South Park Edits Spark Free-speech Debate
Comedy Central's decision to censor a South Park episode following a thinly-veiled death threat by the fundamentalist Islamic website RevolutionMuslim.com against the show's creators, Matt Stone and Trey Parker continued to have repercussions over the weekend. The Washington Post reported on Sunday that the cable network's action has touched off a campaign called "Everybody Draw Muhammad Day" in which artists are being encouraged to draw pictures of the Prophet Muhammad in defiance of Islamic religious fundamentalists and post them on May 20. (In fact, numerous representations of the Prophet Muhammad already appear all over the world -- including the U.S. Supreme Court.) The event was apparently inspired by a whimsical cartoon created by Seattle artist Molly Norris in which she showed objects ranging from a coffee cup to a cherry claiming to be the real likeness of Muhammad. After her cartoon showed up on numerous websites, Norris posted a message on her website saying, "I did not intend for my cartoon to go viral. I did not intend to be the focus of any 'group.' I practice the first amendment by drawing what I wish." Nevertheless, on Fox's The Simpsons Sunday night, Bart wrote this message on the backboard regularly featured in the show's opening sequence "South Park -- we'd stand beside you if we weren't so scared." Apparently some comics were, too. There was no mention of the matter on Saturday Night Live over the weekend, although there was a reference to "plus size" women's fashion chain Lane Bryant complaining that its ads had been censored by two networks. Appearing on Larry King's CNN talk show, Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane asked, "At what point is it worth it for them to put themselves at risk? ... Is the joke so hilarious that we want to risk our lives? If I were in that situation, honest, I don't know how I would react." He was immediately taken to task by another guest, Penn Jillette, of the Penn & Teller comedy-magic team, who laid into MacFarlane "I think you cheapen Matt and Trey's morality, strength and courage when you say, 'Is the joke worth it?," because the question is, 'What is morally right?'"