Muhammad, a member of Islamic fundamentalist group Revolution Muslim, who called upon all Muslims to “terrorize” Parker and Stone. Even though the interviewee claimed there was a distinction between “terrorize” and “kill,” Comedy Central was wise not to ignore that warning — and not only because their creative powerhouse was threatened. There comes a point at which comedy has to take a backseat to cultural sensitivity, and that point has officially been reached.

On April 23, after Revolution Muslim posters declared they “knew where to find” the producers, Comedy Central asked the NYPD to step up security at their central office in New York.

When the censored version of episode “201” aired, many fans were upset — and they became livid when Comedy Central refused to post the uncensored version online. However, while there are few things more annoying than an episode’s wrap-up speech being replaced with a four-minute bleep, Comedy Central did have the bigger picture in mind: prioritizing the show’s future (not to mention the lives of its creators) over the First Amendment rights of a single episode.

—Cheryl Hori

Associate Opinion Editor

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