Comedy Central's Self Destructive Cowardice

This is the form letter Comedy Central is spewing out to anyone who questions their utter and complete surrender (are they owned by the French?) to terrorist threats. It's utter and complete bollocks. Lizard dissects and comments.

Thank you for your correspondence regarding the "South Park" episodes entitled "Cartoon Wars." We appreciate your concerns about censorship and the destructive influence of outside groups on the media, entertainment industry and particularly Comedy Central.


The concern should be yours, not ours. You are the ones caving in.

To reiterate, as satirists, we believe that it is our First Amendment right to poke fun at any and all people, groups, organizations and religions and we will continue to defend that right. Our goal is to make people laugh and perhaps, if we're lucky, even make them think in the process.


Except in cases where such actions might have, wossname, consequences. Then we fold like a piece of paper wafted into the Origami Fetishists Convention.

Comedy Central's belief in the First Amendment has not wavered, despite our decision not to air an image of Muhammad.


Then is has wavered, numb-nuts, since you had no trouble showing his image in the episode "Super Best Friends".

Our decision was made not to mute the voices of Trey and Matt or because we value one religion over any other. This decision was based solely on concern for public safety in light of recent world events.


This is worse. It would be far, far, better if someone at CC, acting on their own conscience and beliefs, said:"This goes too far. I do not agree with this." At least then, the source of censorship would be the owners of a private corporation being unwilling to allow their property to be used to express ideas with which they disagree. I would be disappointed by such an act, but not outraged by it. However, this is not the case. The motivation in this case is simple: Fear. Abject, total, and utter cowardice. And, as with most cowardice, the act will not save the coward from harm -- rather, it guarantees future harm. By giving up in this fashion, by surrendering to this week's bully, all Comedy Central has done is put up a giant neon sign reading "Bullies Welcome: We Cave Easily"

With the power of freedom of speech and expression also comes the obligation to use that power in a responsible way.


Comedy Central has failed in that obligation.

Much as we wish it weren't the case, times have changed and, as witnessed by the intense and deadly reaction to the publication of the Danish cartoons, decisions cannot be made in a vacuum without considering what impact they may have on innocent individuals around the globe.


Indeed. The reaction to the Danish cartoons sends this message, and only this message: Mock Mohammed as openly, publicaly, and fearlessly as possible, until such time as the madmen and fanatics of the world get this message: We will not be cowed. We will not be silenced. We will not be bullied. We will not surrender our freedoms, even if the cities -- or the planet -- burns. You cannot kill an idea. For every cartoon you burn, we will print ten more.

That's the only moral, just, and sane reaction. The reaction by Comedy Central -- and far too much of the rest of craven Western media, which has known comfort and power for so long it has forgotten what was required to secure the freedoms it now casts recklessly aside -- is immoral, unjust, and insane.

Cowardice is too polite a word, frankly.

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.


Your cowardice is what puts people at risk. You have given the bullies free reign. You have told them:" You can have anything you want. Just riot a little more, and we'll roll over and show you our pasty white bellies." By capitulating, you actively encourage more violence.

If someone sees an image, or hears an idea, or watches a TV show, and then reacts violently to it -- the blame lies in that person, not in the speaker. Only a madman would allow themselves to be moved to violence merely by the expression of an idea, and a society which limits itself only to speech which is fit for the ears of the insane is a society which has no freedom of speech at all. If Muslims -- or Christians or Scientologists or Hippies or talking pieces of poo -- riot over an episode of "South Park", the blame for any harm, injury, or death falls solely on the rioters -- not on Comedy Central or the writers of the program. "South Park" does not emit evil mind control rays. It cannot compel or coerce anyone to any behavior. Those who over-react to ideas are the only ones morally accountable for their crimes.

And so, I do not blame the terrorists for Comedy Central's cowardice. You are the ones responsible, not them. They did not "make" you do it. You chose to do it. You are the only ones at fault here.

As a viewer of "South Park," you know that over the course of ten seasons and almost 150 episodes the series has addressed all types of sensitive, hot-button issues, religious and political, and has done so with Comedy Central's full support in every instance, including this one. "Cartoon Wars" contained a very important message, one that Trey and Matt felt strongly about, as did we at the network, which is why we gave them carte blanche in every facet but one: we would not broadcast a portrayal of Muhammad.


In short, you were willing to do anything and say anything -- until free speech started to have a price. A boycott by scientiologists or fundamentalists would never hurt you -- they weren't your target audience, and every time a right-wing talk show host condemned the show, more people tuned in. You were fine with being 'controversial' when controversy brought you money. But the instant controversy became real -- the instant you faced risks, real risk, for the speech you promoted -- you turned tail and ran.

Lenny Bruce went to jail for his comedy.
William M. Gaines, publisher of MAD, fought all the way to the Supreme Court for his comedy.
Howard Stern has faced million-dollar fines for his comedy.

What has Comedy Central done? Thrown up the white flag so fast that, from the ground, it looked red. (That's a doppler effect joke. Look it up.)

In that regard, did we censor the show? Yes, we did. But if you hold Comedy Central's 15-year track record up against any other network out there, you'll find that we afford our talent the most creative freedom and provide a nurturing atmosphere that challenges them to be bold and daring and places them in a position to constantly break barriers and push the envelope. The result has been some of the most provocative television ever produced.


None of this matters -- because at the time when it did matter, the time when it was required that someone stand up to the bullies -- you gave in. All of your past achievements are exposed as hollow shams, as the actions of a corporation trading off being 'edgy' or 'daring' -- while remaining completely safe and secure.

We would like nothing more than to be able to look back at this in a few years and think that perhaps we overreacted. Unfortunately, to have made a different decision and to look back and see that we completely underestimated the damage that resulted was a risk we were not willing to take.


But it is a risk you have taken. You have, as I said above, given the thugs unlimited license to commit more violence, since now they know it work. It is by your censorship, not by your speech, that you place lives and liberties in danger.

Our pledge to you, our loyal viewers, is that Comedy Central will continue to produce and provide the best comedy available and we will continue to push it right to the edge, using and defending the First Amendment in the most responsible way we know how.


Then you will commission your many various creative personnel to produce a 24 hour block of shows called the "Mock Mohammed Marathon", and you will broadcast it, with Arabic subtitles, on satellite around the world and place it on the Internet for free and legal download. That is the most responsible thing you can do -- because that is the thing which will tell the thugs that all their violence, all their outrage, all their bricks and firebombs and venom, cannot silence or intimidate the citizens of a free nation. Anything less is abject and total surrender.

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